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Taco Taco Poway still has 99-cent fish tacos

Tacotopia prizewinner is well known among Powegians

Larry points out his bargain of the week.
Larry points out his bargain of the week.

“This is well-known among Powegians,” says my buddy Larry.

“‘Powegians’?”

“The good burghers of Poway, probably the least-known of all our cities.”

“But I hear it’s a city for somewhat fat cats,” I say. “Not somewhere you’d find the cheapest taco in the county.”

“Exactamundo! That’s why we’re going, my friend. To show that eateries can do it if they really want to.”

“But the good burghers don’t go for burgers?”

“They go for bargains. That’s how they got rich.”

Ed and Olga made a decision - “Fish tacos stay at 99 cents!”

All I really know about Poway is that they call themselves “The city in the country,” and that Larry offered to take me up there when I started at his news. “One dollar fish tacos, my friend,” he said. “Musician friend of mine told me about it.” Hmm. That is impressive. And Larry’s got his slightly rusty forest green Toyota pickup sitting idling by — heh heh — to back up his offer.

Actually it’s a longer drive than I guessed it would be, through fields and hills and into this pretty nice series of rolling neighborhoods. Half an hour later, Larry hauls up right outside this widespread shopping space, with the Cuyamaca mountains making for a very “country” backdrop. We feel kinda at elevation. Buildings are creamy, stuccoey, clunky, so ’80s.

“The one thing my bluegrass friend told me,” says Larry, “was that this place is almost next to the Poway DMV.”

Larry’s lunch - two 99- cent tacos plus extras he couldn’t resist.

“Ah. The DMV. Now your $1 tacos are starting to make sense,” I say.

“That’s if they still are $1,” says Larry. “Prices have been going so crazy everywhere lately. I’d forgive them if they at least doubled it here. But no! See?” He points at a window sign. “‘99-cent tacos.’ I told you!” (It does say “Dine-in only. $1.50 to go,” but that you can forgive.) They also promise the “quickest lunch in town,” and a big menu with a ton of scrawled specials.

Guess it’s working: The three-chef kitchen’s busy-busy. We head for the nearest sunny table, a tall one by a window. A woman, Olga, slides a couple of menus in front of us. There’s a ton of choice here, starting with “Poway’s favorite fish taco,” — light battered fried fish, cabbage, white sauce, pico.” As in pico de gallo. And a green and a red hot sauce.

Sponsored
Sponsored

But deals are all around. For $2.50, you can opt for carnitas, carne, pollo or adobada fillings. Pulled pork, with “tangy sweet BBQ sauce,” onion and cilantro, is yours for $2.85. Four “chop cheese” tacos (beef patties chopped with onions and cheese, plus mayo, ketchup and lettuce) cost $11.75 — under $3 each. Karaage chicken tacos (basically fried, Japanese-style, with a coating of potato or corn starch) cost $2.85. Shrimp or garlic shrimp tacos go for $3.95; and so do octopus, and cameron puerquito, basically a surf’n turf mix of pork adobada (marinated in a chile sauce) and shrimp. Plus they have a long stream of the usual tortas, burros and salads.

Ooh, and they have chalkboard specials, like “2 fish tacos and 1 beer” for $5.23. ’Course, I know it’ll be a Tecate, Bud, or Coors Light, but still a radical deal! And you can add rice and beans for a piddling $1.95.

What I want to know, though, is how filling these $1 tacos are. Some places cut costs by making smaller tortillas. Others by going bare bones on fillings. Larry’s solid reputation is on the line here. “Well, for starters, what kind of fish?” I ask Larry. Olga’s husband Ed hears. “Swai basa,” he says, “from Vietnam.” Wow. Glad to hear that, even though there are sometimes questions about fish farms where some of them are raised. I have good feelings about swai. Their home waters are the mighty Mekong River and Thailand’s Chao Phrya. I have survived many a swai caught from there. Besides, swai are known as the poor man’s salmon or haddock, because they taste so similar. Also similar to catfish. On top of that, I was always told “eating swai makes you smart.” And is good for vision, weight-loss and cardio. So hey. What’s not to like?

“I’ll have three fish tacos,” I tell Olga. Can’t believe it. I have just spent all of $2.97. Of course now, a certain amount of cheating sets in. Larry orders a plate of fries and ketchup ($3.50) and a Modelo Negra beer ($4.25).

