2196 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan
I first got turned on to ¡Salud! at the Reader’s Tacotopia event last May. I’d like to say I remember exactly which tacos I tried that afternoon, but let’s face it, I ate dozens, and all I can really remember is that, even after all the gluttony, ¡Salud! stood out as worthy of future exploration.
Also, it’s eight minutes from my house, so the real question is, why did it take me four months to pay it a proper visit?
Located in the century-old Bank of Italy building on Logan Avenue, ¡Salud! represents San Diego Taco Company, known to be among the best taco caterers in town. Being in Barrio Logan, ¡Salud! splits the building with an art gallery, La Bodega, and used to share the space with a Border X Brewing tasting room that has since moved across the street.
The former affiliation probably contributes to the colorful skater-meets-car-culture décor; the latter may explain why ¡Salud! has such a solid beer selection. Yes, you can get that bottle of cheap Mexican beer you’ve always grabbed at a taco shop, but you’ll also find a surprisingly good variety of craft on tap — I spotted AleSmith, Coronado Brewing, Green Flash, and Fall Brewing.
Which might lead you to worry that these are gringo tacos. They’re not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not creative. The regular eight-taco lineup includes mesquite-grilled carne asada and pollo asado plus carnitas and al pastor. Each are served on a handmade corn tortilla and topped with onions, cilantro, pico, and either guacamole or avocado crema.
But I was attracted to a couple of even more interesting options: the Birria and the Taco de Barrio. The Barrio opts for a hand-pressed flour tortilla, filling it with a tasty carne guisada (stewed beef), nopal cactus, and frijoles. I wouldn’t have thought the beans would contribute much more than filler, but they were so well seasoned that they held their own against the beef. Although I’d grabbed several of the terrific offerings of the salsa bar, I added nothing to this taco — it was delicious and habit-forming all by itself.
The Birria taco goes a different direction, adding lettuce, onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese to a tender shredded pork mole. The other major difference here is the corn tortilla gets flash fried, making it a crispy, if greasy, joy.
At $2.50 a pop, I could see myself trying to eat a half dozen of any of these tacos or even the beer-battered catfish or soyrizo offerings. There are also mulitas (quesadilla sandwiches) to consider, plus daily specials including ceviche, menudo, empanadas, and a tantalizing three-for-$5 Taco Tuesday offer that I will surely abuse in weeks to come.