Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lunching @ Bull Taco

As I'm finishing up this post it seems we're getting some more rain but hopefully it won't be as bad as last week's storm. In sharp contrast though the weekend weather turned out particularly amazing and I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out Bull Taco in Encinitas..

This taco stand is located in the San Elijo State Campground off the 101 which makes it not exactly the most conveniently located due to their street parking situation, but once there the scenery is such a spectacle that to me it's totally worth a trip just to see the amazing view.

Reminds me in many ways of being at the Torrey Pines Glider Port except that here I do not have to tolerate (sorry to say but the) mediocre food. In fact far from it, Bull Taco has some pretty delightful eats.

A taco here can range from $1.75 to a whopping $10. And yes that is for one smaller TJ style where the higher priced taco spectrum are commanded by the likes of Abalone and Foie Gras. Below was the mid-range Shrimp Curry Taco for $5.

Was filled with a nicely grilled, lightly buttery and mildly sweet curry marinated shrimp that was plimpy-plumpy texture fresh. I really dug this and would've been more than happy to devour another and another but I think I'll have it as a Torta next time which seems like a better deal at $9.

The Pork Taco at $1.75 (priced together with the Carne Asada and Chicken) was the more wallet friendly option this day. The shredded pork was on the lean side and maybe a tad dry but in fairness the brisk winds had cooled it substantially by the time I had gotten to it. Still good and glad because I may need to rely on a couple of these while I splurge on another one of the higher priced next time.

But a Torta (or burrito) is probably the better option for an overall fill. I had the Halibut but Ahi, the earlier mentioned Shrimp, Oyster, and even one with Duck Confit are other $9 options while the Carne Asada, Pork and Chicken are $7.

This sandwich with the few free chips and salsa was the perfect lunch portion for me. I can't help compare it with the ones at El Pescador Fish Market. Bull Taco's was definitely not under seasoned by any means. The bread crispy grilled in a little butter and also spread with a light mayo, mustard and guac. EPFM may have had more fish but not a bad deal. The Halibut was perfectly grilled, flaky and moist.

I'm SO having the (curry) Shrimp Torta next time. :)

Tacos below were King Crab ($5), Duck Confit ($2.50), and an LBC (lobster, bacon, chorizo - $5).

The very moist duck also had a little guilty fattiness to it as well as some crispy bits that made me enjoy it even more. The taste of the duck itself was straightforward where the overall flavor of the taco still relied on the onions, cilantro, salsa, and a bit of cotija cheese. Made me fascinate over a Chinese five spiced duck version but these were still pretty good.

And pretty reasonable. The giant Torta version would have to wait for when I have enough courage to tackle one.. ;)
The LBC was the most hefty of the $5 tacos I've tried so far..

Had a decent amount of fresh grilled lobster but most of the flavor were from the well rendered crispy bacon and chorizo. Overall on the salty side but for me a delight in its own (crispy bacon and chorizo) way. The full lobster version for the same price may be the way to go if the shellfish is what one is after. I volunteer in the tortuous task of trying next time and will report back..

I really enjoyed the King Crab taco as well. If I were to nitpick I thought maybe a teensy bit of clarified butter would've simultaneously moisten and enhance the crab flavor while a little more of the crab meat itself would've made me a lifelong friend.. ;)

Bull Taco's online menu can be found here (not fully updated at the moment). The food does take a little time, averaging at least 15 mins. So it's not a grab-n-go spot but I think the lack of convenient parking almost weeds these patrons out while for the folks who are here the breathtaking scenery is an easy distraction during the wait. Also the times I've been the crowd was very moderate despite the peak lunch hour time.

I have to tip my hat to the people at Bull Taco who are trying to offer a nice range of tasty eats in price and choice. I'll certainly be back with friends and the cool people BT are run by I'm sure they wouldn't mind me taking my next meal down to the beach (promising to return the green basket..). :)

Bull Taco is located just North of Los Olas and Chesterfield Drive. I'm totally going to camp here one day!

Bull Taco, 2050 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA, 92007

Monday, January 18, 2010

Random Day Drive And Two Burgers

I felt like taking another drive so I drove up to Riverside last weekend. Never been and was for the heck of it.

After an hour and a half or so of therapeutic driving (btw my new portable GPS = by far the best $150 ever spent) I arrived in Downtown Riverside which was small but had its plentiful share of charming brick buildings and architecture. I drove around for quite a while and it was fun also surveying the many cute homes surrounding. California Bungalows and Cottages, a few neat Craftsmen style and adorable Victorians. My day kinda started late so soon enough I felt it was time to grab a quick bite and maybe check out the old planes I passed on the way up at the March Field Museum.

