Review: A stroll away from the Tijuana border, El Rincón is one of San Diego’s best Mexican restaurants

Enmoladas D’Pollo: chicken-stuffed enchiladas, with mole poblano, Mexican cream, queso fresco, onion, sesame seeds, served with rice. Photo by Jay Keyes.

El Rincón is San Diego’s closest full-service Mexican restaurant to our border with Tijuana and it does not betray its location. This restaurant, run by the Alaniz family from the Mexican city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, is easily a “top 5” Mexican restaurant in San Diego.

The crown jewel of Chef Silvana Alaniz’s menu is her Carne en su Jugo ($11), consisting of beef stewed in a broth of its own juices, with chopped pieces of smoky bacon, accompanied by a peppy salsa verde that wants to both tame you and love you. Each bite of this cherished family recipe brings with it an overwhelming feeling of having made excellent life choices.

Carne en su Jugo “La Especial”: platillo originario de Guadalajara Jalisco, cut steak, chopped bacon, salsa verde casera. Photo by Jay Keyes.

One choice that is made easy for you when you dine here are the complimentary Chips and Beans (la pareja especial en El Rincón) placed in front of you upon being seated. This is not the place to worry about over-indulging on tortilla chips and spoiling your meal — I could happily leave El Rincón having eaten nothing but this initial course. The stewed, savory beans are pervaded with the essence of pork and sprinkled with queso fresco, yet they manage to deliver all the heat you would expect in a table salsa, having been spiked with chiles de árbol. I challenge anyone to find a better version of this given away for free.

Complimentary Chips and Beans. Photo by Jay Keyes.

Other standout dishes include the Guisado Chuleta de Puerco, a plate of buttery bone-in pork chops and skillet-fried potatoes covered with a loud green sauce that will rip through your mouth like a tomatillo-smothered scythe, and the Bisteck Ranchero ($10.50) with its beefy ribeye steak doused in a mild and tangy salsa roja with stewed tomatoes and soft grilled onions. Both dishes are accompanied with a scoop of garlicky rice, refried beans, and fresh corn tortillas from a local supplier based in Barrio Logan. Of these two plates, I prefer the Guisado Chuleta de Puerco ($10.50), which may be the second best dish on the menu.

Guisado D’Chuleta de Puerco: smoked pork chop and potatoes covered in house salsa, served with beans. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Bisteck Ranchero: ribeye steak, grilled onions, tomatoes, serrano chiles, served with rice and beans. Photo by Jay Keyes.

If you could only order one thing and you want to sample both of El Rincón’s red and green sauces on the same plate, you should consider the Huevos Divorciados ($9.50), a plate of sunny side-up eggs paired with both salsas, each egg separated by a mound of refried beans and queso. This was a dish I ordered upon one of my early visits here, and it ensured I came back again the next day.

Huevos Divorciados: two fried eggs over two soft corn tortillas, the eggs separated by refried beans, one egg covered with salsa roja and the other with salsa verde. Photo by Jay Keyes.

As I have moved through most of El Rincón’s menu, I have expected to eventually be disappointed. To date, that’s only happened with one item: upon finishing my meals, I have asked for the Jericalla offered on their menu, a sorta-but-not-really flan-like dessert that is popular in Jalisco. Not once has El Rincón actually had any Jericalla to serve me over the course of eight visits. I have even tried calling them up and asking at different times, and they’re never quite sure which day they’re going to make it. I will not fight any more windmills, Sancho! If anyone actually eats the Jericalla here, please drop me a note and let me know how it is.

Last but not least, El Rincón serves superb tacos. At most other places, the Tacos Dorados ($9.50) at El Rincón would be the best thing you could order. They are called dorados because they are deep-fried until they have golden tortilla shells that glisten with manteca and shatter upon being bit. As with other taco dorados found in Jalisco and elsewhere, the vegetables, salsa, and crema are served outside of the taco, with the meat inside. I order mine with shredded beef (carne deshebrada) which fries up in the tortilla to a similar texture as pork carnitas, the juices and flavor of the meat seemingly sealed in to be released and savored when chewed. The tacos are served with a bowl of Caldo Chilango, an enchanting chipotle-infused chicken broth with rice that may not cure COVID-19, but works wonders with the common cold.

Tacos Dorados al Rincón: shredded beef taco dorados with lettuce, queso fresco, sour cream, salsa verde, served with bowl of caldo chilango. Photo by Jay Keyes.

Prices are reasonable, with all entrées in the $9-$11 range and with cheaper breakfast options also available. Bilingual table and counter service is provided by the friendly and earnest Alaniz family, and the overall atmosphere of the operation I would describe as diner-like; It is a clean and colorful space with a relaxed personality in the morning that turns into a bustling dining room at lunch time.

Food/Décor/Service: 4.6/3.0/3.7

Taco Scores: Tacos Dorados Al Rincón (93)

Jay Recommends: Carne en su Jugo; Guisado Chuleta de Puerco; Tacos Dorados al Rincón; Caldo Chilango

El Rincón119 San Ysidro Blvd, San Diego, CA 92173; Monday-Sunday from 8:00am-4:00pm; (619) 207-0079;

El Rincón’s Dining Room. Photo by Jay Keyes.
El Rincón Restaurant on San Ysidro Boulevard. Photo by Jay Keyes.

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