Taco Tuesdays are a weekly festivity taken very seriously in my Mexican household. Although postponed to a Thursday, my latest “Taco Tuesday” took place at Crack Taco Shop, a Mexican restaurant 11 minutes away from San Diego State, but it took zero minutes to take all of my money.
The Chaldean-owned restaurant made its debut on Camino del Rio North in May, but it wasn’t until a month ago that I first fell captive to its specialty “crack” tacos.
The restaurant’s owner, Ron Abbo, believes his taco shop has gained recognition for its fresh corn tortillas, el pastor tacos and most importantly, its signature “crack” tri-tip steak.
Its four-star rating on Yelp is most likely accredited to its affordable, high quality Mexican food that’s served in a casual yet aesthetically pleasing setting, which feels more elevated than your typical taco shop.Unlike the name suggests, the restaurant’s specialty meat earned its title from Pete Majjor — Abbo’s business partner and owner of Seaside Market in Encinitas.
Majjor created the famous “crack recipe” over 25 years ago when he first began to marinate tri-tip steaks in a compound of burgundy wine and pepper. Eventually, the recipe gained popularity and Encinitas locals started calling it “Cardiff crack.”
“(The crack tri-tip steak) is very tender and moist and the marinate is packed with flavor,” Abbo said. “We serve it in a taco and a burrito. People love it.”
The outside patio is occupied by colored tables and chairs that are enclosed by a short wall of flower-shaped concrete blocks. Its gray, non-intimidating exterior would never indicate that a colorful setting resides within the building.
Murals of spray-painted art cover the back walls of the taco shop and the same multi-colored chairs and tables from the patio are found around a brick wall with a block of wood covered in decorated skulls. The contrast of vivid colors, black walls and dim lighting helps establish a more intimate and edgy feel to the space.
Business management junior Cristina Morales and marketing senior Alexis Jimenez put the famous tri-tip “crack” steak to the test.
Morales, the daughter of a Tijuana taco shop owner and “la reina de los tacos (the queen of tacos)” according to her Instagram bio, believes the ideal taco must abide by three guidelines.
“The tortillas must be handmade, the meat has to be cooked on a grill and the quality of the meat really makes a difference,” Morales said.
After showering her tacos with lime juice and green salsa, Morales sunk her teeth into the guacamole, cilantro and onion topped “crack taco.”
“The meat was cooked nice and tender and not crispy at all,” Morales said. “The green salsa was a little spicy, but not too overwhelming and the tortillas are so soft and obviously handmade.”
The Crack Taco Shop has vegetarian options too, like Jimenez’s order – a cactus taco and two baja shrimp tacos. Although she doesn’t identify as a vegetarian, Jimenez tries to reduce her meat consumption to as little to no meat as possible. Her initial reaction to the cactus taco was positive.
“The tortilla is bomb, it just melts in your mouth,” Jimenez said “(The cactus) tastes like bell peppers and the flavors work well together.”
Jimenez later said the cactus tasted rubbery, but wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be its normal consistency as it was her first time trying cactus. Morales agreed with Jimenez and suggested the cactus squares might had been from a can.
Jimenez then ate two grilled shrimp tacos covered in light green shrubbery and chipotle sauce.
She left nothing on the plate but a few strands of cabbage.
Crack Taco Shop isn’t just improving the quality of a typical carne asada taco, it’s modernizing the taco shop experience and providing high-quality tacos at an affordable price, in a convenient location.
Roxana Becerril is a senior studying advertising.