“That’s why they have you eat in. Expose you to the temptations,” says Larry. But I am holding strong, and loving the crispy, light-fried and hot-salsa-heated swai. Dang, but they’re delicious, in nice rough corn tortillas and with plenty of cabbage to freshen the flavor up. True to its promise, the swai is buttery, moist, and unfishy. And I’m not even tempted by Larry’s beer.

I just about make it through, and yes, I am really full. Except, then my eye falls on those two words in the menu: cameron puerquito. That idea of combining pork and shrimp. Gotta try it. “Just one,” I say to Olga, as if it’ll keep me in the food gods’ good books. Costs $3.95. Brings my total from $2.97 to $9.42, including the iced tea.

“Still,” I say to Larry, “under ten bucks. Next time, no tea, just the three fish tacos. We’ll be talking a $2.97 lunch!

“You talk the talk, give you that,” Larry says as he takes his last slurp.

I have to tell Olga as we pay that the pork-shrimp combo was exceptional. Rich. “Well,” says Olga, “we did get a prize for that one at Tacotopia.

Turns out a lot of people are grateful for Olga and Ed’s bargains. “Some customers say they couldn’t bring their kids out for a treat without our fish tacos,” says Olga as we pay. “Poway may have a lot of million-dollar houses, but there are plenty of people struggling in this valley.”

The Place: Taco Taco Poway, 13429 Community Road, Poway, 858-486-6992

Hours: 11am - 8pm daily 

Prices: “Poway’s favorite fish taco,” 99 cents; carnitas taco, $2.50; carne taco, $2.50; pollo taco, $2.50; adobada taco, $2.50; pulled pork taco, $2.85; four “chop cheese” tacos, $11.75; karaage (fried) chicken taco, $2.85; crispy potato taco, $3.25; shrimp taco, $3.95; garlic shrimp taco, $3.95; octopus taco, $3.95; cameron puerquito, $3.95; garlic shrimp quesadilla, $9.75; Mexican Caesar salad, $5.75, with chicken, $9.95; elote en vaso (loose corn), $3.25; crispy bunuelo, $1.99

Bus: 944

Nearest Bus Stop: Hilleary Place and Community Road

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Larry points out his bargain of the week.
Larry points out his bargain of the week.

“This is well-known among Powegians,” says my buddy Larry.

“‘Powegians’?”

“The good burghers of Poway, probably the least-known of all our cities.”

“But I hear it’s a city for somewhat fat cats,” I say. “Not somewhere you’d find the cheapest taco in the county.”

“Exactamundo! That’s why we’re going, my friend. To show that eateries can do it if they really want to.”

“But the good burghers don’t go for burgers?”

“They go for bargains. That’s how they got rich.”

Ed and Olga made a decision - “Fish tacos stay at 99 cents!”

All I really know about Poway is that they call themselves “The city in the country,” and that Larry offered to take me up there when I started at his news. “One dollar fish tacos, my friend,” he said. “Musician friend of mine told me about it.” Hmm. That is impressive. And Larry’s got his slightly rusty forest green Toyota pickup sitting idling by — heh heh — to back up his offer.

Actually it’s a longer drive than I guessed it would be, through fields and hills and into this pretty nice series of rolling neighborhoods. Half an hour later, Larry hauls up right outside this widespread shopping space, with the Cuyamaca mountains making for a very “country” backdrop. We feel kinda at elevation. Buildings are creamy, stuccoey, clunky, so ’80s.

“The one thing my bluegrass friend told me,” says Larry, “was that this place is almost next to the Poway DMV.”

Larry’s lunch - two 99- cent tacos plus extras he couldn’t resist.

“Ah. The DMV. Now your $1 tacos are starting to make sense,” I say.

“That’s if they still are $1,” says Larry. “Prices have been going so crazy everywhere lately. I’d forgive them if they at least doubled it here. But no! See?” He points at a window sign. “‘99-cent tacos.’ I told you!” (It does say “Dine-in only. $1.50 to go,” but that you can forgive.) They also promise the “quickest lunch in town,” and a big menu with a ton of scrawled specials.

Guess it’s working: The three-chef kitchen’s busy-busy. We head for the nearest sunny table, a tall one by a window. A woman, Olga, slides a couple of menus in front of us. There’s a ton of choice here, starting with “Poway’s favorite fish taco,” — light battered fried fish, cabbage, white sauce, pico.” As in pico de gallo. And a green and a red hot sauce.

