Kindred's beer batter palm tacos
When attending a taco festival, I become a short attention span eater. I usually just bounce from booth to booth, drawn by the mere suggestion of anything I might crave. Succulent meats such as lamb, short rib, or pork belly usually do the trick. Smoked or seared fish are a dead lock. I will even stand in line for vegan tacos, because if there’s a line they must be good, and I need to squeeze in a few veggies before that inevitable second round of short rib. My picks this year mimic that experience, supporting my contention that living in San Diego is like attending a year-round taco festival.
2490 Commercial Street, San Diego
Corazon de Torta — short rib, birria, and chicken tacos
Bringing a mouthwatering tradition of braised meat guisados north of the border, this torta and taco truck parked itself in the lot of a muffler shop in Sherman Heights last year and quickly drew a devoted following. Thanks in part to a taco of braised short rib that melts into its guajillo chile sauce, Corazon has found such high demand at craft breweries — particularly in Chula Vista — that it’s on the road most days a week. A second truck is on the way to bring regular service back to the muffler shop, where a planned Monday night series this summer will feature guest chefs creating taco collaborations.
317 Tenth, San Diego
The heralded family of Mariscos German taco trucks provide the MG behind this new Petco Park-adjacent brick-and-mortar location, where the tacos are all but overshadowed by the killer ceviche and aguachile menu. I might go for a fish or octopus ceviche first, but I’ll definitely grab a couple of tacos for dessert. It’s tough to beat the food truck classics: the Baja fried fish taco or the beloved Governador, which pairs grilled shrimp and cheese. But, as would happen at a taco festival, I’m easily swayed by the smoked tuna, served here in toothsome chunks, with cheese and grilled vegetables.
4632 College Avenue, San Diego
It’s more hole-in-the-wall than hole-in-the-ground, but either way Fish Pit overachieves as a casual sushi spot operating out of a small kitchen shack in the college area. On a covered patio made from repurposed materials, guests sit at surfboard countertops, dining on a litany of creative sushi rolls and poke bowls. The corresponding taco menu applies elements of that same sushi palate, including a tasty ahi taco seared with sesame seeds and wasabi, topped with Asian microgreens and pickled cucumber ($5). Eating sushi and tacos side by side proves dreamy as it sounds, especially knowing the seafood hails from sustainable fishmonger Catalina Offshore Products.
1504 30th Street, San Diego
Baja fish tacos haven’t been the only thing standing between me and a 100-percent vegan diet, but it does pain me to imagine life without them. Or it did. The beer-battered palm tacos Kindred debuted last spring capture the joy of fried fish on a corn tortilla, without the fish. A blend of pureed heart of palm and potato gives these crispy tacos their creamy centers, surrounded by a seasoned batter crunch made light and fluffy with the help of a big pale lager. Twelve bucks include two tacos with jicama salsa for texture, arbol chili crema for heat, and seaweed salad for that essence of ocean.
130 South Mollison Avenue, El Cajon
Casually known as TNT, this tortilla factory serves up masa to the entire City Tacos family, while its taco counter dishes its own distinctive taco recipes, on par with the adventurous spirit of its sister restaurants. The signature TNT taco would definitely be at home in a taco fest, featuring grilled adobo shrimp wrapped in grilled asadero cheese, served on corn tortilla with mango pineapple habanero salsa. I personally brake for the borrego en su jugo, leg of lamb slow braised in its own juices with herbs and guajillo chili. At $3.75 and $3, respectively, these are among the priciest on a menu that primarily keeps it under three bucks.
1985 National Avenue, Suite 1133, San Diego
As often as I eat traditional pork tacos stuffed with carnitas or al pastor, these will rarely catch my attention at a taco fest. Show me the phrase pork belly, however, and I won’t rest until I’ve tried it. It works at Asian restaurants too, apparently. After I noticed pork belly tacos on the during my first couple visits to this yummy Filipino fusion counter, I couldn’t get the concept out of my mind: seared pork belly with sriracha, cilantro, and pickled red onions, on a thin slice of jicama instead of tortilla. At three for five bucks, they were every bit the succulent and festive experience I’d hoped they would be.