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Lunch at Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan

As the seagull flies, Barrio Logan is a short distance from Balboa Park (the magnificent place in San Diego I recently wrote about here): As regards ambiance, Barrio Logan is as far removed from Balboa Park as is earth from the backside of Venus. The intrigue of both places is immense–at least to me, but then you might want to know I’m attracted not only to such doings as elegant dining, the viewing of remarkable architecture, and the hearing of music as it soars from symphony orchestras, but to “hole-in-the wall” eating joints, street banjo players, and the wandering down nondescript alleyways. More than once Jerry has said to me, “Shirley, you’re going to get yourself in trouble one of these days.” (Or sweet and caring words to that effect.)

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Las Cuatro Milpas

is located at 1875 Logan Avenue in the region of San Diego called Barrio Logan and has existed in all its glory in that very location since the year 1933. The rare eating place has been owned and operated by the same family since its opening day. A limited, but exceptionally tasty, menu includes, among a few other things, tamales, steaming bowls of beans with chorizo, rice, fresh tortillas, either chicken or pork tacos, and salsa so hot your tongue will mistake itself for a fireplace lighter. The place is highly recommended by food critics, and its clients include tourists who have been so lucky as to learn of the place, business people from downtown San Diego, and the “regular people” who live in the fair city on the bay. You walk through the door, read the menu high to the right of you, order, then move down a ways, pay the cashier, pick up a tray with your food on it, and select one of the picnic tables where you will sit to entangle yourself in some of the finest Mexican food known to man!

We used to live in San Diego and have been going to Las Cuatro since our children were babies. The place was so small then, I believe there was one–might have been two–picnic tables, and there were no lines. From the visible pop case we’d choose our bottled drinks and order our tacos and beans. Couple of dollars would be the charge–maybe three.

untitled (4 of 23)Now, every day, every single day, lines lead from the front door, down the sidewalk, and sometimes turn the corner and head down the next block. We waited about twenty minutes on Friday, I believe.

untitled (6 of 23)A grocery store operated by the same family used to be here, but now some of the walls have been knocked out to make additional space for more picnic tables, and no longer does the store exist.

“I’ll find us a table,” I said to Steve when we reached the door and could now order, and we wanted to sit in the kitchen, and I was lucky enough to find us a spot.

untitled (11 of 23)It is the same kitchen. The same. The one they began with.

untitled (12 of 23)Take a look at the mixer. That apparatus beside the mixer that resembles an old wringer washing machine actually makes the tortilla mixings into round balls, that are then patted out by hand.

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untitled (17 of 23)A few hours before, we had met Pastor Ron Willis who had flown in from Fort Wayne, Indiana and he had joined Steve, Jerry and me for lunch. He was ecstatic from the first bite.

untitled (19 of 23)“Do you have Mexican food in Fort Wayne,” I asked him.

“Not like this,” he burbled, grinning widely.

One of the sisters of the family sat at the other end of our table and filled us in on details of the family saga. She agreed that I could take her picture.

untitled (20 of 23)“Did you work here when you were little?” Jerry asked her.

“Did I work? Everybody worked. If we wanted to eat, we worked,” she sweetly, but firmly replied.

As I scouted out a place for us to eat, and had walked into the kitchen area, I saw a couple of pigeons pecking about in the flour on the tile floor. I guess they’ll be shooing them out any time, I thought, but I was wrong, for the women working back there gave no heed to the birds, and the pigeons with red feet and beautiful iridescent blue heads scampered here and there, nibbling up lunch!

untitled (15 of 23)Three more things you need to know:

_____________1. Las Cuatro Milpas means the four wide fields. ( I think. 🙂 )

_____________2. The flour tortillas warm from the grill are “just so” stretchy, with a slight floury feel . . .best anywhere.

_____________3. The restaurant uses up 300 pounds of flour every day.

A thing I need to know:

Have you eaten at Las Cuatro Milpas or a similar “joint”? I would love to hear about it. 🙂