Whenever I find myself going to San Diego, I know that I will be having Mexican food. It’s mandatory, kind of like barbecue in Texas or plate lunch in Hawaii. It wouldn’t be a good trip if I didn’t find some thing good. On this trip, I was really hoping for a return trip to Coyote Cafe or something along those lines, but finding myself in Carlsbad, it seemed like too much of a haul, especially for lunch. So, I pulled up Urbanspoon and looked for Mexican in Carlsbad. Quite a few that came up, but the one that was closest to where I currently was (with one of my colleagues so I wasn’t driving all over the region) was Cessy’s.
Once I got the directions, we took off down Carlsbad Blvd, heading into town with the ocean on our left. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful day…one of those days that makes me wonder why I live in Seattle and not San Diego. Cruising through Carlsbad which appears to be a cool and interesting place in its own right, we nearly missed Cessy’s as it is a pretty small and discreet taco shop. It’s just off the beach, on the main drag, and conveniently located next to a liquor store. In fact the sign in the parking lot says “Parking for Liquor and Taco Shop only”. I thought it was a great sign and am kicking myself for not taking a picture of it.
We walked into a small seating area with pictures of happy customers adorning the walls. The place was definitely simple, a bit dated though not run down. Above the counter was one of those really old school menu boards that looked like it had the push in letters on it. Everything about it screamed surfer hang out, and reminded me of a place in PB that my sister-in-law Kara had taken us to back when she lived in San Diego (though the name of the place escapes me). I actually felt a little out of place having come straight from the conference and still in a suit and tie instead of my board shorts and surf t-shirt which were back in the hotel room.
When I made it to the front of the line, I quickly scoured the menu and decided that I wanted to do a taco variety platter so ordered a fish taco (SoCal staple), shrimp taco (sounded interesting) and a carne asada taco (just a must). Then to round everything out, I went ahead and added an order of chips and guacamole since I’ve decided that I do in fact enjoy avocado from time to time. I took my ticket and naturally headed outside to grab a seat rather than sit inside. I should mention that it was only about 60 out with a little bit of a breeze, but for a Seattle guy that hadn’t seen the sun in what has seemed like 4 solid months, there was no way I was missing it even if I wound up with goosebumps for a little bit (my Floridian colleague was a good sport about the whole thing…).
It didn’t take too long for our lunch to show up, and I sat down and dove in. I started with the shrimp taco. I was surprised to get bay shrimp rather than prawns. But the whole thing was pretty good. The shrimp were cooked in a nice simple, mild sauce. There was a little bit of the guacamole on it which was actually more of an avocado puree, but added a nice balance of flavor to the dish. Next, I moved on to the fish taco. The first bite actually surprised me. Texturally, it was great; some cabbage and a nicely fried piece of fish gave it some true crunch. But what really surprised me is that it wasn’t sweet. Normally, I get some sort of tropical salsa, or fruit based sauce on a fish taco. But this was a tomato based sauce, so a little more on the savory side, and definitely a little more acidic. I thought it worked well though the flavors were a little muted.
Finally, I made it to the carne asada taco which was a pretty typical carne asada. Marinated meat with some guacamole and pico. It was ok; the meat was definitely overcooked, and the guacamole was actually a bit bland. This I definitely noticed with the guac and chips. Rather than having a chunky texture, the guacamole was actually smooth, almost like yogurt. And there really wasn’t anything with it…no tomatoes or onions or anything. Maybe a little cilantro and a hint of lime, but for the most part it was pretty bland. The chips were nice and crunchy though!
While I can say that the place that Kara took us to in PB was better, I thought that Cessy’s was pretty good. The shrimp taco was a definite winner, and the other two were about average. It is easy to see why it is a local favorite though; good food, good location, and it seemed like pretty good people. I’m not sure how many taco shops there are in Carlsbad, but this is one that I would definitely recommend checking out on your way to or from the beach.