Las Cuatro Milpas: A Barrio Logan Institution
By Mario A. Cortez
For as long as Barrio Logan has existed there has always been change in the community. From the changing of neighborhood zoning to the construction of the freeways and from the creation of Chicano Park, change has been constant in this corner of San Diego
Nowadays, Barrio Logan has been in the midst of a new type of transformation. Slowly, vacant warehouses have turned to art galleries and commerce is making its way into the community after decades of keeping out.
Despite the change in the neighborhood, over the last 70 years one neighborhood business has held fast onto its traditions and place in the heart of Barrio Logan.
Serving up a good meal since 1935, Las Cuatro Milpas is often regarded as the best Mexican eatery in all of San Diego; and is, hands down, the most authentic Mexican restaurant in San Diego.
You won’t find a huge menu board akin to the ones at your nearest “-erto’s” style taco shop at Las Cuatro Milpas. The menu here fits on a small cafeteria board: There are fried tacos, roll tacos, burritos, beans, rice, chorizo, and tamales. That’s it!
While the menu at Las Cuatro Milpas might be small, the line is often quite big come lunch hour. It is not unusual to see the line snake out the door and veer off towards the corner of Logan And Beardsley.
“Sometimes I wait like more than 20 minutes for lunch but it’s worth it,” said Mariana, a student from City College who is a regular here.
While the premises might look small and cramped from the outside, inside there is enough seating for everyone who stood in line; with additional seating found in an adjacent building. Seating is come-as-you-are in picnic benches. You’ll often by eating besides neighborhood regulars, people in suits work in nearby office spaces or visitors from other parts of San Diego.
Behind the counter, you will find five or six women laboriously preparing the food in a steady rhythm of turning beans and rice, frying tacos, and serving warm flour tortillas. At the end of the counter you’ll find one of the Estudillo sisters, granddaughters of Petra and Nati, Cuatro Milpas’ founders, ringing up customers.
Tacos and roll tacos are lightly fried in front of you and topped with sour cream, lettuce, and cotija cheese, simple but delicious. The tamales, filled with beef in chile rojo, are made out of a dense masa that has an earthy taste. Rice and beans are just that, but come in very generous portions. The burrito at Cuatro Milpas is not the “-erto’s” gargantuan most people expect, however it comes filled with the tasty home cooked pork or chicken that the women behind the counter make fresh every day.
You won’t find a flour tortilla like Cuatro Milpas’ anywhere else in San Diego. The flour tortillas served up here are big and fresh. Every flour tortilla, served in a pair with each order, is made by hand throughout the day with real lard and leaves a small residue of flour on your fingers.
The best way of describing the food at Las Cuatro Milpas is simply homemade. Everything you order tastes like a relative cooked it in their own kitchen: It is a familiar taste, yet it feels ideal, what Mexican food should taste like.
While a lot of things might change around “La Logan,” Las Cuatro Milpas will always be the place for the most authentic Mexican fare in San Diego.