When we travel we try to avoid the touristy restaurants, searching for places that are independently owned and local favorites. While researching San Diego restaurants I found Los Cuatros Milpas (The Four Cornfields), a local taco institution. Although, we’re not big on places with long lines and this place is famous for them, we really wanted to try it. A phone call to Los Milpas, as locals call it, yielded the information that it gets quiet at the end of their day (which ends at 3 pm). So we planned a late lunch on a day we’d be close to the Barrio Logan, San Diego’s oldest Mexican neighborhood. While the line was out the door it moved fairly quickly. Around us conversations swirled; almost all were in Spanish.
Location: Los Cuatros Milpas is at 857 Logan Avenue in the Barrio Logan, San Diego, California.
Menu: The menu, posted on wall-mounted boards behind the ordering counter, is short and to the point. It’s the same for both breakfast and lunch. There are two different kinds of tacos (chicken and pork), rolled pork-filled tacos, tamales, burritos, chorizo, rice and beans. On Saturdays they add menudo (a dish made from cow stomach); many swear it’s a great hangover cure.
Thoughts: Eating at Los Cuatros Milpas is a bit like being in Mexico. The customers ahead of me were all ordering in Spanish. When it was my turn I took a deep breath and I asked the woman behind the counter, in my very poor Spanish, if she spoke English. She did! I had a lot of questions and despite the line, she patiently explained the menu; it made ordering easy.
Los Cuatros Milpas is very casual, to say the least. You pick up a tray, order at the counter, get your food and find a table in one of the three no-frills dining rooms. We were there at the end of the day and the front dining room was closed. We shared a long communal table in the back dining room with several others. We didn’t discover the third dining room (through a passage the right upon entering the back room) until we were leaving. Because it was the end of the day, the dining rooms weren’t full.
We wanted to sample as much as we could. We each ordered two tacos (one pork and one chicken), shared an order of five rolled tacos (which are basically taquitos) topped with topped with sour cream, lettuce, and cotija cheese and a side of rice and beans accompanied by two really delicious house-made tortillas. We both loved every greasy bite. The tortillas for the tacos are lightly fried and are semi-crisp, a cross between soft and hard tacos. The rolled tacos are deep-fried.
Las Cuatro Milpas has been around for a while. Nati and Petra Estudillo, great-grandparents of the current owners, opened it in 1933. The current owners pride themselves on cooking everything from scratch including their delicious tortillas. Rumor has it that lines begin forming before the doors open each morning. We didn’t have a long wait but if you go at peak dining hours you can expect one. Bring cash; credit cards and checks aren’t accepted.
Price range: Los Cuatros Milpas is extremely inexpensive ranging from rolled tacos, $1 each, with a high of $5 for a chorizo plate which includes a tamale, rice, and beans. Our lunch for two was about $17.
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3 pm, Saturdays from 6 am to 3 pm. They’re closed on Sunday.
Author bio: Billie Frank is a freelance food and travel writer and the owner of The Santa Fe Traveler, a travel concierge and trip-planning service. She and her husband Steve Collins write about Santa Fe, Northern New Mexico and beyond on their blog Santa Fe Travelers. She is passionate about food.
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