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Mexican food in Little Italy — why not?

Brunch at Bracero Cocina de Raíz is worth the drive from anywhere

Bracero Cocina de Raíz no longer has Javier Plascencia ... but it still has two bars.
Bracero Cocina de Raíz no longer has Javier Plascencia ... but it still has two bars.

I felt like checking out Little Italy on a sleepy Sunday morning in January, so I drove the distance from North County to meet my cousin for brunch at Bracero Cocina de Raíz, a restaurant that I had not heard of until chef Javier Plascencia made the news that he had left his own restaurant.

Place

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

1490 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Bracero Cocina de Raíz is now open for brunch.

Eating brunch sounded a little more upscale than my usual eggs with gravy, and I figured getting out of North County for a few hours would be a pleasant change.

When I arrived at Bracero a little before 10 a.m., the place was quiet and almost empty. I noticed that there was patio seating, tables on the first floor with a huge bar, and upstairs dining with another bar. Two bars — now that is impressive.

I grabbed a table in the corner with a view of the harbor and waited for Cissy to arrive. Within minutes my server stopped by, then ran off to get me some water and coffee. By the time my cousin and beverages arrived, the dining room had started to fill up — all in less than five minutes.

Large parties of of laughing women brunching, young couples, and older folks like me began to fill the upstairs as we looked at the menu.

Guacamole with chickpeas (and avocado!)

I chose the machaca con huevos, and Cissy ordered the chicken enchiladas in mole sauce. We also decided to order the guacamole with chips, although the menu listed "chickpeas, crispy beluga lentils and black bean hummus," but no avocado. When it arrived, we were both relieved that it was made with avocados and had a velvety texture. Cissy pronounced it delicious and not too citrusy while scooping chip after chip. I was saving room for my main course, so, although I enjoyed some of it, I let her dig in. (She took the leftover guacamole home.)

When our food came, I ordered a nice glass of Glen Carlou chardonnay, because it was almost noon and I’m not much of a mimosa lover, although the amount of mimosas being delivered to other tables was remarkable.

Bracero's machaca con huevos — tender and spicy.

Cissy’s enchiladas were not too spicy and just a little sweet. My brunch of scrambled eggs and machaca was just like I make it with the shredded beef seasoned and sauteed to perfection. The eggs were scrambled the way I like them as well — not overdone. The beans reminded me of the frijoles at El Indio (which is a good thing). We both had potatoes on our plate, mixed with grilled onions, and they were crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

By the time we were done, the place was crowded, and our server had enlisted one of her colleagues and a busser to help us out. This Mexican restaurant in Little Italy was a treat and, although Señor Plascencia decided to leave and go back to Baja to open a new place, Cissy and I will both return.

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Bracero Cocina de Raíz no longer has Javier Plascencia ... but it still has two bars.
Bracero Cocina de Raíz no longer has Javier Plascencia ... but it still has two bars.

I felt like checking out Little Italy on a sleepy Sunday morning in January, so I drove the distance from North County to meet my cousin for brunch at Bracero Cocina de Raíz, a restaurant that I had not heard of until chef Javier Plascencia made the news that he had left his own restaurant.

Place

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

1490 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Bracero Cocina de Raíz is now open for brunch.

Eating brunch sounded a little more upscale than my usual eggs with gravy, and I figured getting out of North County for a few hours would be a pleasant change.

When I arrived at Bracero a little before 10 a.m., the place was quiet and almost empty. I noticed that there was patio seating, tables on the first floor with a huge bar, and upstairs dining with another bar. Two bars — now that is impressive.

I grabbed a table in the corner with a view of the harbor and waited for Cissy to arrive. Within minutes my server stopped by, then ran off to get me some water and coffee. By the time my cousin and beverages arrived, the dining room had started to fill up — all in less than five minutes.

Large parties of of laughing women brunching, young couples, and older folks like me began to fill the upstairs as we looked at the menu.

Guacamole with chickpeas (and avocado!)

I chose the machaca con huevos, and Cissy ordered the chicken enchiladas in mole sauce. We also decided to order the guacamole with chips, although the menu listed "chickpeas, crispy beluga lentils and black bean hummus," but no avocado. When it arrived, we were both relieved that it was made with avocados and had a velvety texture. Cissy pronounced it delicious and not too citrusy while scooping chip after chip. I was saving room for my main course, so, although I enjoyed some of it, I let her dig in. (She took the leftover guacamole home.)

When our food came, I ordered a nice glass of Glen Carlou chardonnay, because it was almost noon and I’m not much of a mimosa lover, although the amount of mimosas being delivered to other tables was remarkable.

Bracero's machaca con huevos — tender and spicy.

Cissy’s enchiladas were not too spicy and just a little sweet. My brunch of scrambled eggs and machaca was just like I make it with the shredded beef seasoned and sauteed to perfection. The eggs were scrambled the way I like them as well — not overdone. The beans reminded me of the frijoles at El Indio (which is a good thing). We both had potatoes on our plate, mixed with grilled onions, and they were crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

By the time we were done, the place was crowded, and our server had enlisted one of her colleagues and a busser to help us out. This Mexican restaurant in Little Italy was a treat and, although Señor Plascencia decided to leave and go back to Baja to open a new place, Cissy and I will both return.

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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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