My fish taco with beans added
20 25th Street, San Diego
Sherman Heights. Around seven in the evening. I’m standing over the grilled onions, breathing in their fumes. And the blackened green jalapeños.
Man. You cannot beat this. With most Mexican food trucks, the health authorities have been busy stopping them from grilling their onions and peppers and cooking their beans on an open charcoal grill, and it takes the soul out of the whole operation. But not here. Somehow La Fachada is still doing it in its courtyard.
The free onions and peppers at the charcoal grill
Actually, I’m here for a, uh, burger. Carla ordered it. Like, “Don’t come home without that superburger, Bedford, if you want to sleep secure.”
Because I’ve done this once before. Brought home their jumbo burger. It’s big, all right. Two patties with the usual fixin’s, and a sea of fries. Carla ate most of it. Tonight I know she’s ravenous again. She’s been trying to follow me on my salad-diet thing and she swears she’s deep in “CWS.”
“Cholesterol Withdrawal Syndrome,” she says.
So, I mentioned I was going to be up here around 25th. She said, “Okay! Façade!”
Wow. She remembered. That’s what “Fachada” means.
I like this place. For starters, it’s two in one. Ye olde eatery in the main blue stucco building feels kinda Cuban, even though it’s totally Mexicano. And, two, the food truck–turned garden eatery out in the yard has everything Mexican you ever heard of, from tostadas to gorditas to mulitas to huaraches. Huaraches are the Mexico City-style street food — a big fried-masa base with like onions, potato, ground beef, or, say, tongue piled on top, plus “queso fresco” cheese. “Huarache” comes from the Aztec word kwarachi, for “shoe,” because they’re shaped like sandals. Pretty-much larger sopes, those other masa food-trays.
So, I’m standing in front of Vicky, the cashier. A line of illustrated signs above the long kitchen’s serving window advertises all these goodies. Oh, I get it. This kitchen might be the food truck they had here, converted. Cool.
Vicky with my fish taco
People are starting to turn up. Also, nose is twitching with the smell of those grilled onions at the open grill behind me. So, better get with the program.
I order the burger. Cost: $4.15, twice their standard-sized burger price, but still, such a deal. Plate of fries goes for $2.30. I order them. For me, I really want to order a huarache. Because there you’re pretty much eating history. Like, the guys would have been sitting round munching these exact things, there in Teotihuacan in the middle of the lake the day before Cortés arrived. Amazing that for $4.15 I could have tongue, birria, buche (usually pork stomach) or al pastor huaraches, just like in the good old days, when Mexico City (Teotihuacan) was still an island.
But — I guess it’s to counter all that burger-fries grease in my mind — I ask Vicky about salads.
Turns out they have none on their lists. But Vicky says it’s not a problem. With, like, chicken meat it’d be about $8. Ensalata de verduras, no carne would be $6. So, heck, order that.
Then I think about what I’ll have while I’m waiting. “And a fish taco for here,” I say.
So glad I did. It’s a big chunk of battered tilapia hidden in a pile of shredded lettuce and tomato on a corn tortilla with a blob of creamy sauce on top. So, while it’s still hot, I go across to the olla of beans on the charcoal grill and pour some on, and then a pepper — jalapeño, I think — and some red salsa, to heat things up, and, boy, qué sabroso. It’s a beautiful mess. And hot? Along with a couple of chews of the jalapeño, I’ve got me a minor forest fire raging for a moment.
Which prompts me to get a horchata, the rice drink ($1.70). It’s the perfect cooler-offer. Better than beer, way better than sodas.
This courtyard is an oasis from the streets of Sherman Heights. Can be noisy, though. Pickups swirling into the courtyard to park, trolleys rumbling by half a street down, cop cars taking off in pursuit from the Eastern Division HQ across the road, not to mention the ranchero music, when they turn it on right here.
Then Vicky brings out the salad. Hmm... Start dressing up what’s basically a collection of lettuce, radishes, tomato chunks, carrots, green peppers, and tons of juicy avocado pieces.
And this prompts the creation of one of the best little smorgasbords I’ve had in a while. I add some of the frijoles from the bubbling olla, a jalapeño, and some grilled onions, then come back and splash it all with green salsa. Finish by breaking up the chips Vicky gave me when I arrived. And when the burger arrives, I even toss in a few of the french fries.
Result? Hot, cool, beautifully squishy with the avo and beans, crunchy, and still pretty healthy.
A couple of cops come in for some food. A man and a woman. They both order carne asada. “I’m from Brazil,” says the woman officer. “The Mexican food’s kind of like it is back there.”
“This is my second time here in, like five years,” says the male officer. “Right now, I’m sticking with the carne asada.”
I manage to lay off da burger till I get back with the beautiful Carla. And wow. When she hands me some, I see it has cheese, and ham in there too, between the two beef patties. And sweet grilled onions and tomatoes underneath. Beautiful.
But next time: I want to eat like Montezuma ate. Walk a mile in his huaraches.
- Prices: Fish taco, $2.80; Jumbo Burger (w/2 patties), $4.15; huaraches (e.g., tongue, birria, carne asada, carnitas, buches), $4.15; pollo asado mulita, $3.40; tongue gordita, $4.15; buche picadita (pig’s stomach), $4.15; sope al pastor, $4.15
- Hours: 6:30 a.m.–1:30 a.m. daily
- Buses: 3, 4
- Nearest Bus Stops: Ocean View and Commercial (3); 25th and Imperial (4 )
- Trolley: Orange Line
- Nearest trolley stop: 25th and Commercial