Sponsored
Sponsored

But deals are all around. For $2.50, you can opt for carnitas, carne, pollo or adobada fillings. Pulled pork, with “tangy sweet BBQ sauce,” onion and cilantro, is yours for $2.85. Four “chop cheese” tacos (beef patties chopped with onions and cheese, plus mayo, ketchup and lettuce) cost $11.75 — under $3 each. Karaage chicken tacos (basically fried, Japanese-style, with a coating of potato or corn starch) cost $2.85. Shrimp or garlic shrimp tacos go for $3.95; and so do octopus, and cameron puerquito, basically a surf’n turf mix of pork adobada (marinated in a chile sauce) and shrimp. Plus they have a long stream of the usual tortas, burros and salads.

Ooh, and they have chalkboard specials, like “2 fish tacos and 1 beer” for $5.23. ’Course, I know it’ll be a Tecate, Bud, or Coors Light, but still a radical deal! And you can add rice and beans for a piddling $1.95.

What I want to know, though, is how filling these $1 tacos are. Some places cut costs by making smaller tortillas. Others by going bare bones on fillings. Larry’s solid reputation is on the line here. “Well, for starters, what kind of fish?” I ask Larry. Olga’s husband Ed hears. “Swai basa,” he says, “from Vietnam.” Wow. Glad to hear that, even though there are sometimes questions about fish farms where some of them are raised. I have good feelings about swai. Their home waters are the mighty Mekong River and Thailand’s Chao Phrya. I have survived many a swai caught from there. Besides, swai are known as the poor man’s salmon or haddock, because they taste so similar. Also similar to catfish. On top of that, I was always told “eating swai makes you smart.” And is good for vision, weight-loss and cardio. So hey. What’s not to like?

“I’ll have three fish tacos,” I tell Olga. Can’t believe it. I have just spent all of $2.97. Of course now, a certain amount of cheating sets in. Larry orders a plate of fries and ketchup ($3.50) and a Modelo Negra beer ($4.25).

“That’s why they have you eat in. Expose you to the temptations,” says Larry. But I am holding strong, and loving the crispy, light-fried and hot-salsa-heated swai. Dang, but they’re delicious, in nice rough corn tortillas and with plenty of cabbage to freshen the flavor up. True to its promise, the swai is buttery, moist, and unfishy. And I’m not even tempted by Larry’s beer.

I just about make it through, and yes, I am really full. Except, then my eye falls on those two words in the menu: cameron puerquito. That idea of combining pork and shrimp. Gotta try it. “Just one,” I say to Olga, as if it’ll keep me in the food gods’ good books. Costs $3.95. Brings my total from $2.97 to $9.42, including the iced tea.

“Still,” I say to Larry, “under ten bucks. Next time, no tea, just the three fish tacos. We’ll be talking a $2.97 lunch!

“You talk the talk, give you that,” Larry says as he takes his last slurp.

I have to tell Olga as we pay that the pork-shrimp combo was exceptional. Rich. “Well,” says Olga, “we did get a prize for that one at Tacotopia.

Turns out a lot of people are grateful for Olga and Ed’s bargains. “Some customers say they couldn’t bring their kids out for a treat without our fish tacos,” says Olga as we pay. “Poway may have a lot of million-dollar houses, but there are plenty of people struggling in this valley.”

The Place: Taco Taco Poway, 13429 Community Road, Poway, 858-486-6992

Hours: 11am - 8pm daily 

Prices: “Poway’s favorite fish taco,” 99 cents; carnitas taco, $2.50; carne taco, $2.50; pollo taco, $2.50; adobada taco, $2.50; pulled pork taco, $2.85; four “chop cheese” tacos, $11.75; karaage (fried) chicken taco, $2.85; crispy potato taco, $3.25; shrimp taco, $3.95; garlic shrimp taco, $3.95; octopus taco, $3.95; cameron puerquito, $3.95; garlic shrimp quesadilla, $9.75; Mexican Caesar salad, $5.75, with chicken, $9.95; elote en vaso (loose corn), $3.25; crispy bunuelo, $1.99

Bus: 944

Nearest Bus Stop: Hilleary Place and Community Road

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