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Blocks away from the pristine Southern California coastline and buried between the surf shops, yoga studios, and other businesses that line Highway 101 in Encinitas, California, is a small town staple known as Juanitas Taco Shop, or Juanitas Carnitas to the locals. Local or not (I’m definitely not), this is one of the places I always try to visit when I’m in the San Diego area, and they definitely serve up some of the best authentic tacos in Encinitas.

Motorcycle Sitting Out Front of Juanitas Taco Shop | Best Tacos in Encinitas

Keep it simple, silly.

A true mom and pop taco shop, you can feel the “No Kooks! Locals Only!” vibe as soon as you get off your bike (which you can park right out front if there’s space available) and take in the sights from the outside of the building. Juanitas looks suspect from the outside, with barred windows that have been covered in stickers, a muddy, stucco style siding around the building, and beat up picnic benches out front, that usually have many smiling faces sitting at them. But that’s probably why the locals love this spot, because the initial sight probably scares most tourists away.

Menu at Juanitas Taco Shop | Best Tacos in Encinitas

Inside, you’ll find an old school letter board menu with the items available, and a side room with more basic seating arrangements. This place probably hasn’t had any decorative upgrades since it was established, but we’re not here for the ambience, we’re here for the tacos y burritos, mi amigos y amigas. 

Baja style? Jalisco style? SoCal Style?! Whatever it is, we’re about it.

Southern California has it’s own twist on Mexican food. They’re obsessed with their avocados, and “baja style” street tacos are quite prevalent in most Mexican cuisine in the area. Juanitas is a no thrills taco stop that does their food “Jalisco” style. What does that mean? I dunno exactly, I’m not that fancy of a food critic. I just like to eat good food and have fun. They keep their salsas simple: red and green, and offer just about every kind of Mexican dish you’d want: tacos (fish, beef, chicken, cartinas, pastor) tortas, tostadas, and of course, burritos. These are pretty standard things you’ll consistently find throughout most Jalisco-styled Mexican eateries. 

Fish Tacos at Juanitas | Best Tacos in Encinitas

Tacos de Pescado! Or delectable fried fish tacos, in English.

My personal favorites are the fish tacos. There is NO other place to eat fish tacos than in Baja de California itself, or in Southern California if you can’t quite make it across the border. The Chile Rellano burrito is my second favorite thing on the menu.

Enjoy the nearby ocean views, or not.

Most people order in, and enjoy the warm California sun and ocean breeze on their backs at the picnic tables out front, or by enjoying a fresh plate of food in the small dining room adjacent to the main ordering area. But if you’re wanting to enjoy the ocean, head a few blocks beyond the building and park near the public beach entrance, or head about 1.5 miles south the the legendary Swami’s surf spot, or north up to the cliffs in South Carlsbad and watch the sun set beyond the Pacific. 

Motorcycles at the Beach at Sunset

Final thoughts:

Tacos are trendy, and they’re also tasty. If you’re wanting to enjoy some authentic, appropriately priced Mexican food as well as the surf town vibes of North County San Diego, Juanitas Carnitas should definitely be on your sunday funday to-do list. If the locals love it, it’s gotta be good. And that’s why we think they’re the best tacos in Encinitas.

The Deets:

Address: 290 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Price: $

Hours of Operation:

Friday – Saturday: 8AM–3AM

Sunday – Thursday: 8AM -12AM

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Staci Wilt

I’m Staci: a freelance journalist, photographer, and marketing consultant. I primarily focus those skills around my passions of motorcycles, travel, and food…and yes, we will count margaritas and craft beer in that last category. Thanks for checking out my blog!
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  1. here on May 6, 2019 at 3:24 AM

    Thank you for the excellent article

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