pipirins | gaslamp quarter
Last weekend I was invited to try out a new restaurant that has popped up in the Gaslamp Quarter. It’s a cute little shop in the heart of Downtown called Pipirins. When Jake first heard the name of it, he thought it would be an Italian restaurant but actually it’s a Guadalajara style restaurant!
Pipirins is only a couple of blocks away from Horton Plaza, right on Broadway.
They have lunch special portions which are a little smaller in size (4 oz portions) and regular sized portions (7 oz) for sharing (or a heftier appetite).
This is the very front of the restaurant which is nestled against the open kitchen.
There’s a ramp that leads down into the back of Pipirins where the ordering counter is plus more seating. The back area has some pretty photographs on canvas to add to the charm of the restaurant.
You can watch the cooks prep your food with their open kitchen concept.
They use these special grills with lava rocks for cooking all of the meat, which is cooked to order.
They have a special machine for making fresh tortillas as well. The tortillas are not prepared until you order them resulting in the freshest tortillas possible for your meal. After the tortillas are pressed out, they’re cooked on a flat top grill.
[menu – side one]
The menu has helpful photos that you can drool over while you try to make a decision. Tacos, quesadillas, and salads are some of the items available to stuff into your face.
[menu – side two]
As well as the plates of food which come with your choice of beans or salad.
[horchata / 8oz glass – $1]
Katie, the PR person for Pipirins, greeted us at the restaurant and helped to explain all of the items and help get the food coming our way. We started off with a cup of refreshing horchata which is available in two sizes. The smaller 8oz cup is only a buck while the jumbo 16oz is a mere $2.00. What I liked about the horchata is that it wasn’t too sweet at all. A lot of times when I have horchata I get overwhelmed by the sweetness of the drink – but this horchata I feel I could actually have with my meal and have it be a light, refreshing beverage. It’s creamy and flavorful without killing you with sweetness. The make this on site and import all of the ingredients in to make their special blend of horchata.
[complimentary chips and condiments]
You get complimentary “chips” with all of the fixings here at Pipirins. I say “chips” because I haven’t seen chips quite like this before! They prepare a fresh batch of tortillas and then bake the tortillas. The baked tortillas are served whole and you break them up yourself and top or dip these however you’d like to. The tortillas are very crisp and crunchy!
The nice thing about Pipirins is you can add whatever you’d like to spice things up. A freshly made pico de gallo is handmade every day in house. There’s a guacamole-sauce, hot sauce, carrots, and some super spicy onions to adjust and season your food. I loved the freshness of the pico de gallo and the creamy guacamole sauce (which is a little thinner than regular guacamole, which is why I called it a sauce). Those little onions… they look so innocent, don’t they? Well I put one onion string (ONE) on a taco and it brought a ton of heat! They’re very spicy but also very flavorful… one little onion string was all I could handle!
[queso fundido / $7]
They know the way to my hear here at Pipirins. The first dish we got was this luscious, gooey Queso Fundido dip. The plate of cheese was brought out fresh and still bubbling! There’s a nice mix of cheeses in here and a nice charred top from their unique under-fired lava rock charboiler.
I took a spoonful of this glorious melted cheese and spread it all over a fresh, warm tortilla and it was like heaven on a tortilla. The cheese was quite creamy and stringy – I loved it! It was a bit on the greasy side though and they told us they were working on improving the dish so there was less grease in it. I wasn’t phased by this though as I dipped my tortilla into the leftover cheese grease and promptly ate it. YUM.
All the meats!
Let’s start by looking at the side dish that comes with the meat. You can choose either beans or salad with your dish. We tried beans with all of ours. They use Peruvian beans at Pipirins instead of pinto beans and they are served very simple – just in a bowl, lightly seasoned. Now I’m not a big bean fan at all, but after I had one spoonful of beans I could see the difference between thePeruvian beans and pinto beans. The Peruvian beans have a much creamier texture than pinto beans and I think, a better overall flavor. The beans seemed to melt and dissolve quickly in my mouth resulting in a smooth texture as I ate them. I really enjoyed that since normally the texture of whole beans really bugs me but these were really nice. I kind of want to try making refried beans at home with the Peruvian style beans instead! This type of bean is a little more expensive which is why a lot of places use pinto beans instead.
