It’s not just the birria or the “quesaritos”; this Santee taco shop raises the bar
A Bad Hombres red taco, made with grilled cheese
Good Mexican food. This is something San Diego has in abundance. In our part of the world, even the average taco store glows with an aura of desirability, especially when you’re hungry and it’s the first store you see. So when I was hungry in Santee, and the name of the nearest restaurant boasted “good Mexican food,” I wasn’t going to hold it against them. I would have been happy with the average.
Except, now that I’ve tried a few dishes at Bad Hombres Good Mexican Food, I think “good” is an understatement. Although it’s a typical casual fast-food joint, Bad Hombres offers some of the tastiest Mexican dishes in the county.
I have to start with the breakfast menu because not only does it have the usual rotation of breakfast burritos ($7-8), but it has a whole assortment of breakfast tacos (two for $7-8 $), whether stuffed with bacon, sausages, machaca or steak. (Of course, I understood that just after supplementing a cover story highlighting San Diego’s best breakfast tacos).
A plain counter understating its “good Mexican food”
Many regulars would point first-timers to the Bad Hombres Red Tacos ($4.35). Topped with grilled cheese and dutifully dipped in consumes, these quesabirria tacos happen to be totally trendy right now. Although Bad Hombres is not a specialist in birria, it offers some of the best red tacos in our region. Or at least the most generous, with thick portions of tender, simmering beef amply filling a crispy corn tortilla. If you want more beef and consumesyou can opt for the equally trendy birria ramen ($10.25).
The thing is, I’m not even sure if birria is my favorite thing on the menu. Every time I eat it, I’m convinced it must be. But then I switch to, say, a taco carnitas, and my allegiance changes. Or maybe it’s the carne asada. My wife swears by the carne and the surf and turf shrimp. It’s one of those rare restaurants where the statement “We use the best ingredients” rings true.
Birria ramen, currently a national trend
Then most tacos around $4 are represented by burritos at $9-10, and flour tortillas turn out to be as fresh and well done as corn. Plus, the burrito menu really gives you the opportunity to indulge. Yes, the place offers a standard California burrito, filled with angus carne asada steak, fries, cheese, and sour cream. But, for $1.35 more, you can opt for a Cali surf and turf (with steak and shrimp), or the “Super Cali” burrito (which adds pork adobada and guacamole).
I may still be auditioning for favorite tacos, but my favorite burrito is ready. And that’s the Bad Hombres signature burrito ($10.25), which combines steak with whole pinto beans and guacamole. On my last visit I decided to order myself like a Bad Hombre and for an extra $3.50 made it a “quesarito”. This is where, rather than a straight flour tortilla, they roll the burrito into a huge quesadilla, creating a layer of melted cheese around its savory center.
A Bad Hombres quesarito, a rolled-up burrito with a large quesadilla
Bad Hombres is not my neighborhood taco shop. But for now, it’s become my number one choice, worthy of the 15-20 minute drive for red tacos and quesaritos. Considering the many good the shops are supplanted, it makes Bad Hombres great Mexican cuisine, in my eyes.