In 1933 Petra and Natividad Estudillo opened one of San Diego’s most beloved Mexican food restaurants in Barrio Logan. It has been serving up mind-blowing food made from the heart ever since. I am talking about Las Cuatro Milpas (The Four Corn Fields), 1857 Logan Ave, San Diego.
If you are not aware of this place, don’t feel bad. It wasn’t until after high school in the late ’80s that I finally discovered this hidden gem. In the ’70s through the ’80s our family had another favorite Mexican restaurant in Barrio Logan, Chuey’s, established in 1952. We started going while it operated out of an old Quonset hut on the corner of Main and Crosby Streets.
Try to wrap your head around the year 1933. After Los Cuatro Milpas opened, it would be another two years until the California Pacific International Exposition opened in Balboa Park.
My grandparents arrived in Coronado in 1938. My grandfather loved tamales. I wonder if they ever ate at Las Cuarto Milpas, food for thought?
This taco shop is as legendary as the line that forms and wraps around the block daily. The menu is short but sweet; you won’t find a better flour tortilla in San Diego. The packs of tortillas are stacked high and warm to the touch. If you get there early enough, they will let you purchase them by the dozen.
Fried to order in pork lard, their corn tortillas for the tacos have a crunch but remain pliable, giving them just the right amount of chew. When you try one, you will know what I am talking about. They offer tamales, burritos, and both classic tacos and rolled. The meat choices are chicken or pork; they keep things simple. This small menu allows them to do what they do exceptionally well.
The beans and rice at Las Cuatro Milpas set a standard few can live up to. While all these things are noteworthy, the Chorizo con Huevo is what I dream about. I spoon this divine mixture of beans, eggs and chorizo into one of the warm flour tortillas they provide. I top it off with onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. If I have Rolaids in the car, I add a dangerous amount of their house hot sauce. Honestly, I am drooling while writing this.
There are a couple of things worth noting about Las Cuarto Milpas. Despite the length, the line moves fast, and people are friendly. This queue also confirms that food brings people from all walks of life together. Everyone in that line knows what awaits them at the counter; warm smiles, great food, and an atmosphere that feels like family. Three of Petra and Natividad’s grandchildren, sisters, run the restaurant and are always present to welcome you into their family’s business. Women run the whole operation.
The restaurant is cash only. The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. Saturdays, they open earlier, at 6:00 am, and serve Menudo. This Saturday elixir is famous and can make the weekday line look short. They are closed on Sunday.
My secret is to get there well before lunch during the week; the line usually starts to form after 10:30 most mornings. Parking is always an issue, but only after 10 am.
I place a small order for breakfast; tacos are the breakfast of champions. I then order enough takeout for the next few days. You can take home the beans, rice, and Chorizo con Huevo by the pint or quart and the flour tortillas, hot off the press, by the dozen. As the day moves along, they stop selling tortillas to-go so they can fill their in-house orders.
If this article wasn’t convincing enough, you could check out Las Cuatro Milpas through the power of television on the Netflix series, The Taco Chronicles (season 3).
Barrio Logan was voted one of the 51 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World by TimeOut, a London-based magazine that rates things to do in cities worldwide. The neighborhood ranked an impressive number 6, and Las Cuatro Milpas was mentioned as one of the places to eat.