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Dunno what came over me.

One minute I’m standing outside the order peephole at Don Panchos Taco Shop (690 Highway 75, Imperial Beach, 619-429-7034), thinking I’ll buy a simple $1.99 fish taco.

The next, I’ve come away $15.04 poorer with a carne asada flying saucer ($4.99), a carne asada fries ($6.99), and oh yes, the fish taco.

One reason is I’m about an hour late getting home. Figured only food would soothe the savage heart of Doña Carla.


The other reason is what da heck. Every now and then you have to bust out of the whole Eating What’s Good For You gulag. Just felt like those gungy fries with the carne asada and beans covered in lava beds of melted nacho cheese, sour cream and guac.

And the flying saucer: pretty-much the same on this big crispy–golden tostada. You get a bag of pickled carrots and limes with it.

While I’m waiting, get talking with Stephanie, the gal behind the gauze-covered window.


She says a lot of folk come up looking for those carne asada fries. “But if you want something that will fill you up, but is also cheap, the bean and cheese burrito is only $2.79. Or $3.29 with bean, cheese and rice.”

This is a strange fifties-moderne-looking roadside place...


...woody, blue, red and gray. It’s about the first piece of civilization you arrive at, coming down Highway 75. (The southbound 901 stops a ways back on Rainbow Drive.)

It’s just past the little bar I always meant to visit, the now-closed Little Vienna Lounge (Would somebody please buy it and revive it?!).


And also just past El Camino Motel, where they anchored that 2007 TV surfer series, “John from Cincinatti.”

That too is boarded up.



As for Don Panchos, Stephane says it's doing just fine. Been open at least 20 years under the same owner.

But I see the name has changed a bit. It used to be “Los Panchos.” Wonder what happened.

I could eat here out on the sheltered patio...


...but I have them pack it all, good and strong so it’ll survive the trip back to the casa.

And man, the offering of food works. I go from criminal to hero in three easy chomps.

Carla gets the fish taco...


Fish taco, rolled open

...I try the flying saucer.


Dee-lish. Tons of hot sauce tubs, lime wedges and vinegary carrot slices. The tortilla is still crisp, and what I like is they’ve loaded great wads of guacamole and sour cream on top.

We both rip in like wolves in winter. Ten minutes later we come up for air, look at the carne asada fries plate.



The heart is willing, but…

Carla looks at me like Scarlet O’Hara.

“Tomorrow’s another day,” she says.

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