At Casa Don Diego, it's not uncommon to overhear grandparents reminiscing about their favorite moments at the restaurant. Grandchildren lean in closer for a better listen to stories that, undoubtedly, find their way back to the food. Called an "old-school Mexican gathering spot" by the San Diego Reader, Casa Don Diego has been filling empty Chula Vista bellies since 1969. Today, the restaurant introduces new generations to its fresh chicken and beef fajitas, and arrachera steak served on a hot skillet with charro, or cowboy-style beans. When hints of spices begin to sneak up, of-age patrons can douse the flames by belly-flopping into 72-ounce margarita pitchers.
Los Antojos' professional salsa senseis artfully plate an extensive menu of authentic Mexican cuisine. Mouths can plummet into an appetizer of ceviche Los Antojos, which flaunts ahi tuna, octopus, and scallops accessorized with fresh avocado, mango, nectarine, and strawberries swiped from Carmen Miranda's hat ($11.95). Chefs bundle carne asada tacos with guacamole, salsa, onions, and cilantro ($3.95), and they marinate ox tails in dark beer before introducing the tender morsels to sides of rice and beans ($6.96). The seafood selection includes shrimp with tamarind sauce ($17.95) and pescado en salsa de frijol negro, a white fish filet topped with black beans and swirled in dark beer sauce (15.95). Beer and wine cool throats riled from contentious debates over flour versus corn tortillas, as barkeeps craft cocktails such as mango margaritas ($5.55).
As a New Yorker expose details, chef Javier Plascencia believes in the transformative power of food. The piece describes how in Tijuana, he strove to redefine the city's culinary paradigm with his gourmet food, made exclusively with, as he says, materia prima, or ingredients sourced strictly within 120 miles of the restaurant. He did it, too. In the process, he gained the respect and business of famed chef Anthony Bourdain. After moving to the U.S., he opened Romesco using the same cooking philosophies he prescribed to south of the border.
Romesco's culinary slate is solidly grounded in Mexican cuisine, but Chef Plascencia has accented his dishes with Mediterranean flavors and cooking techniques. The cuisine is derived from all corners of the globe, from traditional tapas to fettuccini alfredo and baja California lobster ravioli. The carefully selected vintages on the wine list pair with the menu's diverse flavors, especially on Wednesdays when the restaurant only serves Italian dishes. On Friday and Saturday, the restaurant stays open late to accommodate night owls, serving tapas until 11:30 and, on Saturday nights, hosting live flamenco music. From 3-7, there are also happy hours—named after what a round trip to the moon will be like in 2060.
Bolillo Tortas gets its name from the traditional Mexican baguette—the bolillo—that serves as the stout, bready foundation of a torta. Inside its clean and minimal Gaslamp Quarter storefront, Bolillo Tortas' chefs assemble their take on a Cubana, layering avocado, fried egg, roasted pork, breaded steak, cheddar cheese, grilled ham, refried beans, and mustard between thick slabs of bread. Available in 16 varieties, the Mexican sandwiches are joined by bacon-wrapped cream cheese-stuffed fried jalapenos and other sides, which can be complimented by refreshing horchata or tamarind water poured over the top of your head.