My Friends

Arrow Up

Arrow Up
Arrow Down
,
  • Mon
    28
  • Tue
    29
  • Wed
    30
  • Thu
    31
  • Fri
    1
  • Sat
    2
  • Sun
    3
1492: Conquest of Paradise Jul 28, 2014 Gérard Depardieu plays Christopher Columbus in Ridley Scott’s big-budget telling of the “discovery” of the Americas. This film is presented as part of Film in the Garden, the Museum's Monday night sundown film series in the May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden. 63 other events on Monday, July 28
 
News
San Diego planning director’s uphill battle to create walkable communities
Film
Documentary about the famous film critic leads our rundown of movies screening around town
Seen Local
Painter spends plenty of time curating and exhibiting interesting work online
Editorial
Kevin Faulconer should follow Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ lead
Arts & Culture feature
A look at the late architect's lasting impacts as his murderer faces 15 years to life

 

 
Log in to use your Facebook account with
San Diego CityBeat

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on San Diego CityBeat
 
Home / Articles / Eats / The World Fare /  El Borrego is the anti-chain
. . . .
Friday, May 24, 2013

El Borrego is the anti-chain

City Heights restaurant offers a taste of Hidalgo

By Michael A. Gardiner
worldfareforweb El Borrego’s tamales de rajas con crema
- Photo by Michael A. Gardiner

Chain restaurants suck. Bad Mexican food sucks. And bad chain Mexican food not only sucks; it bites. This is why: Bad chain Mexican food obliterates everything subtle, distinctive and authentic about regional Mexican cuisine and transmogrifies it into a dumbed-down, homogenized, Monsanto-approved cartoon featuring some guy in an oversized sombrero sleeping in the non-existent shade of a Saguaro cactus. 

All of which is a superb reason to go to El Borrego (4280 El Cajon Blvd. in City Heights). It's everything that El Torito, Chevy's and the like are not. It's regional, it's authentic, it's distinctive and it's decidedly different than the next taco shop down the street. It's also this: tasty.

"Barbacoa" is a mainland Mexican method of meat cookery that traces its origins to the Arawak Indians of the Caribbean. Primal cuts are slow-steamed in an earthen pit over coals, covered in maguey leaves. The meat for barbacoa can be beef, pork, goat or lamb. At El Borrego (which translates as "the sheep"), the specialty is, naturally, the lamb version. It's good—quite good, in fact, though perhaps not at the level of Aqui es Texcoco in Chula Vista. One happy byproduct of the barbacoa method is a delicious meaty broth. It's outstanding and, in fact, better than Aqui es Texcoco's—likely because El Borrego uses less salt in seasoning its lamb.

But where El Borrego really shines is the non-barbacoa dishes, particularly those native to the Hidalgo region of Central Mexico, north of Mexico City. Unlike the cornhusk-wrapped tamales with which Americans tend to be familiar, the tamales of Hidalgo are wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. El Borrego offers different tamales depending on the day, but the ethereal texture and poblano earthiness of the tamales de rajas con crema are delectable. 

Another set of standouts are the quesadillas. As with the tamales, the offerings vary from day to day. If either the squash blossom or huitlacoche quesadillas are available, order them. If both are available, order both. Huitlacoche, euphemistically described as "corn truffle" (or, in snark, "corn smut"), is a black fungus that attacks ears of corn, rendering them strangely disfigured and improbably, luxuriously delicious. The flavor is somewhere between an earthy and soulful button mushroom and a heady, creamy morsel of fruit. 

And the squash-blossom quesadillas may be even better still. The contrasts in textures between the toothsome squash blossoms, gooey queso oaxaca cheese and the griddle-fried tortilla make the dish. The bright vegetal flavors and the warm cheesy goodness doesn't hurt. They are nothing short of addicting. 

El Borrego is not a chain. It's not likely to be one, no matter how much its owners might like to achieve that success. The simple, sad and wonderful fact is this: El Borrego is far, far too good to be a chain. So you'll just have to go to the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and 43rd Street and go one door east. El Borrego—and Hidalgo—await.


Write to michaelg@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Michael blogs at www.sdfoodtravel.com You can follow him on twitter at @MAGARDINER




 
 
 
 
 
 
Close
Close
Close