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Bad Hombres make better than good Mexican food

It’s not just the birria or “quesaritos;” this Santee taco shop raises the bar

A red taco from Bad Hombres, made with grilled cheese
A red taco from Bad Hombres, made with grilled cheese

Good Mexican food. This is something San Diego has in abundance. In our part of the world, even the average taco shop glows with an aura of desirability, particularly when you’re hungry and it’s the first shop you see. So when I was hungry in Santee, and the name of the nearest restaurant boasted, “good Mexican food,” I wasn’t going to hold them to it. I would have been satisfied with average.

Place

Bad Hombres Good Mexican Food

8918 Carlton Hills Blvd., Santee

Except, now that I’ve tried a few dishes at Bad Hombres Good Mexican Food, I’m thinking “good” is an understatement. Though at its heart a typical, casual, fast food counter shop, Bad Hombres makes some of the tastiest Mexican food in the county.

I have to start with the breakfast menu, because not only does it include the usual rotation of breakfast burritos ($7-8), it offers an entire complement of breakfast tacos (two for $7-8), whether stuffed with bacon, sausage, machaca, or steak. (Of course, I caught on to this just after completing a cover story highlighting San Diego’s top breakfast tacos).

A simple counter shop understating its "Good Mexican Food"

A lot of regulars would point first-timers to Bad Hombres’ red tacos ($4.35). Topped with grilled cheese and dutifully dipped in consomé, these quesabirria tacos happen to be totally on-trend at the moment. Despite the fact Bad Hombres is not a birria specialist, it delivers some of our region’s finest red tacos. Or at least the most generous, with thick portions of tender, stewed beef amply filling out a crispy corn tortilla. If you want more of the beef and consomé, you can go for the also-trending birria ramen ($10.25).

Thing is, I’m not even sure birria is my favorite thing on the menu. Whenever I am eating it, I’m convinced it must be. But then I move on to, say, a carnitas taco, and my allegiance shifts. Or, maybe it’s the carne asada. My wife swears by the carne and shrimp surf and turf. It’s one of those rare restaurants where the claim, “We use the best ingredients,” rings true.

Birria ramen, currently a national trend

Then, most of the roughly $4 tacos are represented as $9-10 burritos, and the flour tortillas turn out to be as fresh and well-made as the corn. Plus, the burrito menu really gives you a chance to indulge. Yes, the place offers a standard California burrito, packed with angus steak carne asada, French fries, cheese, and sour cream. But, for a $1.35 more, you may opt for a surf and turf Cali (with steak and shrimp), or the “Super Cali” burrito (which adds pork adobada and guacamole).

I may still be auditioning favorite tacos, but my go-to burrito is set. And that’s the signature Bad Hombres burrito ($10.25), which combines the steak with whole pinto beans and guacamole. My last visit, I decided to order like a Bad Hombre myself and, for an additional $3.50, made it a “quesarito.” That’s where, rather than a straight flour tortilla, they roll the burrito in a huge quesadilla, creating a layer of melted cheese around its savory center.

A Bad Hombres quesarito, a burrito rolled up with a large quesadilla

Bad Hombres is not my neighborhood taco shop. But for the moment, it has taken over as my number one choice, worthy of the 15-20 minute drive for red tacos and quesaritos. Considering the many good shops it’s supplanted, that makes Bad Hombres great Mexican food, in my eyes.

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A red taco from Bad Hombres, made with grilled cheese
A red taco from Bad Hombres, made with grilled cheese

Good Mexican food. This is something San Diego has in abundance. In our part of the world, even the average taco shop glows with an aura of desirability, particularly when you’re hungry and it’s the first shop you see. So when I was hungry in Santee, and the name of the nearest restaurant boasted, “good Mexican food,” I wasn’t going to hold them to it. I would have been satisfied with average.

Place

Bad Hombres Good Mexican Food

8918 Carlton Hills Blvd., Santee

Except, now that I’ve tried a few dishes at Bad Hombres Good Mexican Food, I’m thinking “good” is an understatement. Though at its heart a typical, casual, fast food counter shop, Bad Hombres makes some of the tastiest Mexican food in the county.

I have to start with the breakfast menu, because not only does it include the usual rotation of breakfast burritos ($7-8), it offers an entire complement of breakfast tacos (two for $7-8), whether stuffed with bacon, sausage, machaca, or steak. (Of course, I caught on to this just after completing a cover story highlighting San Diego’s top breakfast tacos).

A simple counter shop understating its "Good Mexican Food"

A lot of regulars would point first-timers to Bad Hombres’ red tacos ($4.35). Topped with grilled cheese and dutifully dipped in consomé, these quesabirria tacos happen to be totally on-trend at the moment. Despite the fact Bad Hombres is not a birria specialist, it delivers some of our region’s finest red tacos. Or at least the most generous, with thick portions of tender, stewed beef amply filling out a crispy corn tortilla. If you want more of the beef and consomé, you can go for the also-trending birria ramen ($10.25).

Thing is, I’m not even sure birria is my favorite thing on the menu. Whenever I am eating it, I’m convinced it must be. But then I move on to, say, a carnitas taco, and my allegiance shifts. Or, maybe it’s the carne asada. My wife swears by the carne and shrimp surf and turf. It’s one of those rare restaurants where the claim, “We use the best ingredients,” rings true.

Birria ramen, currently a national trend

Then, most of the roughly $4 tacos are represented as $9-10 burritos, and the flour tortillas turn out to be as fresh and well-made as the corn. Plus, the burrito menu really gives you a chance to indulge. Yes, the place offers a standard California burrito, packed with angus steak carne asada, French fries, cheese, and sour cream. But, for a $1.35 more, you may opt for a surf and turf Cali (with steak and shrimp), or the “Super Cali” burrito (which adds pork adobada and guacamole).

I may still be auditioning favorite tacos, but my go-to burrito is set. And that’s the signature Bad Hombres burrito ($10.25), which combines the steak with whole pinto beans and guacamole. My last visit, I decided to order like a Bad Hombre myself and, for an additional $3.50, made it a “quesarito.” That’s where, rather than a straight flour tortilla, they roll the burrito in a huge quesadilla, creating a layer of melted cheese around its savory center.

A Bad Hombres quesarito, a burrito rolled up with a large quesadilla

Bad Hombres is not my neighborhood taco shop. But for the moment, it has taken over as my number one choice, worthy of the 15-20 minute drive for red tacos and quesaritos. Considering the many good shops it’s supplanted, that makes Bad Hombres great Mexican food, in my eyes.

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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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