4657 Mission Boulevard, Pacific Beach
In a city filled with taco shops, everybody's got their local favorite. And in a place like Pacific Beach, it doesn't seem out of character that — to many — Taco Surf garners that distinction. A block from the beach, with dozens of surfboards strung from the ceiling, the place effectively captures the PB zeitgeist. And whatever else could be said about PB, it's loaded with zeitgeist.
A sandwich board sign in front of the restaurant declares Taco Surf to have the "Best Burritos in America" — at least according to Fox News and USA Today (the nation's premiere authorities on burritos, pie charts and false claims). So who am I to wander in and pass judgment? Just a lowly Feast! writer with far too many taco shops under my belt.
Despite such bold assertions, I skipped the burritos here, and went instead for the namesake tacos. Specifically the very particularly priced $2.78 carne asada, $2.78 adobada and $2.55 fried fish.
I found a plastic bottle of salsa and took a seat near the window, which looks out onto Mission and its menagerie of skaters, beach cruisers, and bikini babes. Aside from the surfboards, the shop reads like any other bare-bones taco shop in the city — slightly grimy in appearance however often it's cleaned. I'm not phased by such things, and have had some pretty legendary meals in similar establishments.
However, these tacos did not earn any sort of epic description. First I tried the carne, topped by onions and guacamole. I found it to be a fairly bland asada, a little too chewy, and I actually wasn't too thrilled with the potency of the salsa either, though I pretty heavily doused my taco with it.
The cabbage and white-sauce-toppedfish taco came next. Tilapia. Not my least favorite fish, but always in the conversation. Yeah, this cheap seafood option can find redemption in the right deep fryer, but usually in a "wow, that's pretty good for tilapia" sense. Here, it was more like, "yeah that's tilapia."
Now the adobada — here we've got something to talk about. Also topped by guac and onions, it's not the best I've had, maybe a little salty but otherwise but well seasoned — succulent and tasty. I'm glad I ate it last because it damn near salvaged my lunch. Sadly, the corn tortilla didn't have the stamina to wait through two quickly eaten tacos and fell apart at first bite. I enjoyed the remainder of my taco with a plastic fork.
Maybe if I lived in PB, read USA Today, watched Fox News and never, ever walked across the street to try the reliably delicious Oscar's Mexican Seafood or La Perla Cocina, I might convince myself Taco Surf was a neighborhood classic. But with so many great and cheap alternatives so ridiculously close, even the cachet of surfboards overhead won't lure me back.