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Adventures in Adobada: Tacos El Paisa

Sherman Heights landmark remains true to the taste of Tijuana

Al pastor on a bed of masa tortillas and topped with guac, onion, and cilantro.
Al pastor on a bed of masa tortillas and topped with guac, onion, and cilantro.
Place

Tacos el Paisa

2494 Imperial Avenue, San Diego

In deference to the spirit of Yuletide cheer, let’s kick off our inquiry into the mesmerizing porcine monument known interchangeably as adobada and al pastor with a success story.

Look for El Paisa's sign and try some of the best tacos in town.
El Paisa's newish covered patio offers restaurant-style ambiance to a Tijuana street-inspired menu.

Tacos El Paisa (2494 Imperial Avenue, Sherman Heights) touts over 15 years in the taco business and offers one of San Diego’s truest tributes to Tijuana adobada.

Arriving on two medium-sized, fresh-pressed masa tortillas (a malleable hominy dough treated with calcium hydroxide, or slaked lime), El Paisa’s al pastor comes from a crispy cone of more-brown-than-red marinated pork cuts topped with a thick, glistening pineapple halo.

The fat-basted shavings offer a slightly-more-than-mild picante kick, suggesting a conservative application of achiote in favor of a hearty dash of paprika.

El Paisa's magnificently-crisped trompo of al pastor is among San Diego's most mouth-watering.

Achiote comes from the ground annatto seed and serves more as an invigorating earthen-red dye than a spice, though its distant peppery/nutmeg zang meshes nicely with traditional adobo spices when abundant.

In this case, that dash of paprika punctuates the predominantly smoky BBQ tones of the pork, from which (in true TJ fashion) you may opt to discard a few of the fattier chunks.

Try the smaller street-style tacos at 99 cents a pop every Tuesday or $1.80 during the daily “happy hour” from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., though the full-sized taco ($2.85) is available until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The shrimp enchilado taco makes a decadent finish to any meal.

However you approach it, don’t forget to squeeze plenty of lime on there; the citric shock penetrates and binds the savory meats with an accompanying dash of guacamole, onion, and cilantro, bringing all of the ingredients to life.

The bonus: Every order comes with an order of chips and fresh salsas in mild tomatillo, infernal habanero, and smoky chipotle.

The latter is the co-star of the shrimp enchilado taco, in which juicy insects of the sea arrive drenched in chipotle sauce and rich crema, topped with pico de gallo and lettuce, and bound by a crunchy shell.

This decadent follow-up to the al pastor leaves the belly sated and makes a heavenly afternoon companion to an ice cold bottle of Tecate.

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Al pastor on a bed of masa tortillas and topped with guac, onion, and cilantro.
Al pastor on a bed of masa tortillas and topped with guac, onion, and cilantro.
Place

Tacos el Paisa

2494 Imperial Avenue, San Diego

In deference to the spirit of Yuletide cheer, let’s kick off our inquiry into the mesmerizing porcine monument known interchangeably as adobada and al pastor with a success story.

Look for El Paisa's sign and try some of the best tacos in town.
El Paisa's newish covered patio offers restaurant-style ambiance to a Tijuana street-inspired menu.

Tacos El Paisa (2494 Imperial Avenue, Sherman Heights) touts over 15 years in the taco business and offers one of San Diego’s truest tributes to Tijuana adobada.

Arriving on two medium-sized, fresh-pressed masa tortillas (a malleable hominy dough treated with calcium hydroxide, or slaked lime), El Paisa’s al pastor comes from a crispy cone of more-brown-than-red marinated pork cuts topped with a thick, glistening pineapple halo.

The fat-basted shavings offer a slightly-more-than-mild picante kick, suggesting a conservative application of achiote in favor of a hearty dash of paprika.

El Paisa's magnificently-crisped trompo of al pastor is among San Diego's most mouth-watering.

Achiote comes from the ground annatto seed and serves more as an invigorating earthen-red dye than a spice, though its distant peppery/nutmeg zang meshes nicely with traditional adobo spices when abundant.

In this case, that dash of paprika punctuates the predominantly smoky BBQ tones of the pork, from which (in true TJ fashion) you may opt to discard a few of the fattier chunks.

Try the smaller street-style tacos at 99 cents a pop every Tuesday or $1.80 during the daily “happy hour” from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., though the full-sized taco ($2.85) is available until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The shrimp enchilado taco makes a decadent finish to any meal.

However you approach it, don’t forget to squeeze plenty of lime on there; the citric shock penetrates and binds the savory meats with an accompanying dash of guacamole, onion, and cilantro, bringing all of the ingredients to life.

The bonus: Every order comes with an order of chips and fresh salsas in mild tomatillo, infernal habanero, and smoky chipotle.

The latter is the co-star of the shrimp enchilado taco, in which juicy insects of the sea arrive drenched in chipotle sauce and rich crema, topped with pico de gallo and lettuce, and bound by a crunchy shell.

This decadent follow-up to the al pastor leaves the belly sated and makes a heavenly afternoon companion to an ice cold bottle of Tecate.

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Comments
3

Since Chula Vista frequently seems to be overlooked by these themed articles, I must suggest you visit the El Ranchero taco truck. It's located on 3rd ave, just south of Palomar St. It's parked in the same lot as a shady bar and right next to a gas station. Everyone gets the adobada and it is fantastic. They are closed Mondays.

Dec. 11, 2013

I, too, am headed to to Chulajuana for a few things.

You're right that peeps overlook CJ though. It's too damn far away for most of the Reader's core audience and staffers, but there are grinds down there worth driving for.

If you've got more tips, share them! We all have email address on the website here. I, for one, try to do well about hitting up the places that readers tip me off on.

Dec. 11, 2013

Thanks for the tip! I definitely have a few spots in Chula on the radar and I look forward to checking this place out.

Dec. 11, 2013

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