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Taco Machin brings estilo de Tijuana to Bonita

Street tacos, vampiros, adobada, tongue, and cheek

An adobada (a.k.a. al pastor) street taco from Taco Machin
An adobada (a.k.a. al pastor) street taco from Taco Machin

You can probably be forgiven for thinking the new taco shop in Bonita is called Taco Machine, because with only a quick glance at the sign, it reads close: Taco Machin.

Place

Taco Machin

4228 Bonita Rd, Bonita, CA

Don’t bother consulting Google translate. This slang, machin, is one of those terms that’s a struggle to translate to English. My friend and colleague Matthew Suárez explains it’s the sort of word that may shift in meaning, depending how you use it. Sometimes, it means a lot, but in the case of Taco Machin, it’s more likely describing something really good. He suggests it could align to the newer American slang lit. But, seeing as I’m Gen-X, I might need someone to help me translate that one as well.

With regard to the taco shop, I’m going to go with my Gen X gut and call it awesome. Recently opened by the same restaurant team that brought Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro to Bonita, Taco Machin delivers on a promise of, “Tijuana flavor, north of the border.”

A counter shop from the people behind Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro

If you’re wondering how it differs from any number of the Mexican counter shops populating San Diego, I could start by pointing to the lack of adaptations: you’ll find no California burritos or carne asada fries here. The menu sticks primarily to tacos and taco variants, whether on corn or flour tortillas. If you’re seriously not feeling tortillas, your only option is a torta (sandwich), made on a telera roll.

That said, there is something unique here to try: a vampiro. I got a little excited about this, because I only just learned what vampiros are a few weeks ago, thanks to the writings of taco expert and educator, Javier Cabral. As he explains in L.A. Taco, the Sinaloaense taco variation, “is essentially a tortilla that is slowly crisped up on a plancha, then layered with a little bit of meltable white cheese and topped with sliced meat and salsa.”

A vampiro style taco, made with melted cheese and wavy/crispy corn tortillas

Vampiros are part of Taco Machin’s los clasicos menu, which covers street tacos, quesadillas, and mulitas. The vampiros here are prepared similar to mulitas — that is, with two tortillas, top and bottom, presented as something akin to a grilled cheese sandwich. Where the mulitas’ corn tortillas remain soft, the vampiros’ are wavy and crispy.

All these clasicos stick to the same toppings: carne asada, birria, pollo asado, and adobada for meat eaters; braised lengua (beef tongue) or fried tripa (tripe) for adventurous meat eaters; or grilled nopal cactus, for vegetable fans. Depending which you choose, the street tacos cost just below or above 4 dollars, while the rest hover in price around $5. True to estilo de Tijuana, all are topped guacamole, onions, cilantro, and salsa by default.

I suppose I prefer my tortillas soft: the most memorable part of my vampire lengua ($5.50) would be the exquisitely tender and flavorful beef tongue.

The signature machin, taco: carne asada, cheese, guacamole, and beans on a flour tortilla

On the other hand, the adobada street taco did very much invoke the messy, unbeatable thrill of standing on a Tijuana sidewalk, jostling for position around a slowly turning trompo (rotisserie), to get your hands on the best pork tacos imaginable (sorry carnitas).

You’ll find a larger adobada taco on the House Specialties menu; this one served with beans, tzatziki, and pickled onions on a flour tortilla, for $5.75. That tzatziki’s a nod to Baja’s “Mexiterranean” influence, also felt on a similar portabello mushroom taco ($5.55). Specialties also feature the likes of cachete (beef cheek, $3.75), costilla (short rib, $3.95), and the signature Machin taco ($5.95).

This full-size (read: not street) taco sees carne asada, pinto beans, melted cheese, onions, and a huge dollop of guacamole on a flour tortilla. And this might be one instance where that term, machin, does translate as: a lot.

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An adobada (a.k.a. al pastor) street taco from Taco Machin
An adobada (a.k.a. al pastor) street taco from Taco Machin

You can probably be forgiven for thinking the new taco shop in Bonita is called Taco Machine, because with only a quick glance at the sign, it reads close: Taco Machin.

Place

Taco Machin

4228 Bonita Rd, Bonita, CA

Don’t bother consulting Google translate. This slang, machin, is one of those terms that’s a struggle to translate to English. My friend and colleague Matthew Suárez explains it’s the sort of word that may shift in meaning, depending how you use it. Sometimes, it means a lot, but in the case of Taco Machin, it’s more likely describing something really good. He suggests it could align to the newer American slang lit. But, seeing as I’m Gen-X, I might need someone to help me translate that one as well.

With regard to the taco shop, I’m going to go with my Gen X gut and call it awesome. Recently opened by the same restaurant team that brought Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro to Bonita, Taco Machin delivers on a promise of, “Tijuana flavor, north of the border.”

A counter shop from the people behind Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro

If you’re wondering how it differs from any number of the Mexican counter shops populating San Diego, I could start by pointing to the lack of adaptations: you’ll find no California burritos or carne asada fries here. The menu sticks primarily to tacos and taco variants, whether on corn or flour tortillas. If you’re seriously not feeling tortillas, your only option is a torta (sandwich), made on a telera roll.

That said, there is something unique here to try: a vampiro. I got a little excited about this, because I only just learned what vampiros are a few weeks ago, thanks to the writings of taco expert and educator, Javier Cabral. As he explains in L.A. Taco, the Sinaloaense taco variation, “is essentially a tortilla that is slowly crisped up on a plancha, then layered with a little bit of meltable white cheese and topped with sliced meat and salsa.”

A vampiro style taco, made with melted cheese and wavy/crispy corn tortillas

Vampiros are part of Taco Machin’s los clasicos menu, which covers street tacos, quesadillas, and mulitas. The vampiros here are prepared similar to mulitas — that is, with two tortillas, top and bottom, presented as something akin to a grilled cheese sandwich. Where the mulitas’ corn tortillas remain soft, the vampiros’ are wavy and crispy.

All these clasicos stick to the same toppings: carne asada, birria, pollo asado, and adobada for meat eaters; braised lengua (beef tongue) or fried tripa (tripe) for adventurous meat eaters; or grilled nopal cactus, for vegetable fans. Depending which you choose, the street tacos cost just below or above 4 dollars, while the rest hover in price around $5. True to estilo de Tijuana, all are topped guacamole, onions, cilantro, and salsa by default.

I suppose I prefer my tortillas soft: the most memorable part of my vampire lengua ($5.50) would be the exquisitely tender and flavorful beef tongue.

The signature machin, taco: carne asada, cheese, guacamole, and beans on a flour tortilla

On the other hand, the adobada street taco did very much invoke the messy, unbeatable thrill of standing on a Tijuana sidewalk, jostling for position around a slowly turning trompo (rotisserie), to get your hands on the best pork tacos imaginable (sorry carnitas).

You’ll find a larger adobada taco on the House Specialties menu; this one served with beans, tzatziki, and pickled onions on a flour tortilla, for $5.75. That tzatziki’s a nod to Baja’s “Mexiterranean” influence, also felt on a similar portabello mushroom taco ($5.55). Specialties also feature the likes of cachete (beef cheek, $3.75), costilla (short rib, $3.95), and the signature Machin taco ($5.95).

This full-size (read: not street) taco sees carne asada, pinto beans, melted cheese, onions, and a huge dollop of guacamole on a flour tortilla. And this might be one instance where that term, machin, does translate as: a lot.

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