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Hidden Gem - Mar 6th, '11
1) So I find an ambiguous tip about an unknown taco shop buried way down in an Internet forum. Google has no hits for the place at all, no listing on Yelp, zero mentions anywhere. Google street view doesn't show it. Well....... might as well drive over and check it out.
Tiny place, sign says tacos for $1, right next to a liqueur store. All good signs. Inside I see plenty of people eating tacos, I'm the only gringo. Very good sign. As I walk to the back I see a massive trompo with the heat turned up high enough it's charring the fat on the outside. Oh yes....... very very good sign. I'll have some of that.
So for the second time I get to be the first person to post on Yelp about one of the best Mexican food places in San Diego (San Marcos in this case actually, but still...). Some people bird watch and hope to spot a rare bird. I find rare tacos. It's what i do.
2) The taco map below is fleshed out a bit. This documents several years of taco research, and consolidates notes and maps I have from all over the place. I'll be keeping it updated.
3) Sharon was asking on Facebook about how I find all this crap. There is no easy answer. It took a lot of stumbling around before I started finding the good stuff. And since everyone has different tastes, and the vast majority of people who post on the Internet wouldn't know real Mexican food from a California burrito, it can be frustrating.
First of all you need to learn what people who don't know authentic refer to as authentic. In San Diego this would be burritos and carne asada fries (apologizes to Casa Grande if he reads this...). Any place that gets lots of reviewers mentioning those in San Diego is not the sort of place I'm looking for. They are good eats, but they are not the good stuff.
Then you need to go to whatever forum the true foodies hang out at and spend a loooooong time reading. In San Diego that's Chowhound, other places might have their own food blogs, but it needs to be a forum most people don't use. You are looking for the restaurants that get repeated. Don't be afraid to ask, but also don't be surprised to be ignored. The sort of forum you're looking for will have the snobs. It's fine.
Then go to Yelp and look up those places. Pick apart the reviews and look for the folks who know what they're talking about. Then look over on the right side for lists. The lists are a gold mine. People rarely put together a list of taco shops if they don't really care about tacos.
Then keep doing that, round and round, for years. And eat hundreds of tacos. That's the technique I use.
If that seems impractical, I think I would just ask. Especially If I was related to foodies who lived there. But that's just me.