El Indio is a quick-service take-out shop adjacent to Interstate 5 that has set a high standard for inexpensive Mexican food in San Diego since 1940. An on-premises tortilla press turns out big, warm wheaty ones for burros and chimichangas; there are crunchy, freshly-fried, hot corn tortillas; and there are all sorts of combo plates topped with gobs of sour cream.
One of the best things to eat is the San Diego specialty, a fish taco. El Indio’s fish taco is a mighty meal served in a foil wrapper along with a wedge of lime. When the foil is pulled back, you find a double layer of warm corn tortillas loosely wrapped around a log of crisp-fried cod with a golden crust. The fish is nestled on a bed of ruggedly shredded cabbage, a few tomato shreds, and a faintly peppery pink sauce. Give it a spritz or two from the wedge of lime provided – an ideal complement for the sweet meat of the white fish and its savory crust.
Service is cafeteria style and dining is very informal. Meals are served on Styrofoam plates with throwaway utensils. There are a few shared seats at a counter and some tables to the side of the order-line, but many people choose to eat on the sunny, fenced-in patio across the street. Here, one is serenaded by vehicles passing on the raised highway, as well as by the happy chatter of customers blessed to be dining at this cheap but irreplaceable source of great Cal-Mex meals.