Vista, CA — June 2018 ….On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I decided to try out a new place on North Santa Fe. I had already hit up Frank’s Mexican Grill, Santa Ana’s and Aguacates on the same street, but I had a few more places on my list.
It was a small, hole-in-the-wall off of North Santa Fe in a shopping center with Tropicana’s, a Mexican grocery store. The place was scrunched in the corner and kind of hidden when compared with the other businesses. It seemed to be jumping as the parking lot was filled and so were the inside seats!
Once I got in, I realized that this was much bigger than I had thought. From the reviews, I thought it was one room, but I found that it expanded into another seating area. Each seat was filled with families and their kids waiting for their order to be called out. The line was chopped up, and I had a hard time telling who was next. I took a look at the menu and found that it was simple: burritos, tacos and soups for the most part. Their tortillas did not look like the processed ones at the store; they were rough around the edges: kind of jagged. I got to the cash register and saw that the kitchen was very exposed. You could see industrial-size fridges, stoves and huge pots! The funniest part was that the cashier thought I spoke Spanish! Granted, I did learn some in high school: up to Spanish 3. She switched to English and gave me a slip of paper to remember my order.
I sat down at the counter off to the right and kind of liked the seating. It reminded me of those bar seats albeit without the exposed wood. This was a type of bathroom tiling. Right in front of me were a few women cooking up the tortillas and putting together the burritos and tacos. Those tortillas looked weird because they were making them fresh in house! I saw them create them with their tortilla press and grill them on the flat top! Meanwhile, people kept coming in and in. I understood why it did take some time for my order as they were backlogged. I was sort of afraid that I would lose track of my number as they were calling out in Spanish. Luckily, I remembered some numbers in the midst of this.
I grabbed my styrofoam tray and headed over to my seat. My order was three chicken tacos: very large. These were not street tacos that were the size of your palm. They were the size of your hand! They gave me some fresh cut lime and salsa- there was no salsa bar where I was sitting. I took one look and noticed that the corn tortillas were almost as thick as pancakes, and the cilantro was more than enough. I am glad they were generous with the chicken too!
Now, for the taste test! The first thing I noticed were the tortillas which had a unique flavor almost like cornmeal along with the chicken that was well seasoned. They definitely added some salt and possible chili seasoning to it. While I was ordering, I said that it was okay to put on “ceballos” or onions, and they sure delivered! I popped an Altoid later on. To top it off, I drizzled some salsa on top or hot sauce is what I would call it. Let’s just say that I was tearing up. I felt my face flush and my nose start to run. I am feeling it right now as I am writing!
All in all, I enjoyed the breeze and the faces of the families talking and waiting for their meals. This is where I felt almost immersed into this different world. I was an outsider looking in and felt that I could understand in some ways how things worked here.
Francisco’s Deli, 821 North Santa Fe, Vista, CA 92084