Jun 2009

Tacos El Gordo – San Diego (National City)

I was looking through your website and I have yet to see a write up on TACOS EL GORDO. Check it out. It’s in National City.

My cousin Michael left me this comment on the site back in April. My first thought when I read it was, “Wow! I didn’t know Michael read gas•tron•o•my. Cool beans.” My second thought was, “What is Michael doing eating tacos in National City? Does his mother know?”

While back home in San Diego over Memorial Day weekend, Michael (right) introduced me to the glory of Tacos El Gordo. Michael fired up his mama’s Windstar on Sunday evening, and we drove all the way to National City for dinner. There’s a taquería on practically every corner where we live, so driving across town for some Mexican grub was kind of a big deal. Cousin Jimmy (left) came along for the good eats.

Michael’s first blissful encounter with Tacos El Gordo was in Rosarito, Baja California Mexico during his senior year of high school. Unaware that his favorite south of the border taquería had expanded to California, Michael was pleased to no end when he serendipitously stumbled upon one of their local locations while lost in National City.

The National City branch of Tacos El Gordo is located in a converted Pizza Hut. Trays are grabbed on the way in and all orders are placed at the front counter. After we received our 15+ made-fresh-to-order tacos, we headed to a booth in the back to pay for our loot.

Before settling down to dig in, I made a trip to the condiment bar for some radishes, lime wedges, and salsa. We also got a big ‘ol cup of horchata (cinnamon rice milk) to share.

First up, taco de lengua ($2.10). The cow tongue taco came with fresh onions and cilantro and a mild tomatillo salsa, and was held together by two hot-off-the-griddle corn tortillas. I was surprised by the tongue’s stewed short ribs-like texture. I was expecting a chewier meat like that of a pig’s tongue. Overall, a very hearty and well-rounded taco.

Next up was the taco de cabeza ($1.85). Similar to the tongue taco, the cow head taco contained fresh onions and cilantro, all wrapped in a corn tortilla. The cabeza was the richest tasting taco I’ve ever encountered. I would’ve never guessed that bovine head muscles were so slick.

Michael and Jimmy polished off five tacos de carne asada each ($2). The cubes of beef were smoky and plentiful.

The most amazing tacos of the evening were the tacos de adobada ($2), which were made of thin pork steaks skewered and overlapped on a trompo (vertical rotisserie) and flame-broiled. The collection of pink-hued adobada seasonings were really fabulous—a little spicy and a lot sweet. Although I didn’t get to confirm with the Spanish-speaking trompo master, I swore I tasted some star anise! The complete package of pork, cilantro, onions, sweet white sauce, and warm corn tortilla was fantstic.

A few hours after our Tacos El Gordo feast, Michael departed to San Francisco—The Land of Rice- and Bean-Laden Burritos—to wrap up his sophomore year of college. This meal should keep him going until he returns to the land of Tacos El Gordo for summer vacation.

Tacos El Gordo
1940 Highland Avenue
National City, CA 91950
Phone: 619-474-5033

Tacos El Gordo El Tijuana Bc on Urbanspoon

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10 thoughts on “Tacos El Gordo – San Diego (National City)

  1. Tacos de adobada are my favorite in the world. There is one place in Davis where I went to college that had them. Haven’t found any here in Durham so I’ve had to make do with tacos al pastor. Sad.

  2. I found out about your site from Anthony bourdain’s blog and it’s the best food blog I’ve seen.

    Your review of Tacos El Gordo brings back memories of my High School years when I was at Sweetwater High School and all the great tacos I ate.. Of course it was cheaper then, your pictures sure makes me feel nostalgic.

  3. This proves my contention that all over the world, shawarma is king. Call it what you like, anything on a trompo with spices and shaved off – that’s shawarma to me. If served on flatbread and doused with something tasty…

    So is your cousin in trouble now? Do tell.

  4. Whenever I hear about tongue, I always think about the Ramona the Pest books I read as a child. Her mom made tongue one night for dinner because it was inexpensive, and Ramona freaked out. I think I might have freaked out as a kid too! (Probably would be a little suspicious of it now too…)

  5. Michael Ton – Thank you very much for introducing me to Tacos El Gordo. We’ll have to return for the adobada the next time we’re both in town.

    Sharon – Three cheers for adobada! This was my first encounter and I was a big, big fan. Do you think there’s star anise in the seasonings? I swore I tasted it!

    Ron – Thank you very much for virtual pat on the back! There was a taco shop 100 feet from Helix High School, so I know exactly what you’re talking about 😉 For me it was the taquito.

    Fiona – The Wiki entry on tacos did mention something about how this style of meat prep was very similar to gyro and shwarma. What’s in a name anyway? 😉 Cousin Michael is not in trouble—he’s just a young lad.

    Diana – I wonder if Ramona’s mama got the tongue from the Asian grocery store. It’s really cheap there! Try tongue. You’ll like it!

  6. hellllll yeaaa, this place is the sh!t….def. one of my favorite places in sd for tacos. i agree their adobada is pretty bomb…i’ll prob make a trek here next week when i go down….lovin the pics

  7. i used to think that tacos el gordo could not be topped until i found tacos el paisa.


    best tacos in san diego. hands down. even the adobada was (somehow) better than el gordo. it used to be a taco truck, but now, they parked the truck next to an actual physical location. you can go inside, where they keep all their materials, to sit and eat, but the taco truck is still where they do all the cooking… at least, that was the case the last time i went.

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