La Fiesta

628 5th Avenue, San Diego, 92101, United States

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A golden rule when in not in your home town is never to trust the advice of a hotel concierge when it comes to recommending restaurants. They are unlikely to be closet gourmets, and may well have some unspecified relationship with that local favourite restaurant that they always mysteriously seem to favour. I committed this schoolboy error when I needed a simple restaurant within walking distance of the hotel I was staying at, and at the time did not have easy access to a PC or the time to research things properly. Big mistake. When you commit such a blunder you can hardly complain when you are directed to a dismal place, and La Fiesta was my punishment.

The menu read well enough, but the utter lack of customers sent off its own warning signals. Tortilla chips are the saviour of many a bad Mexican meal, as with some half-decent salsa they can make up for dishes where the kitchen gets more involved. Here the salsa was not very good, with the odd stringy element that it seemed best not to delve into too deeply, but at least there was a chilli kick. A side order of guacamole was the best bit of the meal, with reasonable avocado, though it lacked seasoning (11/20).

However, fajitas had grim tortillas that, although flour rather than corn tortillas, had an oddly firm consistency. The beef that was served with these was stringy, overcooked and unpleasant, while pieces of chicken were utterly dried out. Fish tacos was remarkably tasteless, and oozed a pale liquid when then I held the tortilla wrapping in order to pick it up. The bill for two for a two course lunch, with no alcohol, was $46 dollars i.e. a little over £14 a head. To be sure, this is not expensive, but I would much rather have just eaten a sandwich.

This really was gruesome food of the kind that I might wearily expect in a Mexican restaurant in London, but I would hope no longer existed in California. The location here in the Gaslamp District, which caters largely to the transient occupants of the nearby large convention centre, is the clue to how this establishment has survived six years; it probably never expects to get a returning diner, but every week fresh airplane loads of conventioneers are ferried in and ask their hotel concierges where to eat nearby. If this is recommended to you then my advice is: run far, run fast.


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  • John G

    I liked the guacamole picture - that about summed it up. How can anyone mess up a meal like this - we cook similar successfully for parties at home. But...helpful advice about the concierge and I think if any restaurant is empty walk in and walk out again very quickly. Hope the rest of the trip is better