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Tortillas star at Taquería Zapata

A shorter menu of tacos outside Pancho Villa market, still two bucks each

Adobada tacos from Taquería Zapata, made on corn tortillas made by Tortilleria Adelita
Adobada tacos from Taquería Zapata, made on corn tortillas made by Tortilleria Adelita

I got lucky this time: there were only two people in line. It would still take five or six minutes to reach the front, but considering the near 30-minute wait I found on my last visit, this felt like nothing.

Place

Pancho Villa Farmer's Market

3245 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Not that the half hour wait for fresh tortillas isn’t worth it. Tortilleria Adelita operates within Pancho Villa Farmers Market, the Mexican specialty grocer with locations in San Ysidro and City Heights. I’ve come to the latter to pick up such stuff as tomatillos, dried chili peppers, and comically large cans of hominy. But when I notice the tortilla line is short, I immediately claim my spot. A wise move. By the time I reach the front, it continues outside the supermarket entrance.

Adelita attracts long lines to its spot between produce and dairy

Why would people wait for tortillas? Because they’re made right there in front of you, pressed and grilled on a large, round comal that sits beneath a ventilation hood roughly between the produce and dairy sections. They’re so in demand the tortilleros barely keep up: the last of my small flour tortillas goes straight from the grill into my bag. The perfect combination of fluffy and elastic, these harina beauties are yummy enough to eat on their own. They’ll still be warm when I get them home.

But first, I have another stop to make, just on the outside the grocery. There, from a window counter facing the Pancho Villa parking lot, Taquería Zapata dishes up tacos made on Adelita’s terrific corn tortillas.

Taquería Zapata, serving street tacos on the outside of the Pancho Villa market

For years, the counter has kept its street tacos under two bucks apiece — and still does, sorta. They go two for $4 now, which means I’m going to eat four today. In a way, the twofer pricing will protect me from myself. I might have settled for three tacos, otherwise, and missed out on that filling fourth.

There aren’t as many taco options as I remember: at least, there’s no longer carne asada or birria tacos on the menu. But it’s not exactly a hardship to sample what remains. Best are the pork options: achiote seasoned adobada with red salsa and a dollop of guacamole, and similarly dressed carnitas. The beef cabeza was tender enough, but not as flavorful as I’m used to.

A carnitas taco (left) and a cabeza taco (right)

But I’m only parsing at this point. All feature cilantro and diced onions, of course, but the reason they stand out is the pair of fresh corn tortillas that fold around each one. The small tortillas are delightfully thick, and, made into tacos, slightly crispy at the edges, with just enough oil to make them interesting.

It was the sort of shopping trip that makes me glad to live in San Diego… and sorry for people in other parts of the country who don’t have access to fresh-made tortillas.

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Adobada tacos from Taquería Zapata, made on corn tortillas made by Tortilleria Adelita
Adobada tacos from Taquería Zapata, made on corn tortillas made by Tortilleria Adelita

I got lucky this time: there were only two people in line. It would still take five or six minutes to reach the front, but considering the near 30-minute wait I found on my last visit, this felt like nothing.

Place

Pancho Villa Farmer's Market

3245 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Not that the half hour wait for fresh tortillas isn’t worth it. Tortilleria Adelita operates within Pancho Villa Farmers Market, the Mexican specialty grocer with locations in San Ysidro and City Heights. I’ve come to the latter to pick up such stuff as tomatillos, dried chili peppers, and comically large cans of hominy. But when I notice the tortilla line is short, I immediately claim my spot. A wise move. By the time I reach the front, it continues outside the supermarket entrance.

Adelita attracts long lines to its spot between produce and dairy

Why would people wait for tortillas? Because they’re made right there in front of you, pressed and grilled on a large, round comal that sits beneath a ventilation hood roughly between the produce and dairy sections. They’re so in demand the tortilleros barely keep up: the last of my small flour tortillas goes straight from the grill into my bag. The perfect combination of fluffy and elastic, these harina beauties are yummy enough to eat on their own. They’ll still be warm when I get them home.

But first, I have another stop to make, just on the outside the grocery. There, from a window counter facing the Pancho Villa parking lot, Taquería Zapata dishes up tacos made on Adelita’s terrific corn tortillas.

Taquería Zapata, serving street tacos on the outside of the Pancho Villa market

For years, the counter has kept its street tacos under two bucks apiece — and still does, sorta. They go two for $4 now, which means I’m going to eat four today. In a way, the twofer pricing will protect me from myself. I might have settled for three tacos, otherwise, and missed out on that filling fourth.

There aren’t as many taco options as I remember: at least, there’s no longer carne asada or birria tacos on the menu. But it’s not exactly a hardship to sample what remains. Best are the pork options: achiote seasoned adobada with red salsa and a dollop of guacamole, and similarly dressed carnitas. The beef cabeza was tender enough, but not as flavorful as I’m used to.

A carnitas taco (left) and a cabeza taco (right)

But I’m only parsing at this point. All feature cilantro and diced onions, of course, but the reason they stand out is the pair of fresh corn tortillas that fold around each one. The small tortillas are delightfully thick, and, made into tacos, slightly crispy at the edges, with just enough oil to make them interesting.

It was the sort of shopping trip that makes me glad to live in San Diego… and sorry for people in other parts of the country who don’t have access to fresh-made tortillas.

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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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