3627 University Ave.
It always comes as a surprise to me when restaurant owners whose places I've covered tell me about CityBeat readers coming in to eat. When engaged in the one-way communication of restaurant reviewing, it's easy to forget that there might actually be people reading my words-except, of course, when the correction letters come in.
Hearing restaurateurs tell me about your visits to their establishments makes me happy to know that I've been able to share some discoveries with you; however, it also makes me a little sad, since it's now time for me to put this weekly column aside and move on.
Writing for this page has been fun and educational, but, frankly, I need to start paying more attention to my health. Restaurant reviewing is hard on the waistline, and, at my age, that's nothing to screw around with.
I'd like to say that I planned the symmetry of my first and final restaurant reviews, but it's purely by accident. The first review I wrote for CityBeat celebrated the glory of unabashedly inauthentic Mexican food. This last piece is instead about the exact opposite: bona-fide home-style Mexican cooking.
Anyone who's spent time reading the Chowhound message boards has heard of Super Cocina in City Heights. At first, what I heard about Super Cocina didn't sound too interesting; steam-table buffet food is not exactly what I'd think of as being authentic. But then I heard that Cesar Gonzales, owner of Mama Testa in Hillcrest, is a fan. When I talked to Gonzales about Super Cocina, he told me that he goes two or three times a week, and that it's the most authentic home-style Mexican food he's found in San Diego. That got me there in a hurry.
So how is it? It's fantastic.
The first thing to keep in mind is that Super Cocina specializes in guisados-Mexican stews. That's how the place can serve really good food from a steam table-stew being kept warm on a steam table is obviously not unreasonable. The stew recipes come from all over Mexico, and, reportedly, there are more than 100 different recipes in Super Cocina's rotation.
The second thing to remember is that the owner doesn't hire professional cooks; instead, he staffs his kitchen with people whose only experience is cooking for their families. This brings an unmatchable authenticity to the dishes. There's nothing like knowing you're eating something that is, literally, someone's home cooking.
Ordering is pretty simple. You pick any two entrées from the 14 or so available. You can pick just one entrée if you're not especially hungry.
On my first visit, I found it pretty overwhelming to be confronted with so many choices, but one of the nice things about Super Cocina is that you can taste anything before you choose. Just point and ask for some, and they'll give you a small cup.
I wound up ordering the first thing I tried: puerco enchilado. It was without a doubt one of the spiciest things I've ever eaten, but, man, was it good: tender chunks of pork, stewed with potatoes in a bright red chile sauce. This dish was so good I've now had it on three of my four visits.
Another good bet here is something I tried on my second visit, the chile relleno. According to Gonzales, authentic chiles rellenos are not made with long and skinny Anaheim chilies, but instead with Poblano chilies, which are fatter and have a much sweeter taste. Here, the Poblanos are filled with Mexican Oaxaca cheese, dipped in a rich egg batter, fried and simmered in a mild red chili sauce. The cheese melts really well, and the combination of the sweet pepper flesh, creamy melted cheese and tangy red sauce is wonderful.
If you're not afraid of hot food, my advice would be to order the puerco enchilado (it's made daily) and something else. In the mood for chicken? Try the pollo en mole: tender chicken in an incredibly rich and chocolaty red mole. Don't like mole? Go for a stewed chicken dish instead, like the pollo Caribeano: Caribbean-style stewed chicken in a tangy tomato sauce.
With the range of choices available, it would be impossible not to find something stellar to eat-unless of course you're vegetarian. Vegetarians are pretty much limited to the chiles rellenos.
Super Cocina is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Credit cards are not accepted, so bring cash. You won't need much, however, since prices here are super low. A two-entrée plate with rice and beans goes for $6.55, a one-entrée plate for $4.75. Drinks are $1.
So long, and thanks for reading.
Editor's note: Thanks, Josh, for your great contributions. It was nice to have someone on this page who really knew what he was writing about. Don't be a stranger.