Carpe diem. Seize the day.
Greetings from sunny San Diego! I’m on another work trip to San Diego and back in my old stomping grounds. (I went to university at UCSD.) Being so close to the border means San Diego has amazing Mexican food so naturally, my colleague and I found a new Mexican place to try every day.
The first day we were on our way to work in Coronado and my colleague had her GPS navigating us. I know they are supposed to be helpful but the automated voice drives me crazy. We missed an exit on the freeway and Gidget—as my colleague calls her—was attempting to re-route us. Well in doing so, we drove by a hole in the wall joint with a line out the door and down the street. “Lyla…what’s that? We need to go there.” We took note of the place but didn’t catch the name and kept driving. We did, after all, have work to get to. After we had finished our meetings for the day, we asked one of the people we were meeting with where we should go for Mexican food. We were hoping he would direct us back to this really popular place. He did not. So, the next day, we decided to find it ourselves, googling “hole in the wall Mexican place” plus the street it was on.
Lyla turned the phone around to show me, “this is it!” she said. “Petra & Nati Las Cuatro Milpas” read the sign on the photo in Google with the same green awning and line out the door we had seen the day prior. On our one-hour lunch break, we drove straight to Petra & Nati Las Cuatro Milpas and couldn’t find parking on the first go around. So, we drove around the block the other way and wouldn’t you know, someone pulled out immediately in front of the restaurant just as we drove up.
A woman sat on a blue checkered blanked and made beaded bracelets and sold colorful things: wallets, headbands, etc. And the line was—as we anticipated—out the door and down the street. When it got to be our turn we decided to split a bunch of things so that we could each try more things. This is my favorite route when eating at someplace new. The menu was on one of those marquee boards where you can replace the black lettering in the white lined board. The whole menu fit on one of those boards. We ordered a pork tamal, the burrito—“you choose whatever you think is best,” and two chicken tacos. They were frying the rolled tacos right there and were just barely keeping up with making the tortillas. A huge caldron of soup simmered on a stove. The food smelled amazing and the seating area was all family style, the tables donning light blue checkered tablecloths.
Our food—plus two bottles of water—came to $12 and some change and we found seats at a long table with a couple who looked like they came here often. We split up everything evenly and went to town, generously heaping the deep and oily red salsa they had given us on top of everything. The food was fantastic and greasy. The tortilla that the burrito was wrapped in was unlike any tortilla I have ever had before. Normally tortillas—to my knowledge—are made with flour and water (or corn flour and water). No, this one was different. It tasted to me like the flour had been kneaded with lard. It was soft in a way that only grease gets soft. Buttery.
The tacos were perfect, the chicken was boiled and it was reminiscent of chicken soup…so naturally comforting. And the tamale. Again, it felt like the pork grease had been used to make the masa (the dough of the outside of the tamal). Everything was flavorful and sitting in the warm, small place with the food cooking so close to us made the experience all the better. They say it’s a good sign if there are a lot of people in a restaurant. Who wants to eat at an empty place…that must mean the food isn’t good, right? Well following that logic, this place exceeded our expectations and all those people standing in line…both days…knew what they were doing. And I guess something good came from the annoying-voiced GPS.