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Tuétano shows up in Old Town, with Mar Rustico in tow

The nationally famous birria shop easier to reach as part of a new food hall

A birria taco with roasted bone marrow, a dish that caught the Michelin Guide's attention
A birria taco with roasted bone marrow, a dish that caught the Michelin Guide's attention

It’s fair to assume that the Michelin Guide will never revisit San Ysidro. Nor that any restaurants in the small border district will again receive attention from magazines including Food & Wine, Fortune, or GQ. That’s because birria and bone marrow taco champion Tuétano Taquería moved on in October. Bad news for those who live near San Ysidro, good news for those who live near Old Town.

Place

Tuétano Taqueria

2548 Congress St., San Diego

Place

Old Town Urban Market

2458 Congress St, San Diego

That’s where Tuétano showed up in November, as part of the new Old Town Urban Market. The Congress Street food hall features a curated and growing assortment of small local businesses — primarily Mexican-American-owned so far — which may succeed in lending a sense of balance to a neighborhood better known for touristy renditions of Mexican eateries.

Old Town Urban Market brings the food hall concept to the city's original stomping grounds.

Certainly Tuétano’s famous combination of birria and roasted bone marrow raises the floor of Old Town cuisine. The counter shop occupies a stall somehow tinier than its former San Ysidro location, but that’s because this space doesn’t require any seating. There’s plenty of that on the covered Urban Market patio, a raised dining area equipped with fire tables and a view of the street.

When I showed up this week, I found a stripped-down version of the Tuetano menu, one that nixes the likes of cochinita pibil, arrachera (skirt steak), and longaniza sausage, to focus exclusively on chef Priscilla Curiel’s nationally-hyped birria. I found significantly higher prices: birria tacos that cost $2.50 when I first visited back in 2018 are now up to 6 dollars. The $3 bone marrow add-on is up to $7. A birria torta, which cost $10 earlier this year, now goes for $18.

Shared patio seating for a birria counter, mariscos counter, and soon-to-be donuts and coffee

We can credit inflation, the change in neighborhood, and no doubt the brand’s runaway success for these increases. At any rate, I can’t be mad at this birria, especially with the addition of tuétano (bone marrow). And if there’s a slight saving grace to the price hikes, it’s that you can simply order the birria tuétano, with bone marrow included, for $11, rather than get them separately for $13.

Cool though it may be to feast on a San Diego birria coveted by foodies in New York City, I might have missed Curiel’s non-birria options, were it not for another Urban Market tenant: Mar Rustico. Turns out, this is the chef pulling double duty. Next door to her birria counter, she’s opened this Baja-style mariscos counter, led by ceviches that feature Baja-sourced grouper and shrimp, plus oysters.

Baja grouper ceviche from Mar Rustico, the new mariscos concept from chef Priscilla Curiel

I went for La Paz, the “classic fish ceviche” at the top of the menu ($14) and quite enjoyed it. Along with the citrus-bathed grouper, diced vegetables helped it hit all the great flavor points – from serrano chili heat and olive brine – to go with red onions, cucumber, micro cilantro, and avocado. There were even black sesame seeds tossed in there.

Elsewhere in the menu were an octopus and shrimp aguachile, and a clam chowder that I regret not adding to my order. Of course, I doubt it’s so long before I’m back in the Market during another visit to Tuétano. Because Old Town is a lot closer than San Ysidro.

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A birria taco with roasted bone marrow, a dish that caught the Michelin Guide's attention
A birria taco with roasted bone marrow, a dish that caught the Michelin Guide's attention

It’s fair to assume that the Michelin Guide will never revisit San Ysidro. Nor that any restaurants in the small border district will again receive attention from magazines including Food & Wine, Fortune, or GQ. That’s because birria and bone marrow taco champion Tuétano Taquería moved on in October. Bad news for those who live near San Ysidro, good news for those who live near Old Town.

Place

Tuétano Taqueria

2548 Congress St., San Diego

Place

Old Town Urban Market

2458 Congress St, San Diego

That’s where Tuétano showed up in November, as part of the new Old Town Urban Market. The Congress Street food hall features a curated and growing assortment of small local businesses — primarily Mexican-American-owned so far — which may succeed in lending a sense of balance to a neighborhood better known for touristy renditions of Mexican eateries.

Old Town Urban Market brings the food hall concept to the city's original stomping grounds.

Certainly Tuétano’s famous combination of birria and roasted bone marrow raises the floor of Old Town cuisine. The counter shop occupies a stall somehow tinier than its former San Ysidro location, but that’s because this space doesn’t require any seating. There’s plenty of that on the covered Urban Market patio, a raised dining area equipped with fire tables and a view of the street.

When I showed up this week, I found a stripped-down version of the Tuetano menu, one that nixes the likes of cochinita pibil, arrachera (skirt steak), and longaniza sausage, to focus exclusively on chef Priscilla Curiel’s nationally-hyped birria. I found significantly higher prices: birria tacos that cost $2.50 when I first visited back in 2018 are now up to 6 dollars. The $3 bone marrow add-on is up to $7. A birria torta, which cost $10 earlier this year, now goes for $18.

Shared patio seating for a birria counter, mariscos counter, and soon-to-be donuts and coffee

We can credit inflation, the change in neighborhood, and no doubt the brand’s runaway success for these increases. At any rate, I can’t be mad at this birria, especially with the addition of tuétano (bone marrow). And if there’s a slight saving grace to the price hikes, it’s that you can simply order the birria tuétano, with bone marrow included, for $11, rather than get them separately for $13.

Cool though it may be to feast on a San Diego birria coveted by foodies in New York City, I might have missed Curiel’s non-birria options, were it not for another Urban Market tenant: Mar Rustico. Turns out, this is the chef pulling double duty. Next door to her birria counter, she’s opened this Baja-style mariscos counter, led by ceviches that feature Baja-sourced grouper and shrimp, plus oysters.

Baja grouper ceviche from Mar Rustico, the new mariscos concept from chef Priscilla Curiel

I went for La Paz, the “classic fish ceviche” at the top of the menu ($14) and quite enjoyed it. Along with the citrus-bathed grouper, diced vegetables helped it hit all the great flavor points – from serrano chili heat and olive brine – to go with red onions, cucumber, micro cilantro, and avocado. There were even black sesame seeds tossed in there.

Elsewhere in the menu were an octopus and shrimp aguachile, and a clam chowder that I regret not adding to my order. Of course, I doubt it’s so long before I’m back in the Market during another visit to Tuétano. Because Old Town is a lot closer than San Ysidro.

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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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