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Entrada makes an entrance

New Little Italy taquería gets by on good looks

This beer-battered Baja fish taco looks better than most, tastes about the same.
This beer-battered Baja fish taco looks better than most, tastes about the same.
Place

Entrada

1953 India Street, San Diego

The first things I noticed when I walked into Entrada weren’t the Muertos murals, sea-tortoise-green booths, or Talavera tile patterns adorning the north wall. It was the pair of 18-foot faux olive trees bracketing the island bar at the center of the vast, high-ceiling space.

Okay, I assumed they were real before the waiter pointed out that real trees would drop leaves all over the bar and into peoples’ drinks. The point is, the convincing trees are an appealing centerpiece to Little Italy’s newest Mexican restaurant, which offers plenty of attractive, colorful décor.

Entrada moves in to Little Italy
Entrada is better looking than your typical taco shop.

The menu features antojitos such as sopes and mini tamales and a choice of ahi, shrimp, or vegetarian ceviche, but I wasn't about to enter a building fronted by the word “taquería” and not load up on tacos.

With a full dozen varieties available, choosing would not prove easy. Half of them list for $4, covering mainstays such as carnitas, al pastor, and a Baja fish taco. There’s also a housemade chorizo taco and an all-veggie, poblano-based rajas con queso.

A $5 seasonal menu listed shrimp, octopus, and flat-iron steak tacos, plus a grilled lobster option for $7. These prices are per taco, and I knew I wouldn't leave this lunch satisfied eating fewer than three, so I stuck mainly with the $4 choices: Baja and a chicken Oaxaca mole. The exception was the $5 Toluca which featured string-cut potato, flat-iron steak, and house-made Longaniza verde, a chorizo-like sausage made using green spices.

The fresh-made corn tortillas were thick enough to add flavor as well as cohesion to the small tacos. These are your standard six-inch diameter tortillas — I call them “small” due to the small amount of ingredients included in each one. For example, the beer-battered Baja taco had a decent little cut of fried mahi mahi along with cabbage, pico de gallo, and chipotle yogurt sauce. Were it on a two-dollar taco, it would look generous. I assume that these ingredients are a step up from those used in a two-dollar taco shop, but I couldn’t tell from eating it.

The mole recipe at work here is terrific...it’s just a little light for $4.

The mole sauce was chocolaty, rich, and delicious, but the portion of chicken was even smaller. I'm not sure three of these would fill me up.

Chunky tequila salsa and greenish sausage make this Toluca taco worth the $5 price tag.

The $5 Toluca proved the most substantial, with the tender grilled steak and potatoes adding heft to the tasty sausage and chunky dried pepper and tequila salsa.

I enjoyed each taco and left satiated, but I can see a lot of taco purists objecting to the bang-for-your-buck factor. Some people don't want atmosphere, craft cocktails, or even a creative culinary approach to their tacos, content to eat tasty regional classics made in the back of a roach coach, and perhaps rightfully so.

For others — who’re more likely to be dining in little Italy these days — here’s a tree-lined dining room and basic craft beer taplist to go with high-minded Mexican fare.

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This beer-battered Baja fish taco looks better than most, tastes about the same.
This beer-battered Baja fish taco looks better than most, tastes about the same.
Place

Entrada

1953 India Street, San Diego

The first things I noticed when I walked into Entrada weren’t the Muertos murals, sea-tortoise-green booths, or Talavera tile patterns adorning the north wall. It was the pair of 18-foot faux olive trees bracketing the island bar at the center of the vast, high-ceiling space.

Okay, I assumed they were real before the waiter pointed out that real trees would drop leaves all over the bar and into peoples’ drinks. The point is, the convincing trees are an appealing centerpiece to Little Italy’s newest Mexican restaurant, which offers plenty of attractive, colorful décor.

Entrada moves in to Little Italy
Entrada is better looking than your typical taco shop.

The menu features antojitos such as sopes and mini tamales and a choice of ahi, shrimp, or vegetarian ceviche, but I wasn't about to enter a building fronted by the word “taquería” and not load up on tacos.

With a full dozen varieties available, choosing would not prove easy. Half of them list for $4, covering mainstays such as carnitas, al pastor, and a Baja fish taco. There’s also a housemade chorizo taco and an all-veggie, poblano-based rajas con queso.

A $5 seasonal menu listed shrimp, octopus, and flat-iron steak tacos, plus a grilled lobster option for $7. These prices are per taco, and I knew I wouldn't leave this lunch satisfied eating fewer than three, so I stuck mainly with the $4 choices: Baja and a chicken Oaxaca mole. The exception was the $5 Toluca which featured string-cut potato, flat-iron steak, and house-made Longaniza verde, a chorizo-like sausage made using green spices.

The fresh-made corn tortillas were thick enough to add flavor as well as cohesion to the small tacos. These are your standard six-inch diameter tortillas — I call them “small” due to the small amount of ingredients included in each one. For example, the beer-battered Baja taco had a decent little cut of fried mahi mahi along with cabbage, pico de gallo, and chipotle yogurt sauce. Were it on a two-dollar taco, it would look generous. I assume that these ingredients are a step up from those used in a two-dollar taco shop, but I couldn’t tell from eating it.

The mole recipe at work here is terrific...it’s just a little light for $4.

The mole sauce was chocolaty, rich, and delicious, but the portion of chicken was even smaller. I'm not sure three of these would fill me up.

Chunky tequila salsa and greenish sausage make this Toluca taco worth the $5 price tag.

The $5 Toluca proved the most substantial, with the tender grilled steak and potatoes adding heft to the tasty sausage and chunky dried pepper and tequila salsa.

I enjoyed each taco and left satiated, but I can see a lot of taco purists objecting to the bang-for-your-buck factor. Some people don't want atmosphere, craft cocktails, or even a creative culinary approach to their tacos, content to eat tasty regional classics made in the back of a roach coach, and perhaps rightfully so.

For others — who’re more likely to be dining in little Italy these days — here’s a tree-lined dining room and basic craft beer taplist to go with high-minded Mexican fare.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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