IN GOOD TASTE:
It's not often you find a Mexican restaurant with a variety of vegan and vegetarian options, but Hugo's Cocina at 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in Ocean Beach does just that.
The restaurant has been operating under new ownership for the past two years, maintaining the cozy ambiance and vegetarian-centric menu from decades earlier, but adding craft beer from Mexico, margaritas, micheladas (a popular Mexican cocktail mixing beer, lime juice, and hot sauce), and wine.
The new owners offer menudo on the weekends, and they've also lowered some of the breakfast-menu prices to attract new customers.
The eatery has been a landmark on the OB restaurant scene since 1995 when it opened as Ranchos Cocina. But the business closed abruptly in 2016 when the former owner, Marcos Mouet, became ill. The cocina's doors remained closed for months, while Hugo Carrillo, the restaurant's manager for 25 years, scrambled to find a way to reopen the place.
Hugo recalls: "We lost some customers, because the place was closed for almost seven months, and a lot of customers thought we disappeared. But through word-of-mouth and customers just driving by, people started coming back.
"And we have the same employees; we put them back to work after we reopened. Everybody was waiting for us to open the doors so they could get back to work."
Hugo managed to reopen after finding two partners — Patrick Clingaman (who owns Thai Time Bistro in the same complex), and Matt Cook (who is general manager of OB's Belching Beaver Brewery Tasting Room). The trio renamed the place "Hugo's Cocina," and the locals recognized the name and returned. You can find Hugo at the restaurant seven days a week, along with his wife and several family members who work there.
The menu contains more than 150 items, all reasonably priced. The vegetarian and vegan options are clearly marked and most of the produce is organic. The cocina also has a kids menu, dessert items and offers complimentary chips and salsa to start.
— Hugo's Cocina is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days at 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., between Niagara and Narragansett Avenues, in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego. (619) 892-7882. hugoscocina.com