I love Mexican food. I’ve eaten a lot of it over the years and can’t ever recall eating really bad Mexican food. Yeah, sure, there’s good Mexican food and there’s superb Mexican food, but I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten any that was simply awful. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, or maybe San Diego just excels at creating delicious, mouthwatering Mexican food. But then again, I even appreciate Taco Bell and Del Taco. And for those of you from the Covina area, in Los Angeles County, I absolutely love Snap E Tacos, which is a little tiny place on Vincent Avenue that time hasn’t touched in forty years, thank goodness.
I would have a difficult time if I was ever in a voting contest tasked with trying to choose the best Mexican food in San Diego, but I have some favorites and El Cotixan is one of them. El Cotixan is one of several in a chain of restaurants that are owned by the same folks that own El Portal. The restaurant on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. is open 24 hours a day, which is good if you happen to be coming home from a late movie or concert, but I’ve mostly dined there during lunchtime, with Ms. Omnivore, who also likes it.
One of the things I like about El Cotixan is the fact that they don’t use lard in their beans, a good sign for us vegetarians. But even though the beans are lard-free, they’re delicious. I’ve eaten many a bean burrito in this fine establishment. They also have really good salsa, three kinds. One is a red chile based salsa, one is a green tomatillo based salsa, and one is a mild red salsa with tomatoes and onions and cilantro. The spicy carrots are also pretty tasty, although they’re very hot. Unlike some places, that have carrots in the salsa bar, you have to order these separately, but they’re worth it.
I went there a few days ago and ordered cheese enchiladas. The combo plates are huge, and in my opinion, big enough to share between two people. I usually eat half there then I take the other half home. The enchiladas , which contain a mixture of cheddar and jack cheese, come smothered with a red sauce that tastes more like mole than just regular old red chile based sauce. It’s tangy and spicy and mildly sweet and very addicting. It pairs really well with the ooey gooey cheese. Then it’s topped with a pile of shredded lettuce. I really enjoy the combination of cold crisp iceberg lettuce mingling with hot melty cheese and spicy sauce. It’s one of the few places where iceberg lettuce, as opposed to the fancier lettuces such as romaine, green leaf or butter lettuce really works well, although a good wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing is also nostalgically nifty. I could probably eat cheese enchiladas every day, except for the fact that I would probably die of a heart attack within a year. But I’d die with a smile upon my face. I can see the obituary now: Kardamom requested to be rolled up in a big tortilla and dunked in sauce, instead of having a traditional burial or cremation. I apologize for the Pico de Gallows humor.
Another plus for the vegetarians is the fact that El Cotixan makes excellent potato burritos and potato tacos. For those of us veggies who used to appreciate a good crispy taco back in the day, these potato tacos will take you back to that place without all of the guilt and soul searching angst.
Ms. Omnivore and I have been known to share a huge plate of Cotixan’s nachos deluxe— hot crispy, salty chips topped with beans, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. It’s a dish that’s probably meant to serve four, but the two of us have managed to finish it off, albeit with regrets later, but we always end up ordering it again. It’s really good and really messy. The nachos can also be ordered with carne asada or pollo asada piled on top, for those with extremely big appetites.
I don’t see these listed on their online menu, but I’ve often ordered criollas at El Cotixan, which are, essentially, quesadillas made with corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. You get three criollas in an order, very messy, but so delicious when dunked in salsa. Just make sure you have lots and lots of napkins.
One of the best things in life, culinarily speaking, is a good breakfast burrito. El Cotixan whips up five different varieties of breakfast burritos with different mash-ups of eggs, beans, cheese, Mexican sausage, shredded beef, bacon, potatoes and carne asada. But the best thing about them is the fact that they are served 24 hours a day. A big old breakfast burrito is often the only thing that will satiate in the wee hours of the morning, especially after an evening of dancing the night away at a good concert at Humphrey’s, House of Blues or Brick by Brick. And thanks to El Cotixan, we aren’t doomed to Denny’s.