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Nico's Taco Shop

San Diego CA (Ocean Beach)

4918 newport ave, san diego CA 92107

Nico's Taco Shop (San Diego CA Ocean Beach) - taco review

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Rating: 91
Price: $$$

Post-Christmas, some business associates (Mom, Dad, Carly) and myself took a taco-expedition to the San Diego area to fill in some of the gaps on the official taco review map. With so many options, a trip to southern California is always somewhat intimidating. Fortunately, we had the sage guidance of some former San Diegans (currently based in taco stronghold Edmonds WA) who recommended a visit to Nico's Taco Shop in the Ocean Beach neighborhood. Within 4 hours of our arrival, we showed up, eager for a delicious dinner.

We were met with some bad news upon entering - they did not have any rolled tacos (which were advertised on the window, recommended to us, and generally appeared to be their specialty) that particular evening. Unfazed, I placed my order for 3 non-rolled tacos: 1 carne asada, 1 pollo, and 1 carnitas. My business associates ordered a menagerie of beef and asada tacos and a veggie burrito. I also ordered an Orange Crush, which I haven't had for years, and sat down to watch Monday Night Football while awaiting our food.

During the waiting period, at business associate Mom's suggestion, we taste-tested the salsas to prepare for our coming tacos. Nico's had two options, though they certainly did not value them equally. Behind the counter they had multiple squeeze-tubes full of their house red salsa. It was sharp, well-homogenized, and flavorful without being overpowering. Their green was treated as a 'second-class salsa'. It was only found in little to-go cups upon request. Nonetheless, it was also quite enjoyable. Unusually for a green, it was spicier than the red, and had a slight tang to it.

The tacos came out after not-too-long of a wait and were significantly larger than expected (though, after re-examining the prices, this made some sense). Also unusual was the difference in structure and contents between the three. I started off with the pollo taco, which was served inside of a crispy corn tortilla shell. The chicken was heartily seasoned with a smoky, barbecue-esque spice and cut into rather large strips. Accompanying the meat was iceberg lettuce (about which my opinions are well known) and bits of cheese. After biting in, the crispy-tortilla and lettuce combination simply allowed most of the lettuce to fall out of the taco, which I didn't mind too much. The chicken itself was super good, and cut large enough that I'd recommend sharpening your incisors before a trip to Nico's. The chicken could be enjoyably topped with either the red or green salsa.

Following that, I went for the recommender's choice and had the carne asada. Unlike the pollo, it was in double soft corn tortillas. These corn tortillas were particularly large, almost the size of a small dinner plate, and the carne asada taco could have been a small meal in and of itself. In addition to the steak, the taco contained pico de gall, guacamole, and a bit of the cheese I accidentally spilled off my chicken taco. The asada was strip-cut (about 4-8" long), lightly seasoned, and excellently juicy and tender. The light saltiness and meaty flavor of the asada combined with the smooth guacamole for a truly excellent taste mash-up (the Mexican corollary to the Chinese sweet-and-sour tradition, I suppose). This taco really needed no salsa, but was good with a spot of the red. I found the green's spiciness to actually detract from the overall experience. This is rare but not unheard of - Nico's had done so well to balance the internal flavors of the taco that external augmentation was risky.

Finally, I finished with the carnitas taco. This was Nico's weakest point. The carnitas, like the carne asada, was served on double soft corn tortillas of tremendous size and topped with pico de gallo and guacamole. The pork was thickly cut, breaded slightly, and fried. Maybe I just got unlucky, but it tasted like a fatty cut of meat. Once fried it was too liquid-smooth for my liking, and didn't provide a strong contrast to the smoothness of the guacamole. Despite their misstep on the carnitas, Nico's is worthy of a return trip, and I hope to try their rolled tacos someday.

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