By Kelley CarlsonIn the two years since Puesto established roots in La Jolla, it has branched out with a downtown location and blossomed into an award-winning establishment.
Most recently, owners Eric Adler, Alan Adler and Isi Lombrozo have modified the original La Jolla restaurant, which includes an expansion of dining space, a full bar and new menu offerings — much of it based on Puesto at The Headquarters in San Diego.
“I couldn’t be happier to expand our vision for Puesto and provide our loyal customers with the opportunity to enjoy what we’ve created downtown right in La Jolla,” Eric Adler said.
Whereas the La Jolla location previously had been a casual stopping point for street tacos, the revamped version now includes a bar — with jugs of house-made sangria hanging overhead — and seating for a full dining experience.
Patrons can begin their visit with “antojitos,” or Mexican snacks. Among the choices — the Crab Guacamole or Ceviche de Acapulco with mahi mahi marinated in lime juice. Either can be enjoyed as served or as dips with a basket of chips.
Entrees range from Barbacoa Short Ribs to the Carnitas Chilaquiles.
But the tacos — which feature Puesto’s signature crispy melted cheese and house-made tortillas — continue to be the center of attention. The unique ingredient combinations appeal to a range of tastes, and it’s difficult to order just one variety. There’s the crowd-pleasing Filet Mignon Taco with avocado and spicy pistachio jalapeño salsa; the Mahi Mahi Taco with sweet corn, toasted almonds, lettuce, avocado, cilantro and jalapeño peanut sauce; Baja Fish Taco, which goes beyond traditional with crispy wild cod, cabbage, avocado, tomato, chile crema and tomatillo roja salsa; and the sweet-and-spicy Grilled Shrimp Taco, stuffed with epazole jasmine rice, tinga (hibiscus and chipotle), avocado, mango and habañero.
Vegetarians will appreciate the succulent Zucchini & Cactus Taco, and the Potato Soy Chorizo Taco, accented with tinga, avocado and tomatillo roja.
Puesto even has a “secret” taco: The California is a variation of the California Burrito with filet, potato, salsa and guacamole.
To supplement the tacos, there are sides such as Esquite, a flavorful medley of grilled corn, chile, lime, queso and crema; and zesty Charro Beans.
Patrons often have a tough time resisting the Buñuelo Ice Cream Sandwich: tortillas lightly fried and dusted with cinnamon and sugar, vanilla ice cream in between, and coconut chocolate drizzled over the top.
Along with new foods, there are also new drinks. The signature is the Puesto Perfect Margarita, a simple blend of tequila, lime and agave. For something equally authentic, there’s the smoky Desperado, a sipping cocktail with mescal, carpano antica, dry curacao and walnut bitters.
A selection of local and Mexican beers, and several California wines on tap are also available.
Although Puesto now offers full-service dining, there’s still a taco line for guests on the go, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
A head’s up for Taco Tuesday fanatics: Bar manager Will Van Leuven recommends making reservations as early as possible. The demand is high for $2 tacos and $3 Dos Equis, especially at dinner time.
• Puesto Mexican Street Food1026 Wall St., La Jolla
The Vibe:Casual, vibrant, hip
Signature Dishes:Crab Guacamole, Ceviche de Acapulco, Filet Mignon Taco, Mahi Mahi Taco, Baja Fish Taco, Esquite
Happy Hour:3-6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday;
3-9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Hours:11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
This week’s recipe:
Puesto Perfect Margarita (click on link below!)