Two bars, a bustling crowd and libations galore usually mean that I'm meeting friends and drinking away life's worries. The food's just there to soak up the alcohol, meaning I don't give much thought to it. That is, until The Blind Burro pleasantly surprised me.
With influences from Baja California and touches of other Mexican regions, the menu is one of the better examples of Mexican-American fusion that I've seen in San Diego. The restaurant (639 J St.) is beautifully designed, with lots of wood paneling, exposed beams and bare bulbs. The aforementioned two bars blend into the setting, providing plenty of room to order a drink without dominating the entire place.
Drinks vary from cocktails to wines from Valle de Guadalupe. I liked the house margarita "smoky," which is made with mezcal. Fans of fruity margaritas can choose from flavors like strawberry, prickly pear and guava. The beer selection is extensive, ranging from several Mexican brews to San Diego craft beer on tap. There's something for everyone, which I realized when the women at the next table ordered a round of Chardonnays.
As for the food, I spent a raucous happy hour recommending the BBQ yellowtail collar to anyone who cared to listen. The meat is dark and flavorful to the point of being gamey—if such a word can be used to describe fish. There's a tasty chipotle-citrus glaze, but the fish is so good that the glaze is superfluous.
Not into seafood? Grab a basket of chips and order the triple chile cheese sauce, which is perfect with beer. Between the various salsas or the cheese sauce, I'd go with the cheese. There are also sweet potato/chorizo taquitos with house-made chorizo and topped with a dark and smoky mole, queso fresco and candied jalapeños. For more chorizo, try the burger, which fuses American and Mexican flavors very well. The Sonora Queso Crisp seems more like a Oaxacan tlayuda , but the micro-greens on top are definitely a California touch.
Tacos can be mixed and matched in plates of two, so pick any one off the menu and make sure the second is the Jalapeño Popper topped with more of that triple chile cheese sauce. The only disappointments for me were the corn-based sides, which caused a Goldilocksian moment. The Street Corn Off the Cob ( elotes in a bowl) was too salty from too much cotija, but the nopales and smoky corn salad was too bland. Perhaps when corn is sweeter in a few months, they'll both be just right.
Whether you're out to dine or party, I always recommend ending the night with dessert. Unless you can find something wrong with fried dough rolled in sugar and dipped in crËme anglaise, try the churros. I also liked the chocolate pecan cajeta tart, mixing rich pecan pie filling with decadent cajeta. Like everything else, the mixture of influences works really well together.
If a night out on the town can only be made better by good food, then The Blind Burro is a worthy stop.