San Diego’s Mexican cuisine falls short in authenticity

+++++The+greatest+difference+between+the+scenery+of+Columbia%2C+Missouri+and+that+of+San+Diego+is+the+colors.+While+the+buildings+of+Columbia+are+shades+of+grey+and+white+with+pops+of+brick%2C+San+Diego+is+filled+with+a+range+of+colors+and+patterns.+My+friends+and+I+traveled+across+the+city+by+foot%2C+cab%2C+and+bus.+We+went+to+Balboa+Park+and+Old+Town%2C+where+I+captured+some+of+the+scenic+places+that+help+define+the+atmosphere+of+San+Diego.%0A+

The greatest difference between the scenery of Columbia, Missouri and that of San Diego is the colors. While the buildings of Columbia are shades of grey and white with pops of brick, San Diego is filled with a range of colors and patterns. My friends and I traveled across the city by foot, cab, and bus. We went to Balboa Park and Old Town, where I captured some of the scenic places that help define the atmosphere of San Diego.

Anna Wright

DSC_5882It’s safe to say that landlocked CoMo is not the country’s central hub for authentic Mexican cuisine. The closest thing we have to an authentic Mexican restaurant might be El Maguey, which my friends and I frequently enjoy for lunch, given its close proximity to campus. San Diego, however, located just next to the Mexican border, is well known for their abundance of Mexican restaurants. Upon arrival in the sunny city of SD, I set out to sample the alleged authentic Mexican meals which surrounded me. I sampled the cuisine at three Mexican restaurants, comparing their quality to that of my beloved midwestern El Maguey.

Cafe Coyote

Cafe Coyote, deemed by my cousin, a San Diego local, as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, was the first restaurant I ate at. Located in Old Town, the restaurant was well decorated with the typical hispanic decor you might expect. Similar to El Maguey in Columbia, bright colors filled the walls. An unexpected mariachi band even graced us with “La Bomba”, a touch of authenticity which admittedly came off a bit cliche. The environment was upbeat and comfortable, which was important given the lengthy wait preceding the delivery of our food. I interpreted the high volume of customers as a good sign, and certainly enjoyed filling up on chips, surprisingly spicy salsa and creamy queso before receiving my coyote quesadilla. The quesadilla, filled with cheese, chicken, and a variety of veggies, was far from a disappointment. Freshly fried and perfectly crispy, it was certainly fresher tasting and more flavorful than the chicken quesadillas I frequently enjoy for lunch at El Maguey. In terms of authenticity, I can’t say either restaurant ranked higher than the other. Both menus included typical “Tex Mex” cuisine, which a sneaking suspicion told me were not the same dishes which a real family in Mexico may eat for dinner. In all, the quality of the cuisine far exceeded that of El Maguey, with the authenticity aspect falling short.

Old Town Mexican Cafe

Old Town Mexican Cafe was a disappointment to my taste buds. Expecting cuisine at least up to par with midwestern Tex Mex cuisine, I left the restaurant sorely disappointed. My veggie quesadilla turned out to be a large, stale tortilla sprinkled with half-melted cheese and topped with a meager amount of chopped tomatoes and avocado. It satisfied my midday hunger, but tasted uncomfortably close to something I could make in my microwave at home. Even the free tortilla chips tasted like old tostitos left in the pantry for a few months too long. Authenticity in question, I can’t say that my giant nacho deemed “quesadilla” was legitimate Mexican cuisine. I regret dropping eight dollars on the meal and found myself sorely missing El Maguey mid-way through the meal.

Fred’s Mexican Cafe

Given the restaurant’s name, I was suspicious of the authenticity of Fred’s Mexican Cafe before even entering the building. My skepticism was confirmed upon inspection of the menu, which included a typical array of Tex Mex options. Settling once again on a quesadilla, I was impressed in comparison to Old Town Mexican Cafe. The meal, accompanied by the classic rice and beans, was comparable to the food at El Maguey. At this point in my journey, I knew not to expect anything more authentic than what is served at Mexican restaurants in the midwest, but my American palate enjoyed the meal nonetheless.

My search for truly authentic Mexican cuisine in San Diego ultimately failed. Some of the food I sampled was indeed exceedingly delicious, but the Tex Mex twist Americans love to put on Mexican cuisine seems inescapable regardless of what region in the country you reside. If I wish to fulfill my desire for authenticity, I suppose a trip below the border will be in order.

By Anna Wright