[chorizo asada / $7.50]
We tried a few kinds of meats at Pipirins and the first one I tried was the Chorizo Asada. The chorizo is charboiled here giving it an extra depth of flavor and color. I was surprised by the chorizo because it was incredibly flavorful and not greasy at all. A lot of times when I’ve had chorizo it has been extremely greasy, salty, and overwhelming but the chorizo here was all flavor without the saltiness! When the chorizo first hits your tongue you get the pork and flavor and then the spiciness hits you at the end. It’s not too spicy though and you can easily make it spicier with some of their hot sauce or those crazy little onions. The chorizo is tender, juicy, and so full of flavor as well! I think this might have been my favorite meat of the bunch!
[carne asada pipirins style / $9.50]
The carne asada at Pipirins is a bit different from your regular Mexican taco shop in San Diego. The carne asada has simple seasonings on it – salt and pepper – but I think it’s the charboiling over those lava rocks that really give it a ton of flavor. The meat is tender and delicious and it’s nice that you’re able to adjust your toppings as you like with their fresh tortillas. I ate my carne asada with a bit of pico de gallo and guacamole sauce and thought it was very good. I think the only thing I missed was extra cilantro and plain chopped onions, but it was still quite good.
One of the co-owners, Jerry, told us that they were kind of inspired to start Pipirins because there wasn’t a place in San Diego that had the Guadalajara-style carne asada that they were used to. This meat is more simply prepared, letting the meat itself be the star with the cooking process that brings out the flavors of the meat.
[chicken asada pipirins style / $8.00]
We also tried the Chicken Asada which is again – very simple preparation of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. I felt the meat was a tiny bit on the dry side for me, but I still enjoyed the flavor and style of the chicken.
[strip loin asado / 4 oz lunch size – $8.50]
I saw that they also had Strip Loin asado which looked very similar to the carne asada from the photos. I asked if we could sample that out and we were brough the smaller lunch size portion. They use bone-in beef for the strip loin which has a bit more marbling and fatty pieces on the end. I found that I liked that a bit more since the little fatty marbled bits give the meat extra flavor.
And now…. for dessert!
[flan / $2.80]
Oh my god you guys… Flan. This flan. Can I just say that I would come back here just for this amazing flan?! Jerry told us this was a special recipe by a lady who used to make this flan on a regular basis and she gave them the recipe for their restaurant. The flan was amazingly light and creamy with a super smooth texture. The caramel sauce on top had a nice, rich flavor without being too sweet. Just the right amount of caramel to go with the sweet custard.
Jake pretty much wanted to run away with this and not share with anyone. We liked it so much they actually brought out another piece for us since T and I pretty much polished it off while Jake was chattering away. He gave us bad looks for not saving him some but frankly T and I just couldn’t help ourselves. The flan was too delicious to pass up! I think when we come back we’ll have to each get our own piece of flan because no one will want to share their piece!
[chocolate cake / $2.80]
If custard and delicious creamy desserts aren’t your thing (??) then they also have chocolate cake available at Pipirins. I was actually surprised by how light tasting this piece of chocolate cake was since it looks like a deep, dark, rich chocolate cake – but surprise! It isn’t! It’s quite light and airy with a nice crumb and like I said – it tasted like “chocolate lite” – almost similar to red velvet. It has a nice tangy cream cheese frosting. It was a solid dessert but sorry, it just didn’t compare to the deliciously wonderful flan that stole my heart.
Pipirins is a great little new restaurant to pop up on the scene here in San Diego. It’s definitely a different style than what we’re used to when it comes to Mexican food with more simple flavors. Don’t come here expecting to get a burrito and carne asada nachos – you’re just not going to get that here. But if you’re interested in flavorful, tasty, affordable dishes, then please give Pipirins a shot! And don’t forget to get a piece of flan, you won’t regret it!
(between 5th and 6th Avenue)
531 Broadway, Suite B
San Diego, CA 92101
Disclaimer: I was invited to come into Pipirins on behalf on the restaurant. Our meal was complimentary and I was not further compensated for this post. All opinions stated here are my own.