Hi, I’m Jason. I’m hungry. Who wants tacos?
There are a thousand taco shops in North County, and most are serving pretty much the same standard stuff, most done just … okay. So it’s a treat when a place goes the extra mile to elevate the old standbys and also throws in some interesting housemade twists. Señor Grubby’s in Carlsbad is definitely putting in the extra effort, and it shows. Here’s a report from two recent visits.
They have a huge breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with tacos, burritos, tortas, and lots of other goodies. But I decided to focus on the basics. Tacos. A Mexican place must make good tacos. If they do tacos well, then it’s safe to explore the rest of the menu on later trips.
Por exemplo: They are now smoking their own pork belly. Now, I love me some pork belly, but only if it’s done right. And this one was done right. Honey-Jalapeño flavored and cooked perfectly. The chunks were meaty and the fat was rendered and crisp, but not too crunchy, like perfectly cooked bacon. It came in a street taco sized corn tortilla with grilled pineapple, onion, cilantro and guac. Very good, the pineapple complemented the pepper heat nicely. I added a dab of salsa halfway through for even more kick. On a second visit, there was way too much guac on the taco, but these things happen.
Also along for the ride on the mix-n-match 3-taco plate for $10.25: a pollo asado and a carnitas taco, and rice and beans. The pollo was tasty and moist and well seasoned. The carnitas was good as well, but needed an assist from the salsa bar to really pop. The beans were tasty. The rice was decent but nothing spectacular. I like the refried beans more than the black beans, but that was mostly just a personal taste preference.
They were promoting their “new” carne asada as being made from top sirloin now instead of the traditional skirt steak or flap meat. I didn’t care for the change myself, the meat was in small diced cubes rather than the traditional strips and needed a lot more salt and seasoning in my opinion. It was quite bland compared to what I’m used to around here. Hopefully they will get this dialed in soon.
A quite pleasant surprise were the tortilla chips. They fry them to order, meaning they come out fresh and HOT and super crisp. These might be the best chips I’ve had at a taco place. Also worth a shout out (and a shout) was the chilanga salsa, one of their (5? 6? 7?) salsas offered. It is intensely flavorful but VERY hot. It says it right there on the sign and they mean it. Great flavor, but be careful with this stuff because it packs a punch.
All their meats and salsas are prepared on site. The al pastor meat is cut off the rotisserie right in front of you and is quite good. They have a well-curated beer list, with 12 beers on tap plus many more in bottle. Quite a good selection for a taco shop, and not just IPAs. They also have a small wine list and a few “cocktails” on offer, though be aware that the do not have a liquor license so the drinks are made with such things as agave wine in the “margarita”, not real Tequila. As a, ahem, seasoned cocktail drinker I usually find these kinds of cocktails odd and not that good, so I steer clear of them as a rule and stuck with beer both times.
All in all a good, solid taco place with some thoughtful, interesting specials, a nice beer selection and definitely some thought going into the menu. Service was quite friendly and checked back to make sure things were good, which they were.This one’s a keeper.
377 Carlsbad Village Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008