I remembered Johnny's Burgers mentioned by a reader on a recent Serious Eats: Our Fave Burgers of 2009 post. Wasn't one of the burgers selected but just a comment from a reader sharing their local favorite. I thought It'd be worth stopping by as it was also only a few minutes further North.

The smell in the parking lot of JB's was greasy excellent. As busy as they were serving both the drive-thru, myself, and an additional constant flow of walk ins, the nice lady who took my order impressively never stopped smiling. Asked for the regular cheeseburger and a side of onion rings. Was ~$5 and $3 if ordered individually but I forgot how much my combo with coke ended up.

The burger patty was the thinner and wide, like a small pancake and assembled into something resembling a whopper. Much fresher tasting of course with a good amount of very fine shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato, pickles, cheese, I can't remember onions but had a smear of Thousand Island sauce on the nicely toasted sesame bun.

To me this felt like a marriage between an In-N-Out single and a BK Whopper. A simple freshly made burger benefited by a wider/hardier grilled to order patty. The resulting child is a good kid. :) I didn't study the menu too well since I prefer my burgers fairly standard, often even without cheese.

The cornmeal coated thick cut onion rings had potential. Somehow the twice fried process didn't fair out well this day where the coatings were separated and saturated in oil (unfortunately an amount that even I couldn't handle, ha). Should have stuck with my original decision of fries which at least from what I observed on other tables were nice light golden, thick straight cuts.

Johnny's Burger, 3394 Madison St, Riverside, CA 92504

The March Field Museum is about a half hour South of Riverside. Took a ton of photos and I had one of an obligatory SR-71 ready but here's a more interesting D-21 instead.. A +Mach-3 drone. Crazy.

I'd say the MFM was worth the $8 entrance fee.. But I also had fun simply getting off random exits and exploring. Further south the peaks of high hills I tried to reach many turned out to be gated private homes.. Lots of dead ends and I also learned that avocado theft was a crime..

Then the obligatory barbed wire macro.. (see how many comes up on google, haha). I found someone with a serious beekeeping hobby. Your own honey on your breakfast toast? How cool is that!?

Random sky photo touched a little to resemble lomography. (The 10 Golden Rules of Lomography that I also try to apply to my digital Canon point-and-shoot, ha.)

It was a nice relaxing drive. Oh I also found an almost surreal community, something akin to the movie The Truman Show. Perfect houses with pretty paint schemes, flawless lawns, artificial lake with a fountain in the middle and all.

There were a lot of golf carts everywhere. In fact one lady was walking her dog in one! She later stopped to say hello to me. I thought I was going to be asked to leave the premise since I sort of conveniently missed the unmanned security box at the entrance..

Later found out it was Rancho Monserate after some googling, described as a "Retirement Eden for Active Seniors"..

So I felt I had enough for the day and punched in the home setting on my trusty GPS... Until by complete chance I passed by Nessy Burgers my way back onto the 15-Fwy, haha. I had to stop even if it meant taking most of my meal home..

I remember Cathy of mmm-yoso had done a post a while back and read things about the place here and there.

A small, what looks like a shipping container with a large awning attached sitting next to a Mobil gas station. The place was pretty busy.

The Nessy Burger was $5.50. The fries I had with chili (no cheese, was ~$5 I think) just to see if I'd want it on my dog next time if I were ever back.

First impression, the thick burger patty was impressive, at least from what I would've expected from the tiny stand. Comes with straight forward iceberg lettuce, slice of tomato, raw onion, and cheese. At the condiments station were huge squeeze bottles of ketchup and thousand island sauce, salt and pepper shakers, and a lidded container with those pickled chili peppers.

The patty had a nice grilled crusty outer that I enjoyed but I thought it could've been more moist for the size. I noticed some fine chopped (cooked) onions in the beef ground which helped in flavor and add some moistness despite the well-doneness.

The thinner viscosity house Thousand Island sauce pours out fast! But I didn't mind the tasty mess since the sauce felt less tart than the usual jarred stuff and maybe a tad lighter. The Chili on the fries had beans and were pretty standard as with the large crinkle cut fries under them. The beans made it particularly filling and I managed to finish the burger but took most of the fries home.

The Nessy Burger to me was like that simple but fat burger served at a friend's 4th of July backyard BBQ, and honestly the friendly vibe wasn't too different either. For the quick fuel pit stop the place is, the burger could be a godsend depending on your hunger.

Cause it sure heck beats a refrigerated sandwich from the Mobile station next door. :) But I'm definitely going to see if they will make it at least medium for me next time.

Nessy Burgers, 4760 Hwy 76, Fallbrook, CA 92028 (7~7pm weekdays, 9~4pm weekends)

I'm seriously thinking of rejoining a gym this year..... *sigh*