31 31st Street, Grant Hill
Having recently discovered the Puebla-style torta known as a cemita, I began a countywide search for the thing which led me to one option — a single devoted shop in Vista called Cemitas Fandanguero.
The story I wrote on it even ran with the headline “The only cemitas shop in San Diego,” which is true enough if you stick to traditional internet searches.
But there are other ways to ply the web for info. I tend to avoid crowdsourcing, because it feels like asking the world to do the work for you. However, memory of that tasty cemita lingered fondly, and I hoped to find something like it within easier reach of my pad in South Park. I put down my antiquated ethics and put out the call on the local foodie Facebook group called Eating and Drinking in San Diego.
Didn’t take long. Pretty darn quick foodies alerted me to the presence of Lucy’s Bakery & Donuts, just off Imperial Avenue on 31st. “Lucy’s all day!” someone said.
Lucy’s it would be, then. Nothing left to wait for except lunch time.
Between the barred windows and security gate, Lucy’s looked closed despite the sign saying it was open every day. Inside, the tiny, cheaply built structure was cramped, with just a couple of tables squeezed between a service counter and glass case filled with assorted Mexican pastries.
Tortas are the main feature of the kitchen, with photos of the most popular posted next to the hand-painted menu for easier ordering. Other dishes don’t seem so permanent. I noted a relleno and several eggy breakfast options drawn with marker on colored construction paper.
I was nearly swayed by a chorizo-and-fried-beans torta and another torta simply topped by one of the shop’s tamales. Good reasons to go back, but I was on a cemitas mission.
Lucy’s cemitas poblanas options are simple, provided you understand a little Spanish. You get a choice of milanesa (bread pork cutlet), de pierna (pork leg), or queso derretido (melted cheese), each including slices of avocado and onions. Trying to speak with the friendly staff, my faulty Spanish could only ascertain the pierna was shredded and saucy, explained to me as being similar to an enchilada filling.
Sounded good. I picked out a pan dulce stuffed with chocolate and cream — kind of like a heavy éclair — and waited. I hadn’t asked for it para llevar, but they served it in a paper to-go bag anyway.
About the diameter of a compact disc, the fresh cemita roll was outstanding, super soft and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The rich red chipotle smothering the pork was great considering the $6 price tag, especially with an elastic layer of melted queso holding it together. It reminded me of eating a pulled-pork BBQ sandwich with a Mexican flavor profile. And, yes, I could eat this all day.