4888 Newport Ave.
San Diego, CA 92107
Ever since Rancho’s closed, I have been craving Mexican food. That used to be my “go to” place and I have felt lost without them. I tried Nati’s, but it was too “gringoized” for me, and the service was not good.
I saw where people had written on Face Book that Ortega’s was a good substitute for Rancho’s, so with a new friend, Frank (not my editor-dude Frank) we embarked on an eating journey that I hoped would satisfy my craving.
Like Rancho’s, they have an extensive menu, with Appetizers – $4.95-7.50; Seafood Cocktails – $9.50-10.50; Soups – $3-6.95; Salads – $6.96 and $7.95; Combination Plates – $8.95-15.50; Enchiladas -$8.95-16.95; Chef’s specialties – $12.95-18.95; Fajitas Platters – $12.95-18.95; Burritos – $4.50-7.95; Chimichangas – $6.50-8.95; Quesadillas – $6.50-8.95; Tacos – $2.95-5.50; Tostadas – $5.50-6.50; Tortas – $6.50-7.95; and side dishes, which is really an “ala carte” menu. All of the fish dishes are the most expensive ones on the menu.
There is also a drink menu, including margaritas, champagne, cerveza both draft and in bottles, wine by the bottle and glass.
Unlike Rancho’s, they do not have the extensive vegan/vegetarian items, but do have some things that can fulfill a restricted diet. They specifically have a “vegetarian quesadilla for $6.50 as well as a vegetarian Taco for $2.50 and a vegetarian Tostada for $5.50. However, their menu does specify “vegetarian” items.
When we entered the front door, there was a menu listing specials on a chalk board just behind a table set for customers. (If someone were sitting at that table it would have made it difficult to read the menu.) The items on the board were interesting – A veggie Tamal Bowl for $8.50; Chicken Fajitas – $11 served with rice, beans and tortillas; a veggie tamal frittata served with rice and beans for $8; Siete Mares for $14.95 and Chicken Mole Benedicts for $10.95.
We were told that we could sit anywhere, and there were several empty tables. We were given menus right away and asked if we wanted something to drink. Frank ordered a cerveza ($5.50), and after some thought I ordered a mango margarita ($7.50) that was huge. It was very smooth, but I never felt or tasted any alcohol.
Frank ordered an Enchilada Suizas ($13.95) which came with rice and beans. I ordered a side order of chicken tamale ($6.95) and a side order of enchiladas ($5.95).
When the waitress brought our drinks she asked if we wanted chips with guacamole and salsa. We were somewhat surprised that chips were not brought to the table when we sat down – as is done at both Nati’s and Rancho’s – and we said “yes” to her question. We were not too surprised when we saw a charge for them for $8.95 on the final bill.
The salsa was very good – almost as good as Rancho’s, and the guacamole was also very tasty. There were a lot of chips, and we took home them home along with the remaining salsa and guacamole. The chips were thinner than Rancho’s, but they were still very tasty. We also ordered a side order of hot carrots ($2.50), which, in the long run were so hot that we did not eat them. I took them home to Hitomi because she likes spicy things, but they were too hot for her too. (I left the jalapeno in the bowl!)
Frank was very pleased with his Enchilada Suizas. He said he wished it was a little hotter, which is interesting because the plate was very hot.
When I go to a Mexican restaurant I usually order three items to compare to other restaurants. One is a tamale, one is an enchilada and one is machaca. (I did not order machaca this time.) The chicken tamale was very, very good. It wasn’t dried out; the chicken was tender, and the spice was just right. The enchilada was also very tasty, and except for the temperature that I, too, wished was a little bit hotter, I could find no complaints with the meal.
An interesting aside, and it has nothing to do with the meal, – Frank was taken aback by the number of skulls all around the rooms. Tens of them; all different. The owner had a skull with the SF logo on it, as well as one with a Charger logo. I suggested that he get rid of that one – or put it in the back instead of the first thing you see when you enter the restaurant. He told us that he has skulls depicting the “Dia De Los Muertos” – (Day of the Dead) that is celebrated in October and early November in Mexico. The ones he has are all painted differently and are really quite beautiful, in a strange sort of way.
All in all, the dinner was very good, and we would definitely go back. If Rancho’s were to reopen, I think I would go to each of the restaurants an equal number of time but for different items.
The total bill, without the tip, was $55.40. A little bit more than I spend at Nati’s or Rancho’s, probably because the chips, salsa and carrots are complimentary at the other two restaurants. When I do go again, I will not order those two items. But….I will be back!