1302 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia
I could have a new favorite neighborhood taco spot — at least I will, if I ever successfully make the move to Encinitas or Leucadia. In the meantime I'll just have to be content admiring Haggo's Organic Taco from afar, taking solace in the fact that I'm saving a little money living in a lower rent neighborhood, and eating cheaper tacos while I'm at it.
Granted, most of the tacos in town can't claim to be organic, served on non-GMO corn tortillas. They also don't cost $4 and up, a la carte. That's my first knock on Haggo's, though it's kinda tough to hold it against them. Beach-town real estate, locally sourced and organic ingredients, and a clean new location are bound to drive up the cost. But while these are slightly bigger than street tacos, they're not so much so that they'll fill you up. A two-taco combo plate served with rice and red beans runs about 10 to 12 bucks, depending which tacos you choose.
That's not outrageous by any means, but in a taco shop context it starts looking a little steep, especially since it left me wanting more. With tax and tip my lunch made it to 14 bucks easy, and I would've had to spend another 5 to get that third taco that may have sated me. That's without ordering a drink.
And while I'm nitpicking, ding number two is the drink selection. There are multiple flavors of two varieties of probiotic drinks (kombucha and KeVita), but no beer. Seriously? A taco and burrito joint within blocks of the Pacific and no beer? This verges on heresy.
But I really am going out of my way to complain. These tacos are fantastic. I want them bigger because I didn't want the meal to end. I craved beer to go with them because I wanted the perfect palate refresher following each bite so I could experience the great flavors anew with the next.
The organic beef taco featured sliced flank steak slathered in a stew-like sauce, cumin-lime crema, caramelized onions, and cabbage slaw. It may not have been the most authentic carne asada-style taco in town, but it weighs heavy on my memory. The Cousteau fish taco features the fresh local catch of the day with that crema and slaw, and I lucked out that this daily catch was my favorite: halibut. Again, I would have loved more grilled fish squeezed into the tortilla, but the moist and flaky plug of halibut was well seasoned, contributing one of the first mango-topped fish tacos I've ever genuinely adored. The red beans were pretty good too, and though they had just run out of rice when I got there (at 2pm?), they subbed in some sliced avocado for me — organic, of course.
I never caught on to the original Haggo's location, but now that it's moved about 50 feet up the highway I look forward to returning to stand in line for its popular counter service. To soak up the colorful décor in its Jacques Cousteau-and-Wes Anderson -obsessed dining room (I suspect the Life Aquatic movie poster may be load-bearing). Or, I'll once again grab a seat on its long outdoor patio overlooking the Coast Highway and chew slowly, silently plotting my early retirement to a North County beach. Maybe I'll even try the vegan patty taco someday.