Mini-Review: El Tianguis in San Diego offers a refreshing upgrade to the humble taquito

Rolled Tacos. Photo by Jay Keyes.

I didn’t even know I liked taquitos before I rolled into El Tianguis.

Having consumed so many subpar taquito offerings throughout my life, ranging from the foul frozen concoctions found in grocery stores, to those gross go-go eggrolls at 7 Eleven (recently recalled due to salmonella and listeria monocytogene contamination; yum!), to the deep-fried “rolled tacos” stuffed with canned South American beef served at the XXXberto’s enterprises, the very thought of eating these things smothered in low-quality guacamole, SysCo shredded cheese, and week-old lettuce has always frightened me. And when I have eaten them, convinced that this time it’d be different, disappointment has always ensued.

Alas, during my #SummerOfTastyTacos, I reasoned that “rolled tacos” aka taquitos are technically tacos, so I needed to overcome my history with them and make an honest effort to try again so that I could at least “check the box.”

Even though El Tianguis shattered my pre-conceived biases about taquitos, the broad strokes of the story I am telling in my reviews remains the same: when good cooks really care about what they’re doing and infuse their love along with quality ingredients into every aspect of the preparation of their food, the result will be good, regardless of what they’re serving.

According to the enthusiastic ladies I spoke to at El Tianguis, all of the meats in the taquitos are fresh, never frozen, and definitely not canned. The chicken and beef is marinated overnight in sauces and seasonings and then stuffed into the house-made corn tortillas that are made on El Tianguis’ comal on a daily basis.

I had the opportunity to sample the California Taquito (shredded beef, potato, and cheese), the Beef Taquito (shredded beef in a “Mexican” sauce), Chicken Taquito (chicken in a tomatillo sauce), and the Potato Taquito (mashed golden potatoes). All of them were good, far above average. The superiority of the house-made tortillas makes all the difference — they have a great crunchiness to them, not even a bit chewy, soggy, over-cooked, or oil-burnt. They also have a sweetness in them that had me thinking that El Tianguis could easily stuff these with sweet cream, chocolate, or custard and make a dessert, and it wouldn’t taste odd at all.

My favorite was the “Potato Taquito,” followed closely by the “California Taquito.” The mashed potatoes used in the taquitos here are fantastic, well-seasoned, rich, and creamy. The fresh guacamole with pico de gallo they are served with is a revelation for a San Diego taco shop. I very rarely think of guac in these types of places as anything more than a condiment, and I often get grumpy when too much of it is piled on top of my tacos, but here I used my fork to scrape any of it remaining off my plate directly into my mouth.

If you’re reluctant about taquitos like I was, this place changes everything. If you already love taquitos, you’re in for a treat — the awful taco doraditos you’re used to has received a significant upgrade.

Food/Décor/Service: 4.1/3.7/NA

Taco Scores: California Taquito (90), Potato Taquito (90), Beef Taquito (85), Chicken Taquito (85)

Jay Recommends: Potato Taquitos, California Taquitos

El Tianguis; 2810 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104; Everyday from 12:00pm-8:00pm; (619) 677-3581;

Order Counter and Communal Dining Area. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Agua de Jamaica. Photo by Jay Keyes.
El Tianguis Rolled Taquitos, a taco shop specializing in flautas. Photo by Jay Keyes.

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