Nothing beats homemade salsa and tortilla chips that you fry yourself, but it can be time-consuming and messy, and I hate dealing with the aftermath of the spent oil. Lucky for us we live in San Diego. All the excellent locally-produced salsas and chips have made me lazy.
Boney’s carries a good variety of local chips and salsas. Vons fries fresh chips almost daily; but they only carry one brand of local salsa. Why is local so important? The answer is shelf life, fresh salsa should last only about five days. To extend the shelf life of non local, brands have to use preservatives, no thank you. Living where we do, buying Tostitos or a nationally branded salsa is an outright abomination; go local or go home. Here are some local brands of chips and salsas that you should add to your shopping list.
La Salsa Chilena started in North Park in 1993 but has moved operations to Miramar for more space because they are blowing up. Gonzalo and Fabrizio Guerra run the company making a Chilean salsa from their mother, Silvia Guerra’s recipe. I know this family personally, as they were once neighbors of mine. I have visited their facility, and I can tell you that when I knew them Silvia showed up, and they always use the freshest ingredients; everything is handmade. Salsa Chilena has a brightness I have not seen in other salsas. (Find at Boney’s and Vons)
El Nopalito is a restaurant, market, and tortilleria that has been in business in Encinitas for 37 years. Their location in North County is worth a visit, but luckily, they now distribute their product to markets around San Diego. All their salsas (Fresca, Molcajete, Chipotle, and Verde) are so fresh and vibrant tasting, but Molcajete is the one that gets me out of bed in the morning. Their chips are a medium thickness, and the freshness is apparent because they make them just a short drive up Interstate 5. If you get to their Encinitas market early, they are still hot in the bag. (carried at Boney’s)
Tacupetco is located in Vista and produces some excellent chips and salsa. Their chips are of medium thickness and never disappoint. They make two killer varieties of salsa, Verde con Mango and Molka, Fire Roasted. While both are delicious, I can crush a container of Fire Roasted in one sitting. The freshness of these salsas shines through; they taste as if they were whipped up that day, and maybe they were. (available at Boney’s)
Chipz Happen is a local San Diego company that has been making chips since 2013. Rochelle and Jason are a brother and sister team that decided to bring their mom’s chips to market, and I am so glad they did. My appreciation of good tortilla chips is all over the board, but I love this thin, light, and crispy style. The chips come in four flavors: Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, Da Kind Chili Lime, Cheeze-ee Nacho, and Jalapeno Smoley BBQ. (find at Boney’s)
If you find yourself off the island, there are a couple of chips and salsas worth seeking out. Northgate Market in Barrio Logan makes a variety of fresh salsas, and they fry their chips daily. You can find them hot in the bag if you get there early.
El Indio is a legendary restaurant and tortilleria, they have been in business since 1940. They make a thick, paprika-dusted chip that I used to dream about when I lived outside San Diego. This chip reminds me of some of my favorite haunts in Tijuana, biting into these chips evokes nostalgia. If you see these chips on a shelf, buy them. El Indio chips don’t have a wide distribution; lucky for us, their location on India Street is nearby. They have simple house-made salsas that are subtle in flavor; they let the chips take center stage.
I know of no other chip that works better than El Indio for Chilaquiles. My guilty pleasure is making crappy ballpark nachos with them. That’s right, “world famous” El Indo chips with canned nacho cheese and pickled jalapenos. For this, I won’t apologize. Support your local businesses and happy dipping.