"The southland has much more interesting Mexican food,” says Juan Carlos. “I’m thinking Chula Vista, I.B., San Ysidro. But in North Park the other day, we had been drinking, we needed something to put in our stomachs. We got this quesadilla. They used yellow cheese! And the tortilla, not good! And it cost seven dollars. They get away with that up there. Here, near the border, people know too much.”
Juan Carlos is a student from Guadalajara. He’s up here getting practical experience for his social work degree.
We’re in this warren of offices right against the border. He’s helping his cousin with his immigration business, advising clients on things like their Social Security rights, EBT, Medi-Cal.
I found him because I was looking for food. I came upon this tiny eatery tucked in beside the Transportes InterCalifornias bus terminal. Doesn’t have a name. Just a sign. “Sabrosísimos!!! Tacos, Tortas, Burritos y Comida.”
My problem? They’ve just closed. It’s about seven in the evening. I sneak around the building, just to see if there’s any other eatery. Nope. But that’s when I see this little doorway and some stairs. Selling insurance, tax rebates, the usual border business. Inside seems empty. But I stumble up the stairs anyway.
“Come in, come in!” It’s this guy. He’s alone in a far room with three desks. Turns out this is Juan Carlos.
I’m thinking: Coming from Guadalajara, he probably knows his food. So I have to ask where he’d go grab a meal, this time of night, walking distance.
“Well, they say the Taqueria Revolución guys do good quesatacos.”
362 E. San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro
He shows me on his iPhone’s Google map. Place a half-mile’s walk up San Ysidro Boulevard.
Fifteen minutes later I’m outside this place that’s taken over some fast-food eatery’s building. I’m guessing a Wienerschnitzel, from the sloping roof shape. But the thing that gets me: It’s Monday night, and the place is crowded. It’s not huge. Inside’s got nine red tables. Lots of guys waiting for to-go orders. Lots of families, lots of kids having fun, but not screaming and yelling. Lots of Spanglish.
So, quesataco? I first had this at La Ermita, off Aguacaliente in TJ. The cheese gets sealed against the tortilla on the hotplate before they put the filling in. Deelish.
“You can have the straight taco or tostada with any meat for $1.95, or quesataco for $2.95,” says the cashier gal, Jazmin. They also have mulitas (like a tortilla sandwich) for $3.85. And then a leap up in price to their burritos and tortas for $8.25. And a “Revo burrito” for $10.25, and “Revo fries” where you get to choose two meats for $13.25. Plus birria for $9.25 and $11.25.
So, I start off with a $2.95 quesataco. Meat choices are standard: carne asada, adobada (marinated pork), birria (shredded beef), carnitas, pollo asado, pollo adobado, and nopal (cactus).
I go for the adobada, and it’s a really luscious choice: a rich mix of marinated meat and a squishy, cheesy, guac-capped wrap. The winey Señorial sangria ($3) matches well with it.
So I get through this pretty quick. Figuring it’ll hold the fort till I get back to the ranch, when my phone rings in my pocket. It’s on the “Boing!” setting, so you can’t ignore it. It’s Carla.
“Bedford! Hungry! Food! Now!”
“Well, my little popsicle. Only problem is I’m down in San Ysidro.”
“And I’m stuck here!”
True. She’s laid up. I left her with a sandwich. But that was four hours ago. I notice the guy at the next table is wolfing into a truly awesome pile of meats covered in snowy crema and green guac. I point to it. “Revo fries?” I ask Jazmin.
“Darlin’,” says I, “if you can hang in there one more hour, I am going to fill our bellies till we’re drum-tight. Guaranteed.”
And, yes, I order the Revo fries. Even though it’s $13.25. I have a choice of two meats, so I go for the adobada pork and adobada chicken as well. Have to sneak out some while it’s steaming hot. Plenty of thin stick fries but tons of chicken and pork. This is gonna be two meals for two people. So, you divide $13 by four, not a bad deal. Nice and peppery, too. Gets the top of your head prickly. And they have more green, red, or orange salsas to add if you want to.
I’m paying up. Ask Shandell, the other cashier, how long they’ve been open. “Three years,” she says. “But our new place in Chula Vista just opened, in April.”
Turns out the owner, Emilio Sanchez, is an insurance agent nearby here who got the restaurant bug.
I head out onto San Ysidro Boulevard. Don’t know why, but I love this li’l place, San Ysidro. For starters, Saint Isidore is the patron of farmers. And San Ysidro’s the scene of ’Diego’s first hippie commune, the Little Landers of 1909. Every family had an acre to create enough food for their family. And they did! These guys almost invented small-scale intensive farming. “The man who owns the land, tills the land, lives by the land, is the only independent man,” said William Smythe, a journalist and founder of this experiment. And, Taqueria Revolución sits right where this San Ysidro Boulevard crosses Bolton Hall Road. Bolton Hall? Name of a guy who wrote the book A Little Land and a Living. And they had one-acre farms right here at this crossroads and sold their veggies in downtown San Diego.
I stand here for a moment, soaking in the vibe. Those people. They sure had something. I walk back down to the border to catch the trolley.
Confession: have a 20-minute wait. Can’t resist sneaking into McDonald’s for a secret pleasure. It’s a coffee (not bad these days! Costs $1). And one of their li’l apple pies. Perfect dessert combo for $2.14 with tax.
362 E. San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Prices: Taco or tostada (with any meat), $1.95; quesataco, $2.95; mulita, $3.85; burrito, $8.75; torta, $8.25; Revo burrito, $10.25; Revo fries (two meats), $13.25; birria (small), $9.25, (large), $11.25
Buses: 906 (eastbound); 907 (westbound)
Nearest bus stops: San Ysidro Boulevard and Virginia Avenue