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Spilling the beans on the city’s best salsa

South Park market a best-kept secret

Fresh chips, guacamole, and a tub of Sonia Campos’s chipotle salsa
Fresh chips, guacamole, and a tub of Sonia Campos’s chipotle salsa
Place

Food Bowl Market

3035 Cedar Street, San Diego

My friends have gotten used to the kinds of questions I ask and the photos I take when we go out for a meal together. They might be embarrassed by it — even in this Instagram era — but they understand it’s the job.

But they often request that I don’t give away our favorite neighborhood spots, our best-kept secrets. I do keep a couple close to my chest, but with apologies to my friends, I need to reveal what I consider the city’s best source of salsa.

Food Bowl Market, home of the best salsa in town

The Food Bowl is a modest grocery store in South Park. It’s got decidedly Mexican leanings, with a great assortment of bottled hot sauce, giant cans of hominy for making pozole, and a carniceria in the back that butchers budget-friendly meats and marinades beef for carne asada.

It’s also where you’ll find Sonia Campos, a native of Acapulco, busy making fresh tortilla chips and an array of salsas.

First of all, the chips. At $1.99 a bag, they might not be as impressive as the lightly spiced chips of El Indio, but at less than half the price they’re a steal.

And you’ll need them for the guacamole. I’m a fine guac-maker myself and have long turned up my nose at any pre-made, packaged version. But not this. It’s a simple mix of avocados, lemon, garlic, salt, and cilantro with some pico de gallo laid across the top. Okay, there’s a little mayo in it too, but I swear you won’t notice. At $3.99, it serves me well when guests are coming over and I don’t have time to mash my own before a football game kicks off. I usually eat most of it myself.

But Campos’s real brilliance comes through in her salsas. These too are simple, blended with chili peppers, garlic, salt, and tomatoes or tomatillos. I’ve tried six kinds including verde, borracho, chipotle, and habanero. Some are available in mild, medium, or hot versions.

Since these are made in-house, what you get may run a little hotter or milder, a little chunkier, or a little saucier day to day. Usually around $2.99, they’re cheaper than most tubs of salsa you’ll find, and they’re never bad. Sometimes I really do feel the burn and need to crack an extra beer to compensate. Other times they’re outright amazing.

My favorites are the verde and chipotle, but whenever I spot a new one I’m happy to grab it and try something new. My friends have their own opinions, but mostly they worry that, by revealing this, the Food Bowl’s tiny parking lot will become even more difficult to navigate.

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Fresh chips, guacamole, and a tub of Sonia Campos’s chipotle salsa
Fresh chips, guacamole, and a tub of Sonia Campos’s chipotle salsa
Place

Food Bowl Market

3035 Cedar Street, San Diego

My friends have gotten used to the kinds of questions I ask and the photos I take when we go out for a meal together. They might be embarrassed by it — even in this Instagram era — but they understand it’s the job.

But they often request that I don’t give away our favorite neighborhood spots, our best-kept secrets. I do keep a couple close to my chest, but with apologies to my friends, I need to reveal what I consider the city’s best source of salsa.

Food Bowl Market, home of the best salsa in town

The Food Bowl is a modest grocery store in South Park. It’s got decidedly Mexican leanings, with a great assortment of bottled hot sauce, giant cans of hominy for making pozole, and a carniceria in the back that butchers budget-friendly meats and marinades beef for carne asada.

It’s also where you’ll find Sonia Campos, a native of Acapulco, busy making fresh tortilla chips and an array of salsas.

First of all, the chips. At $1.99 a bag, they might not be as impressive as the lightly spiced chips of El Indio, but at less than half the price they’re a steal.

And you’ll need them for the guacamole. I’m a fine guac-maker myself and have long turned up my nose at any pre-made, packaged version. But not this. It’s a simple mix of avocados, lemon, garlic, salt, and cilantro with some pico de gallo laid across the top. Okay, there’s a little mayo in it too, but I swear you won’t notice. At $3.99, it serves me well when guests are coming over and I don’t have time to mash my own before a football game kicks off. I usually eat most of it myself.

But Campos’s real brilliance comes through in her salsas. These too are simple, blended with chili peppers, garlic, salt, and tomatoes or tomatillos. I’ve tried six kinds including verde, borracho, chipotle, and habanero. Some are available in mild, medium, or hot versions.

Since these are made in-house, what you get may run a little hotter or milder, a little chunkier, or a little saucier day to day. Usually around $2.99, they’re cheaper than most tubs of salsa you’ll find, and they’re never bad. Sometimes I really do feel the burn and need to crack an extra beer to compensate. Other times they’re outright amazing.

My favorites are the verde and chipotle, but whenever I spot a new one I’m happy to grab it and try something new. My friends have their own opinions, but mostly they worry that, by revealing this, the Food Bowl’s tiny parking lot will become even more difficult to navigate.

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Comments
2

If you live in North County, El Nopalito makes the best salsa anywhere around. Especially the fire roasted salsa molcajete.

July 13, 2016

Thanks for the suggestion — I'll definitely check it out!

July 14, 2016

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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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