Restaurant Review: Puesto

All in all though, Puesto’s potentially pretentious culinary antics pay off: The food is great, especially considering its Chipotle-esque, quasi-fast food preparation and relatively low prices ($6.45 for two tacos and $8.95 for a sizable burrito bowl). The carne asada is tender and flavorful (even more so when wrapped in crispy grilled cheese, one of Puesto’s specialties), and there are ample vegetarian options, like potatoes & soy chorizo, or the aforementioned corn truffle. Puesto’s seafood, which consists of well-seasoned, citrusy-seared shrimp and pescado al pastor (fish cooked in a red chile sauce), is also excellent.

Particularly worthwhile are Puesto’s condiments. Along with the corn truffle, it has similarly adventurous choices like the bright, almost fruity zucchini flower or grilled pineapple. The best of them all is tinga, a sort of chutney made with hibiscus flower, chipotle and grilled onion. The house-made salsas are also great, with the refreshing hibiscus-chipotle jamaica or the spicy habanero-cilantro- mango as particular stand-outs.

For all its cheerful flavor-trickery, Puesto is not without its faults. Some of the restaurant’s ambitious ideas ultimately fall flat, like the grilled cactus (nopales asados), which adds little flavor while taking up valuable taco space. Worst of all, perhaps due to its fast food setup and intentionally outlandish ingredients, Puesto never attains the earthy, homemade glory found in actual street food. This disconnection between Puesto’s concept and the food itself is reinforced by the almost shockingly sterile decor.

But even though it may not be as reliably great as more street-focused Mexican restaurants like the nearby Don Carlos, Puesto is a good option for UCSD students, particularly in the ever-pricey depths of the La Jolla Cove area.

Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: 1026 Wall St., La Jolla
Recommended: Tacos with carne asada and tinga