Fred’s Mexican Cafe
Old Town Location
2470 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110
By Judi Curry
Frequently we get into a rut by going to the same restaurant time and time again because we like the food, the atmosphere, the price, etc. Every few months or so members of my support group attend the play at the Cygnet Theater in Old Town – thanks to one of our members ushering there often – and we always go to lunch (or dinner) before – or after – the play.
Sunday we saw the 3pm performance of Maple and Vine and decided to have lunch before the play. (BTW – the play was an interesting one; the plot different than most plays put on by the Cygnet, and quite enjoyable.)
Ro, one of our members who just happens to be the reason for our theater outings, had a discount ticket at “Fred’s Mexican Café” and we decided to go there instead of the regular places we usually eat. We all like Mexican food and the coupon was for a free appetizer or dessert. The Old Town location is one of six operated by the company in Southern California.
We looked at the appetizer list, deciding what we wanted as a “freebie”, only to be told by our waiter that the restaurant gives the Queso Dip (Oaxaca cheese with serranos and garlic) as the free appetizer. It was surprising to us that we were also served a plate of chips and salsa.
Besides the Appetizers,($.95-$7.95) Fred’s offers a selection of tacos, ($9.95-$10.95); burritos, ($9.95-$10.95); combinations, ($10.45-$12.45); fajitas, ($12.95-$14.95); “Fred’s Favorites”, ($11.95-$14.95); enchilada’s, ($9.95-$11.95). Torta’s, tortilla soup, desserts, salads, etc. are also available.
There was an extensive menu featuring margaritas, as well as other beverages. There was no ala carte menu, but I asked the waiter if I could order items without the rice and beans, and he said on some of the items it was possible.
Because of the two dips we were served, Ro elected to have tortilla soup ($4.75) and a side order of tortillas. The soup was tasty; a little bit too spicy; but each person reacts differently to the spice element.
Candy ordered the Quesadilla veggie that consisted of grilled portobello mushrooms, avocado, roasted corn and oaxaca cheese. Sour cream was served on the side. The portion was large, and she was able to take half of her order home. It, too, was a little too spicy for her, but she enjoyed it.
Irene and I both ordered the same thing – chicken “Chingaderas” off of the appetizer menu. It was billed as “Fred’s original Mexican egg roll” but it was nothing like any egg roll I have ever had. There were 5 of them on a plate, and, for all the world could have been called “chicken croquettes” and I would have believed it. The chicken was rolled into a ball – like a croquette – and deep fried, topped with an avocado sauce. It was also tasteless – and spicy. (I know – they contradict each other but the “hotness” remained even without any flavor.) I left 3 of them on my plate. (Ro ate one of them; I ate the other.) Irene enjoyed the “crunchiness” of the chingaderas, but she too said there was no flavor. She took 4 of them home.
When the original bill was presented to us, the total was $39.15. As I looked it over more carefully, I discovered that we had been charged for the free appetizer. I brought this to the attention of the waiter who apologized by saying that the “other waitperson” had taken the discount card and he would make a change. He did and the total of our lunch was $32.00. We left a $5 tip – even though the service was not good – no one came to our table to ask if we liked our meal or if we wanted something else. There was no refill of the chips, nor were we asked if we wanted more. Although quite pleasant, our waiter was lacking in service skills.
Would we go again to “Fred’s?” I don’t think so.
Nothing stood out as special; everything was quite spicy; it seemed more of a “gringo tourist” spot than a favorite neighborhood restaurant. For those of you that like Fred’s – everyone’s taste is different. This review is merely the consensus of four women that eat out together frequently and enjoy good tasting food.
Dana Levy says
Hi Judi, I agree that all the restaurants in Old Town are lacking. They seem to put volume over palatability and also seem geared to tourists that only come once and not to repeat customers. even Old Town Mex and El Agave don’t quite make the grade all the time. I have experienced service that is mediocre in lots of places other than Old Town and I have learned that all you have to do is ask and not wait for their next appearance to get things moving. My other gripe is that parking is at a premium (or non existent) and they tout Old Town as a place one must see in San Diego but there seems to be no sense of accommodation to make it a pleasurable experience. Not everyone rides the trolley as it’s availability and locations to catch it are not practically located and the one down there is at the farthest end of the circuit making a hike inevitable. But all the restaurants do have quite pleasant atmospheres and that is worth something. On a sunny day it is fun to go there and look around and eat their “authentic” (not) cuisine. It isn’t my first choice for a destination but when visitors from out of town come we go and enjoy ourselves as it ultimately is on us, not them, to make it a fun day. Thanks for all your descriptive travel encounters and keep up the search for nirvana.
OB Mercy says
I’ve never eaten here, and unless someone I’m with wants to go for Mexican food because we happen to be in Old Town, I usually stay away from places here as I consider them way too touristy in food profiles and authenticity.
I do like that place that makes the fresh flour tortillas though out front…but only for the tortillas!
And even though we know to be discerning when it comes to listening to some Yelp reviews. this place only gets 3 out of 5 stars with over 500 reviews on there…not very good. Most complain about the service and the food being mediocre.
Since I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, I’ll stick with Oscar’s Mexican Food on Newport, although I think they’ve changed their name for the 3rd time! Great fresh fish tacos and seafood broth.
Hi Mercy. I am surprised to hear that Oscar’s is still open. Someone told me just last week that they had closed again. I agree. They have great fish tacos.
I really like Mexican food. Fred’s was not one that I had tried before – like you I prefer the Old Town Cafe, but for more than just the tortillas – but since we had a freebie decided to give it a shot. I should have known that any Mexican restaurant names “Fred’s” would not be to my liking.
I seldom check Yelp anymore; have disagreed with the reviews – except yours – more times than I agree, but I think had we checked it before we went – in spite of the free appetizer – we would have gone somewhere else.
We still need to get together and try a new place at the same time.
OB Mercy says
Yes Judi. Call me the next couple of times and hopefully we can work it out. We need to catch up anyway.
I used to go to the Fred’s in PB and up to about 8 or nine years ago it was great. It had a different menu than the rest of the chain, or rather it was the only one in existence. Eventually the Moose McGillycuddy’s chain of clubs and restaurants (they own Big Bertha and Typhoon Saloon) decided to expand Fred’s into a chain and changed the menu in doing so. Now the Fred’s in PB is the same as the one you just went to in Old Town.
Interestingly enough my favorite restaurant in Old Town is Harney Sushi. It’s very much not geared towards out of town tourists and it’s one of my favorite sushi places in SD.
Hmm. A sushi restaurant in Old Town. Will have to try it soon. Thanks.
OB Mercy says
Harney is considered one of the better places for sushi, always gets rave reviews. I like it.