Chiquita’s: A San Diego Mexican Food Tradition
May 2, 2019
By Mario A. Cortez
Some things never change, but why would they when they have been forged in decades of tradition?
A long-time tenant of Home Avenue, Chiquita’s Mexican Restaurant has kept to traditional, California-Mexican dishes done right in a sit-down setting calling back to the haciendas of the California mission period. But while Chiquita’s has been at its current location since 1984, its history stretches back much further. As shared by manager Gabe Rodriguez, this restaurant was acquired by his family in the early 1960s at its original location on 47th and Federal. But that’s not where the story of this restaurant begins.
“My parents bought the restaurant in 1967 when it was at its original location and it’s original owner was a small lady, and her nickname was ‘Chiquita’, because she was a little lady. We actually don’t know how long that had been in operation already, but I hear it was since the early 50’s.”
Nearing a cumulative seven decades of feeding San Diego diners who crave dishes from south of the border, the menu at Chiquita’s features classics like red enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and grilled meats. Southwest and borderlands classics like chili con carne and chile verde are also on the menu.
During our conversation, La Prensa San Diego’s staff was treated to a lunch featuring some customer faves and other plates using the original recipes that have people coming back for more. We started with a grilled elote, or Mexican-style corn on the cob, which was cooked to perfection — with enough heat to sweeten the kernels but also bring in a mellow charred flavor — and topped with the usual combination of mayo, cotija cheese, and Tapatio.
Moving into entrees, we were treated to a surf and turf special, which put a juicy, four-ounce black angus steak on a plate with nicely brined shrimp and the usual rice and beans on the side. Next, the staff split a special quesadilla, which can be stuffed with up to three ingredients. We let Gabe the manager choose his favorite combination: carne asada potatoes and mushrooms.
The afternoon’s standout dish was the enchilada platter, with a nice trio of red enchiladas stuffed with chicken and cheese. These are not your basic El Torito enchiladas, the cheese is cooked to perfection and it shows in its elasticity. The chicken, shredded white and dark meat, was very rich and conjugated well with both the fatty cheese and the earthy red sauce.
Gabe says some changes might be in the works, with a corner of the restaurant being renovated soon, a new tap setup for craft brews, and, possibly, a buffet brunch on weekends. However, the traditional feel and flavor of classic, north-of-the-border Mexican fare is not leaving Chiquita’s anytime soon.
“The food is delicious and that is what keeps people coming back,” Gabe closed. “Why mess with tradition?”
Chiquita’s Mexican Restaurant is located on 4110 Home Avenue in San Diego.