A few weeks ago I was walking around my new favourite neighbourhood Ikseon-dong with one of my chingus, when we passed Cali Tacos. As she is from California, she was immediately drawn to the sign. Sadly it was a few days before they opened but we made a note and carried on. Then as luck would have it they got in touch with me and invited me to go and check it out. Never being one to turn down a free taco, I set off to give it a try.
The store is located in Ikseon-dong, just opposite exit 4 of Jongno 3 station, and is owned by Greg, a Korean who grew up in California. He has been working in Korea for the best part of a year, but wanted to open a place that served the food he ate when drunk at 3am back home. And so the humble taqueria was born. The restaurant itself is deceptively large. It has a kitchen counter running along one wall and seating along the other and in the back. It has a fun feel about it that fits the neighbourhood. There are some renovations happening next door at the moment but they are hoping they will be able to get some outdoor seating at some point too.
The owner, Greg, asked us if we would like a cocktail. Clearly he didn’t know his audience, as this is never a question I would answer no to. The Bucket Cocktails come in three flavours Red, Blue, and Margarita (15,000). We got the red and the blue, both of which are a combination of vodka, tequila, and sweet and sour mix, along with a handful of other ingredients I was too drunk to remember. The cocktails were super big and strong. I can drink a lot and it took me forever to finish, you could easily share this between two or even four people. They were both fairly tasty, personally I preferred the red version as it was a bit fruitier. There are also beers avalable for those who don’t fancy a bucket of booze.
The menu is a mix of Greg’s favourite dishes like tacos, burritos and nachos. Growing up in the UK and having very little exposure to Mexican culture, these are the items I have grown to love too. We were lucky enough to try an assortment of dishes and the first to come out was the Chicken Nachos (12,900). The house fried chips were topped with cheese, re-fried beans, marinated chicken, red onion, guacamole, and sour cream. I love nachos, and these ones were really good. There was just the right amount of topping on the super addictive freshly-fried chips. The chicken itself was magical, so smokey and spicy, it oozed flavour. There was also plenty of of creamy guacamole and fresh salsa on the side, they were a winning dish for sure.
I just love tacos, thankfully there are quite a few on the menu. The options are Al Pastor, Carne Asada, Chicken, Chili Verde, and Veggie all priced at 8,900 for two pieces. We tried the Carne, the Al Pastor, and the Veggie. Honestly they were all really good, you can’t go wrong with any of them. The avocado salsa on the top was orgasmic, and the wheat tortillas came toasted which added an extra layer of deliciousness. One of the best things about this place is the homemade salsa verde that stands on each of the table, it is a pineapple blend that is super fruity but with a spicy punchy kick, it was really top notch. While I love a meat taco, I was surprised at at how nice the Veggie one was. At the moment it is filled with potato and mushroom, but they will rotate the filling on a monthly basis.
There are also two kinds of burrito on the menu, and like the tacos you can have it with the meat of your choice for the same price. I tried the Al Pastor Mission Burrito (11,900). It was stuffed with chili and pineapple marinated pork, re-fried beans, long grain rice, cheese, sour cream, avocado salsa, and tomato salsa. This burrito was very girthy, and had a good hearty length. The pork inside was really juicy and not overly spicy, and the delicious avocado salsa cut through the fat. It was really filling, in fact I could only finish half and had to take the rest home, though in my defense I had already eaten quite a lot.
Overall I really liked the food, it was super tasty and I would order almost everything we tried again. Prices are in line with most of the other restaurants offering similar food and Cali Taco offers something different that I haven’t tasted before. I will definitely be going again next time I head to Ikseon-dong . If you haven’t been yet it is a great area to explore as it is filled with one of a kind bars, shops, and restaurants. California Taco is located at 30 Donhwamun-ro 11-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Jongno 3 Station (line 1, 3&5) and come out of exit 4. Walk straight, and you will see it just up ahead on the other side of the street. For more information you can call them on 02-742-0072 or check out their Instagram page. They are open Tue-Sun from 12pm-1am with a break between 3:30pm-5:00pm.