3.06.2005

Las Brasas, San Diego

A couple of weeks ago we went to San Diego. Although B quipped (repeatedly, to anyone who vaguely mentioned anything about vacation, or a trip, or the zoo) that he "wasn't going to eat anything that wasn't shaped like Shamu and stuck on a stick" I knew there would be some good eating happening. We live in NH. We love real Mexican. The zoo closes at 5pm.


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Almost across the street from the hotel, on the corner of San Diego Ave and Noell St in the Five Points neighborhood, was Las Brasas. There is nothing pretentious about this place, with its take-out order window, plastic ware and styrofoam. The menu had many an item that initially confused me (of course those are the things I ordered), in stark contrast to a couple tourist traps we visited later in the week with their over-explained gringo-plain menus. Now, when I am on vacation in a distant city, my primary mode of eating is usually to eat as many meals as possible in as many different places as possible. So it is the greatest testament to Las Brasas that we ate four meals there. I loved Las Brasas. Every meal after was compared to Las Brasas. "The beans at Las Brasas are better." "This meal would have cost $50 less and made me 50% happier at Las Brasas." and so on. I ate at least three meals I regret, not because they weren't good, but because they weren't as good as Las Brasas, making it an opportunity missed.


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Our first meal was dinner, the night we arrived. With three tables outside and two inside, we decided to take our food back to the hotel, mostly due to the crazy rain. Huge portions, great tortillas, the best refried beans in the country, fun dishes like menudo, and nopales, and every time our total came to $11 and change.

Breakfast couldn't come soon enough - breakfast burritos with crumbled chorizo, potatoes, cheese and egg. Putting potatoes in burritos seems like the most basic thing in the world. So good. So right. Yet I've never had a breakfast burrito with potatoes before. And chilaquiles. Crisp up some corn tortillas, cut them up, then simmer in green chile sauce. At Las Brasas, they scramble eggs and cheese into it, and every dish is served with beans and rice.


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Las Brasas beans and rice make my party world go round.

I had awesome fish tacos from Las Brasas, too, even though they were served with lettuce instead of the traditional cabbage. And some crazy good carnitas, which is amazingly cooked pork, seasoned well but not spicy.

Each morning B and I would walk past the other tourists crowding the hotel's continental breakfast, balancing corporate pastries and week-old fruit on their laps and think, "suckkkas."

This may have been our cheapest vacation yet, food wise. We had a brief moment of planning how to move the entire Las Brasas organization- building, morning cook, morning counter girl, afternoon cook and afternoon counter girl-to NH. Preferably across the street from our apartment.

3 comments:

Frank Reeder said...

I'm guessing that you stayed at the Comfort Inn located across the street from Las Brasas. I cannot agree with you more in your assesment. Having been to Mexico City many times and eaten at the restaurants the locals go to, I've found that Las Brasas is about as close to that unique flavor as we gringos are going to get here in the U.S.

I've stayed at the Comfort Inn many times and love their hospitality. One day I was in the mood for something quick and good so the staff directed me to the "taco shack" next door. I went and ordered a burrito and a taco. The senorita looked at me like I was loco then asked if I was sure I wanted all that. Not knowing any better, I said yes. Only when she handed me my order in a grocery sack did I realize that there was a lot of food there.

From then on I've always referred to Las Brasas as "the shack" and have managed to get yet another dozen of my friends addicted. Now, keep in mind that we live in Atlanta and when it's time to travel to San Diego the first thing that comes to mind is our beloved "shack". I love San Diego and have been to many restaurants but the shack remains my favorite.

As with most things in life, it's the small things that matter the most. It's the details and nuances that make something unique. Las Brasas is unassuming, almost naive with their potential. The friends I've mentioned come from all walks of life and yet we all find common ground when it comes to the shack.

Folks, if you ever get to San Diego and love Mexican food, you have to stop at Las Brasas. As was already mentioned, there is nothing pretentious about this place. It's plain and simple (like a restaurant should be) but the real deal is that you get great food at a great value. And that's the American way.

plentyo'moxie said...

Yeah, it was the comfort inn. Man, I miss Las Brasas. I agree that the comfort inn had god service, and I would stay there again should I make it back to San Diego - but because of Las Brasas, no other reason. We were on the highway side, making for a very noisy stay. Since NH is pin-drop quiet in comparison, it was rough for us.

ps. We were just in Atlanta a few weeks ago to go to the Georgia Aquarium - had excellent biscuits at the Flying Biscuit, outstanding collards and Mary Mac's, and the best wet bbq at Daddy D'z

Frank Reeder said...

I miss the pin-drop quiet of NH. I lived in the Derry/Manchester area for a while a few years ago. Lot's of snow but that was just fine for a southern boy like me.

In fact, some of the best BBQ I've had was at a joint in Portsmouth called the Muddy River Smokehouse and they even had live blues to boot! I never would have thought I'd find that combo in a NH port city. But then again, I never thought that I'd find some of the best Cajun food I've ever had in, of all places, Billings, MT.