Life with the Montgomerys has been a bit hectic lately. We decided it would be a super-fun challenge to buy an old house with various repair issues at the exact same time our first child is ready to enter into the world. I highly recommend combining these two activities, as they are not remotely stressful or overwhelming, and the work that goes into preparing for both of them will fill your days with mirth and calm.
Calm or no, a girl and her fetus still have to eat, and eating something other than fast food can be a challenge when you're zipping between jobs, doctor's appointments, home inspections and breast-feeding seminars—particularly when you need something quick, unprocessed and located in the maze of strip malls lining the always-busy Highway 76 corridor in North County.
Enter Pollos Maria. I love me a San Diego taco shop, but most of the time you know what you're going to get, and most of the time it's uninspiring, particularly with a picky pregnant palate. But Pollos Maria in Oceanside is trying to be more than just a place serving up greasy, overdone Mexican favorites.
Its specialty is broiled chicken, and the folks there have kindly installed a large, plate-glass window looking onto the grill, through which you can watch the master broiler (my term) cooking up juicy, quivering breasts, thighs and legs of chicken to later be chopped and shredded and served up in various dishes.
I don't think you need to reinvent the wheel-shaped tortilla the chicken comes wrapped in; go with the chicken tacos. They're basic, hearty and fresh and give you an opportunity to go nuts at the salsa bar. There's certainly nothing high-falutin' about said bar, but it offers more than your average taco joint. There's the requisite trio of red sauce, green sauce and pico de gallo, plus a more scorching hot sauce that's that weird brownish color. But there's also a grassy-green pile of fresh cilantro, chopped onions, plenty of legitimate (not dried out) lime wedges and a pungent bowl of chopped jalapeños for extra kick.
I like that Pollos Maria sits in that in-between spot between greasy cuchara and classy sit-down restaurant. Although you order at the counter like at any self-respecting taco place, the environment encourages a comfortable plop for a tasty Mexican lunch. It's bright, with paintings all over the walls and tiled tables the vibrant green color of malachite. Not only that, but there's also an engaged spirit that's lacking in a lot of shops around town. Active military, police and firemen receive a 10-percent discount, and fun weekly specials encourage return trips. Definitely check out the pork adobado street tacos on Mondays and Tuesdays—they're only a buck!
You also can't go wrong with basics like rolled tacos or enchiladas, and the burritos are hefty and ample without being ridiculously huge. Your standard sides of beans, rice and tortillas aren't going to make you rethink what anyone can do with a starch, but who cares—your plate is full of delicious vittles that will fill you up and, if necessary, soak up a lingering hangover, which is really the need most taco shops were born to fill.
My only hangover these days is the one that remains after going through escrow in my third trimester. But it's nothing a little broiled chicken, pico de gallo and warm Pollos Maria hospitality can't fix.
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