So I was back at Bull Taco recently to expose my son Quinn to this local semi-hidden gem, and as we are walking up we see News 8’s Shawn Styles doing a live weather remote, totally gushing over the food. So much for semi-hidden, but that’s cool. They deserve the accolades.
I stumbled across Bull Taco by way of their ad in Ocean Magazine, which simply stated, “Mention this ad and get a free taco.” Smart move Bull Taco. I rode my bike down one Sunday afternoon from Leucadia to their killer location in the San Elijo State Beach campground. They are attached to the general store, right on the bluff overlooking the surf with an amazing view down the coast. I ordered my free halibut taco and, while eating it, decided the place was very worthy of a “Lick the Plate” column.
I met with owner Greg Lukasiewicz and his team on a classic Cardiff weekday afternoon with chest-high sets rolling in and the campgrounds buzzing with activity. Greg filled me in on his impressive culinary background during the past 20 years — opening and heading up kitchens in some of Los Angeles’ finest restaurants. He described how the intensity of high-end kitchens can lead to a quick burnout and was not conducive to raising a family. Lucky for Greg, he married Laurel Manganelli, whose family owned the campground store at San Elijo State Beach. He saw an opportunity to create a unique spot that totally reflects the vibe of the Cardiff coast with his gourmet twist on street tacos and an eclectic mix of brilliant culinary randomness.
Let me give you the street taco breakdown first. There are the standard chicken, beef, pork and veggie tacos for $1.50. I should add that the pork, or carnitas, is braised for three hours so it’s quite spectacular. Then they get a little gourmet on us with the duck and oyster tacos for $2.50. On next to the king crab and lobster tacos priced at $5 and, get this, abalone or foie gras tacos for $10. The day we were there Greg had a stash of sweetbreads and frog legs and hooked us up with each. The menu changes but you can keep up with what they have going on fresh on their Facebook page. OK, so back to the food. The ceviche is unreal, with big chunks of lobster, crab and some moist halibut. Burritos, tortas and some really good mussels are also available.
The big surprise came when Greg busted out the whole, head-still-on, deep-fried catfish in a sweet ponzu sauce. This dish has developed a cult following and I can see why. Big, moist, chunky hunks of fish are perfect on their own or in a self-made fish taco. I love stuff like this. He also mentioned quail makes an occasional appearance so I demanded he call me when that happened. We also discovered our mutual lust for cassoulet and decided when the weather cooled down a bit to bust that out also. Remember, this is a small carry-out grill attached to a campground general store serving what Greg calls “recession gourmet” in one of the most amazing locations ever.
Don’t go to Bull Taco in a hurry because unless there is nobody there, you will have to wait a bit for your food. That is totally understandable given the size of the kitchen and really, is it that difficult to wait a few minutes in paradise? Check out the campers and surfers, or just soak in the most excellent vibe that surrounds this place. Parking on Coast Highway 101 can be difficult, but again, if you have to walk there is plenty to look at. Oh, and how can I forget the shave ice stand? Perfect for a refreshing desert.
To complete the cool local thing, Bull Taco sponsors a couple of up-and-coming surfers and is very active in the community. They also offer full event catering both on premise and offsite. Check them out at www.bulltacocardiff.com. They are located at 2050 S. Coast Hwy. 101 (in the campgrounds) in Cardiff. Call (760) 436-6601 for details.
Filed Under: Lick the Plate