San Diego boasts some of the best mexican food in California. However, in this city, taco shops face the daunting challenge of standing out in such a saturated market. Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop is here to jump into the ring and knock out the competition. Well, not literally. Nevertheless, Lucha Libre in Mission Hills is a force to be reckoned with. Three Brothers, Jose, Maurilio and Diego Rohano-Garcia, started the shop as a side project in 2008. Since then, the business has become a must-eat destination for tourists and locals alike.
The entire restaurant pays homage to the vibrant lucha libre wrestling art form. The hot pink walls are adorned with vintage wrestling memorabilia, while the entire atmosphere channels the flashy flamboyance found south of the border. Look to the ceiling to find old school sneakers, outrageous masks and sparkling disco balls dangling from above. The establishment keeps it classy with an “Anchorman” trashcan, which is kind of a big deal. Even the restroom basks in gold, gaudy goodness. However, the real star of Lucha Libre is the conspicuously gold Champion’s Booth behind velvet ropes, a seat so exclusive, customers must reserve their spot at least 24 hours in advance.
“If you are celebrating a special occasion, the champ’s booth is the way to go,” one customer said.
Founder Jose explains his reasoning behind all the non- traditional decor, “The Mexican culture is so diverse, and most of the Mexican restaurants in town are decorated with sombreros and serapes with the typical mariachi music playing in the background.” He elaborates, “But what my brothers and I wanted to do is introduce another part of our culture that is also very Mexican, fun and a little bit different.”
Lucha Libre’s low prices and large portions are another draw to the restaurant. Every item on the menu costs less than $7 with most full meal upgrades less than $10, meeting ideal spending limit for hungry college students looking for quality food. All the meat is filleted, marinated and grilled in-house for ultimate freshness. The menu also features several specialty items unique to Lucha Libre. The famous “TJ” all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with grilled vegetables, is a fan favorite. The Surfin’ California burrito, with steak, shrimp, fries, avocado, pico de gallo, cheese and a secret chipotle sauce, was featured on the Travel Channel show, “Man v. Food.” However, Jose’s personal favorite is the Queso Taco, made with grilled crispy cheese filled with steak, chicken or fries. There are also meatless options for vegetarian customers as well, such as the Build Your Own Vegy Burrito.
Apart from the menu, a few extra amenities make the meal memorable. Complimentary chips are perfect with the variety of fresh homemade dips from the salsa bar. In addition to standard soft drinks, the soda fountain hosts special juices such as jamaica Olé, Orange Bang and horchata Olé. Dedicated customers can ditch the plain basket altogether and have their food served on a real frisbee plate. And the most hardcore customers wear a lucha mask to the restaurant to receive a special discount on their entire order.
Sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for, such as good Mexican food. The line at Lucha Libre often extends out the door and parking is extremely limited. Patrons recommend placing orders by phone or reserving the Champion’s Booth to avoid the wait. The system works so customers wait in line to order, then are served almost immediately after the order is placed.
The future of Lucha Libre looks as bright as its neon walls. The owners plan to expand to a second location by the end of this year. “Our mission is to take over the world one taco shop at a time,” Jose said. With fresh ingredients, award-winning burritos and the spirit of the lucha libre, they might just do it.