Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Four Corn Fields, Keeping it Real for 90 Years in Barrio Logan – Las Cuatro Milpas

In 1933 Petra and Natividad Estudillo opened one of San Diego’s most beloved Mexican food restaurants in Barrio Logan. It has been serving up mind-blowing food made from the heart ever since. I am talking about Las Cuatro Milpas (The Four Corn Fields), 1857 Logan Ave, San Diego.

1857 Logan Ave, San Diego

If you are not aware of this place, don’t feel bad. It wasn’t until after high school in the late ’80s that I finally discovered this hidden gem. In the ’70s through the ’80s our family had another favorite Mexican restaurant in Barrio Logan, Chuey’s, established in 1952. We started going while it operated out of an old Quonset hut on the corner of Main and Crosby Streets.

Try to wrap your head around the year 1933. After Los Cuatro Milpas opened, it would be another two years until the California Pacific International Exposition opened in Balboa Park.

Petra and Natividad Estudillo, owners of Las Cuatro Milpas 1935. I have never been able to get a shot of this picture without the reflected images of customers in the background. I think that is how they would want it.

My grandparents arrived in Coronado in 1938. My grandfather loved tamales. I wonder if they ever ate at Las Cuarto Milpas, food for thought? 

My grandparents Clyde and Polly Anne Van Arsdall, Center Beach Coronado 1938.

This taco shop is as legendary as the line that forms and wraps around the block daily. The menu is short but sweet; you won’t find a better flour tortilla in San Diego. The packs of tortillas are stacked high and warm to the touch. If you get there early enough, they will let you purchase them by the dozen. 

The entire menu at Las Cuatro Milpas. It has not changed in the 25 years I have been going.

Fried to order in pork lard, their corn tortillas for the tacos have a crunch but remain pliable, giving them just the right amount of chew. When you try one, you will know what I am talking about. They offer tamales, burritos, and both classic tacos and rolled. The meat choices are chicken or pork; they keep things simple. This small menu allows them to do what they do exceptionally well. 

Rolled tacos lovingly fried in pork lard to order.

The beans and rice at Las Cuatro Milpas set a standard few can live up to. While all these things are noteworthy, the Chorizo con Huevo is what I dream about. I spoon this divine mixture of beans, eggs and chorizo into one of the warm flour tortillas they provide. I top it off with onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. If I have Rolaids in the car, I add a dangerous amount of their house hot sauce. Honestly, I am drooling while writing this. 

Chorizo con Huevo, a fresh flour tortilla, onions, cilantro, a squeeze of lemon and the house hot sauce.

There are a couple of things worth noting about Las Cuarto Milpas. Despite the length, the line moves fast, and people are friendly. This queue also confirms that food brings people from all walks of life together. Everyone in that line knows what awaits them at the counter; warm smiles, great food, and an atmosphere that feels like family. Three of Petra and Natividad’s grandchildren, sisters, run the restaurant and are always present to welcome you into their family’s business. Women run the whole operation.

Tortillas made fresh by the women that work at Las Cuatro Milpas daily.

The restaurant is cash only. The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. Saturdays, they open earlier, at 6:00 am, and serve Menudo. This Saturday elixir is famous and can make the weekday line look short. They are closed on Sunday. 

My secret is to get there well before lunch during the week; the line usually starts to form after 10:30 most mornings. Parking is always an issue, but only after 10 am.  

All the magic happens right in front of you. What you see is what you get.

I place a small order for breakfast; tacos are the breakfast of champions. I then order enough takeout for the next few days. You can take home the beans, rice, and Chorizo con Huevo by the pint or quart and the flour tortillas, hot off the press, by the dozen. As the day moves along, they stop selling tortillas to-go so they can fill their in-house orders. 

Chorizo con Huevo is soft warm pinto beans, with bits of scrambled egg, chorizo and toped with rice. Served with warm flour tortillas.

If this article wasn’t convincing enough, you could check out Las Cuatro Milpas through the power of television on the Netflix series, The Taco Chronicles (season 3). 

Barrio Logan was voted one of the 51 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World by TimeOut, a London-based magazine that rates things to do in cities worldwide. The neighborhood ranked an impressive number 6, and Las Cuatro Milpas was mentioned as one of the places to eat. 

 



Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdallhttps://oliveavenuesupperclub.com/
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Currently he works for CH Projects managing the pool and Beginner's Diner at the Lafayette Hotel. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He also owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesuppper and read all his stories at www.oliveavenuesupper.comHave a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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