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Interior of Anchiote
Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

Going to a new restaurant is always a tricky endeavor. Going to one that has only been open a week is downright daring. But go we did and in this case the evening was absolutely worth the risk. Achiote Sabor Mexicano turned out to be an interesting and unexpected pleasure. Located just north of the Mexican border in the The Shops of Las Americas, Achiote is the San Diego version of a legendary Mexican restaurant called La Espdaña. Replicating La Espadaña’s menu and flavorful dishes, with a few new twists added in, Achiote has created a unique Mexican food experience. The name itself is derived from the seldom heard of achiote (a seed that grows inside a flower) and they have literally integrated it into the menu items adding color and a bit of spice.

Achiote is a twenty minute drive from downtown San Diego, so by the time you do get there you’re ready to eat. The outside appearance of the venue looks like most other restaurants but when you step inside, that’s where things begin to get fun. Authentic Mexican paintings adorn the establishment with southwestern colors accenting the interior. There is an inviting, comfortable bar situated in the center of the venue that even offers their own unique brand of Achiote beer on tap (which is excellent!).

We were anticipating the usual suspects as far as the menu and were completely taken by surprise with the selections offered. We started out with fresh, homemade chips, salsa (which had a very interesting blend of flavors and color) and a little guacamole to boot. Add a couple of margaritas and the night had begun (try the margarita with the spicy salt on the rim……be brave it’s worth it).

We ordered a batch of Nacholes, expecting the usual barrage of chips, beans, beef, etc. What we was set before us was a riveting plate of carne asada, mixed simply in engaging herbs and spices and adorned with chips placed in black beans which surrounded the homemade salsa . It was simple, it was presented very well and it rocked! Think of it as nachos done with a little extra flare and sophistication. We started to think, if they can do that with a simple appetizer like “nachos”, we couldn’t wait to see what they would do with our entrees.

From the "griddle"...
Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

From the “griddle” section of the menu we couldn’t decide between two sister chicken dishes, so we ordered them both. Our choices were the Pollo Achiote and the Pollo Chipotle. They are similar dishes as they are similarly prepared with the only distinction being the pepper flavoring, one is flavored with achiote and the other with chipotle and mole´. How can we describe it…….how about, wow! Both were excellent and it is just a matter of whether you like life spicy or not for you to make a choice between the two.

Even though our belts were starting to stretch a bit, we just had to try one more entrée. One dish had caught our attention and we asked what it was because we were feeling a little uncertain. It was listed on the menu as “Puños” which turned out to be an amazing dish of marinated beef with bacon, green onions topped with melted cheese. The great part about the dish is how to eat it correctly. As we were instructed to do, you tear a piece of the freshly made flour tortilla (yes you can use corn as well) and literally scoop the garnished beef within your grasp, insert into mouth, chew and remember to breathe. It was savory, it was interactive, it was fun and imagine sitting with a group of friends and going to town over the center plate. Muy bueno!

Fools that we were (okay, really it was because we were having too much fun) we went ahead and ordered dessert. But who could possibly resist the temptation of a pineapple cheesecake garnished with coconut. Sounds pretty tropical for a Mexican restaurant doesn’t it? Boy did that combination completely work. We are cheesecake lovers and have partaken in its glory literally worldwide but this was probably one of the best cheesecake blend of flavors that we’ve enjoyed. A truly unexpected and satisfying dinner that went beyond the “normal” Mexican dining experience and instead became an evening to remember.

Achiote is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have a homemade delectable array of bakery items to offer. So go the extra mile and prepare to be magnificently enchanted by Achiote and all is has to offer. Comer con gusto (enjoy)!

Details »
  • City: San Diego, CA 92173
  • Phone: 619-690-1494
  • Name: Achiote
  • Address: 4419 Camino de la Plaza