Campesino Food for the Soul
By Mario A. Cortez
All the aroma, color, and flavor of Mexican countryside food can at long last be found in San Diego’s streets.
Chicano Soul Food has been taking braised vegetables, juicy meats, and complex salsas to venues all over town through its taco cart operation. This culinary project is spearheaded by Sergio Garcia Manriquez, who, alongside his trusted team, puts guisados, or Mexican-style stews, on hand pressed tortillas to the delight of many.
Garcia Manriquez spoke with La Prensa San Diego about this familiar, but fresh take on Mexican food.
“Locally, the aspect of Mexican food that I grew up on was missing,” he said. “Like, we were missing stuff with nice, deep flavors like what a good mole and good pipian have. We were missing that campesino kind of food.”
With this thought in mind, Chicano Soul Food delivers a rotating menu of guisados. On any given night, the Chicano Soul Food Crew can serve up tacos stuffed with pork in chile verde, pipian, chorizo with potatoes, and charred chicken in chile rojo. Vegan options such as mushroom ranchero, braised cauliflower and soyrizo lentils are also available.
Garcia Manriquez draws inspiration for his dishes from memories of his abuelita, whom he believes blessed him through her cooking.
Staying in line with delivering food like his abuelita would make, Garcia Manriquez chooses to cook only with fresh produce.
“I don’t cook with anything artificial, vegetables from cans have sweetener preservatives and other things that that aren’t good,” Garcia Manriquez stated.
Garcia Manriquez focuses his fresh, high-quality approach to every part of the taco and not just the filling. He chooses to use masa from Tortilleria Lily in City Heights for his corn tortillas, while the vegan-friendly dough for his flour tortillas comes from Tortillas de Lola.
“I love the way Tortilleria Lily prepares their corn, you can smell it when you step in the shop, and I really like Lola’s tortillas, like, you have to try them,” he shared.
Cooking and preparing food is always hard work, and an effort like this cannot be taken on by just one person, so Garcia Manriquez has a trusted team by his side.
“I started out doing this all on my own which was a little difficult, but Joan and Rigo are key to running our pop ups,” Garcia Manriquez said.
Garcia Manriquez shared that he and Joan met while working at Del Sur Mexican Cantina in South Park and immediately clicked in their way of working, and that Rigo, a cook from Tijuana, was the perfect guy to make fresh tortillas because he is very fast with his hands.
Garcia Manriquez’s project has been received very positively throughout San Diego, which brings him pride and joy.
“People’s response has been great and we have been busy lately,” he shared. “It feels good to be part of the community because, we care about our community; we don’t just want to sell our product, but to be welcomed by people too.”
You can find the times and locations of Chicano Soul Food’s taco pop ups on their Instagram, @chicanosoulfood.
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