Small, simple $3.75 burritos and a matcha latte
Tuétano is the Spanish word for marrow, and bone marrow has a lot to do with the success of the San Ysidro taco shop, Tuetano Taqueria. Since opening in 2018, it’s been written about in national magazines including Food & Wine and Fortune, and last fall the vaunted Michelin Guide hailed it as one of “25 Delicious Discoveries Across California.”
143 West San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro, CA
And though Tuetano’s press clippings have been quick to praise the shop’s “bone marrow tacos,” in truth, the bone marrow is an add-on; a side dish you order as an optional topping to any of the shop’s assorted tacos. Now, I’ll be the first to confirm the slow-cooked marrow makes every taco it touches, better. But in truth, what makes Tuetano tick is its sumptuous beef birria. Tuetano owner, chef Priscilla Curiel, once told me she took cumin out of the recipe to make its tender, shredded beef pop. I doubt it’s truly as simple as that, but whatever her secret, Teuentano’s birria and quesabirria tacos are the shop’s true stars, even if you choose to skip the marrow topping that gets so much attention.
310A E 8th St, National City
Which adds up to great news for National City, where Curiel recently opened another small restaurant, dubbed Mujer Divina, or “divine woman.” Actually, the sign outside literally reads: Mujer Divina Burrito & Coffee House.
Burritos and coffee. It’s a combination we’re even less accustomed to seeing than bone marrow and birria.
It’s not Curiel’s first stab at a restaurant in this location, on downtown National City’s main drag, 8th Avenue. In 2019 she established a sandwich and smoothies shop here, named Naturale Deli. While that concept didn’t survive the pandemic, Mujer Divina is set up for takeout service, particularly due to online ordering and curbside pickup.
The logo of Mujer Divina Burrito & Coffee House
For those walking in off the street — and I spotted several during my weekday visit — a small order counter is set up within the doorway, and a couple of standing tables are set up on the sidewalk.
Primarily, Mujer Divina is a coffee shop, specializing in flavored lattes of regular, soy, almond, or oat milk. You may opt for hot or iced Café de olla, a traditional, Mexican brewed coffee flavored with piloncillo, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. But most of the menu features the likes of pistachio latte, rosewater latte, and various others including white chocolate, raspberry, lavender, or cajeta, the goat milk caramel. Another featured latte is flavored like a conchita the cookie modeled after concha, the conch-shell shaped pan dulce that’s a fixture at Mexican bakeries.
The espresso machines were hissing and steaming with regular orders when I showed up, but I decided to go for a matcha latte, made with powdered green tea rather than coffee. I drink coffee every day, but to be honest, I needed something more photogenic to frame alongside my order of burritos.
A bright pink interior awaits the reopening coffee and burrito shop's dining room.
At $3.75 apiece, these aren’t the thick, 6- to 8-dollar taco shop burritos San Diegans have come to expect. They’re thinner and smaller — burrito-itos, if you like. Or like fat, flour tortilla tacos, all rolled up.
Which doesn’t make them any less-than. Especially when you start with the birria burrito. It’s the same birria recipe driving Tuetano’s success down by the border, and it’s just as flavorful wrapped in flour tortilla as it is folded into corn. In other words, fans like me can grab a bite of birria on the fly when passing through National City, rather than having to drive all the way to San Ysidro.
Which isn’t to say variety doesn’t help. Other small burritos available include bean and cheese, chorizo and potatoes, machaca, and chicharrons in salsa verde. My non-birria favorite was the rajas con crema burrito. Featuring mild poblano chile with melted cheese, sour cream, and corn, it’s flat-out delicious.
Which means I’ll have to revisit Tuetano Taqueria again soon, after all. Because now I have to find out how great its rajas con crema tacos taste with a bone marrow topping.