Sunday, October 23, 2011

It was All About the Shtick

Yesterday, we took you to Phil’s BBQ, a place we learned about on an installment of Man v Food on the Travel Channel. Today, we drop into another place visited by Adam Richman on that same episode--Lucha Libre Taco Shop in San Diego.

We had thought of taking Chuck’s cousin Karen Allsing and her husband Dick here but did think that we might want to check it out first. (I know that you are thinking, Barbara [Karen’s sister]: "How come you don’t check places out before you drag me there?")

This place is famous (or infamous) for serving California burritos and for being a shrine to a unique form of professional wrestling. “Lucha Libre means ‘freestyle fighting’ in Spanish and is a Mexican form of professional wrestling. Lucha Libre wrestlers are known more for their high-flying maneuvers and quick sequences of holds than for some of the power slams and suplexes you see in the WWE. The rules of Lucha Libre are similar to American pro wrestling. A match is won when an opponent is pinned to the mat for a three-count or knocked out of the ring for 20 seconds.
Lucha Libre wrestlers are also famous for their masks which are colorfully designed with images of animals, gods or ancient heroes. In some Lucha Libra matches, the loser will have to take off his mask to reveal his true identity. Most wrestlers eventually are forced to take off their masks but the longer a Lucha Libre wrestler goes without having his mask taken off, the higher their status” (

Jim Varsallone at explains: “Unlike the United States, a professional wrestler in Mexico garners much more respect than an amateur wrestler.

“’In Mexico, lucha libre is where it’s at,’ Luchador Pequeno Halloween said via an interpreter. ‘That’s the celebrity portion of it. That’s where people see the glitz and the glamour, and they respect you.

“’Amateur wrestling is not really something that is respected there, but to become a luchador in Mexico, you still have to have a background in either amateur wrestling or some form of karate.’”

The first thing you notice when entering this small space (which looked much larger on TV) is the lack of air conditioning. Next you see the profusion of wresting parapher-nalia. Posters, belts, and masks. Interested in purchasing one of the masks? Go to

In one corner sits the “Champions Booth” which must be reserved twenty-four hours in advance. While we—the great unwashed—must order at the counter, those deemed worthy to sit in this lovely tufted gold vinyl booth with its coordinating gold plastic tablecloth get table service. I can’t look at this without hearing the rock band Queen singing “We are the champions--my friends. And we'll keep on fighting--till the end. We are the champions. We are the champions.” (This song, along with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” is played over and over at sports arenas all over the country.)*

What brings us to Lucha Libre is the California burrito. “The California burrito, a San Diego area specialty, consists of chunks of carne asada meat, French fries, cheese, and either pico de gallo, sour cream, or guacamole (or some combination of these three)…With its merging of French fries with more traditional burrito fillings, the California burrito is an example of fusion border food. Although the California burrito originated in San Diego sometime in the 1980s, the first documentation of a burrito in its style can be found in a 1995 article in the Albuquerque Tribune (

While the Lucha Libre menu does include tacos and quesadillas, the lines form for the burritos which include: Surfin' California—grilled steak, shrimp, fresh french fries, avocado, pico de gallo, cheese, and super secret chipotle sauce (as featured on Man v Food); Holy Moly—grilled chicken breast, mole, rice, queso panela, and sour cream; Undefeated Seafood Burrito—your choice of grilled blackened mahi mahi or grilled shrimp, jack cheese, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, black beans, and creamy serano sauce; Classic Fajita Burrito—beef or chicken fajitas and rice (shrimp option); Classic Carne Asada, Pollo Asada, or Adobada Burrito—grilled steak, chicken, or adobada pork, with guacamole and pico de gallo; Surf & Turf Burrito—grilled steak, shrimp, avocado slices, pico de gallo, rice, and chipotle sauce; Veg Out—marinated and grilled vegetables (onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini), guacamole, and rice; and Classic California Burrito—fresh french fries, cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, and your choice of carne asada, pollo asado, or adobada.

Well, if the Surfin’ California (right) was good enough for Adam Richman, it would be good enough for me. Chuck went the safer route and chose the Classic California Burrito (below) with carne asada.

How were they? Well, they were big. …And…they were big. The addition of salsa from the salsa bar did help. But not all that much.

For us, Lucha Libre Taco Shop experience was all hype and no follow-through and doesn’t earn more than 2.0 Addies. The pollo asada I had a few days later at a fast food stand in Balboa Park was better than these.

*Postscript: In my blog on August 16th of this year entitled “Stupid Stereotypes Shattered,” I neglected to include this example of Salt Lake City’s paradoxes. As the grand finale of the summer's Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony presented “The Music of Queen.” Somehow, one doesn’t connect the LDS influence of the city with the flamboyantly gay Freddie Mercury (lead singer for Queen). Just one more example of why I find Salt Lake City so fascinating.

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