Hubby & I went to Hacienda de Vega last week for a late lunch. They've been nominated for, and won, a bunch of awards, including (I believe) best Mexican restaurant in San Diego for 2007. (Sorry for the lack of documented evidence, have to go by memory here.) Check out reviews here and here.
The atmosphere / ambience is great. Big courtyard, outdoor seating, bar outside, a fountain, private cabanas off on one side, etc. And since we were there at an off-time, there were only 2 other tables, so we had the chance to absorb the intended surroundings, rather than contend with other patrons, frazzled servers, and the like.
When you're first seated, you get a basket of chips (not the best, but good), and four salsas. One was tomatillo, cilantro & chile, easily the best of the four. Second best was an orange one that I swear was made from chiles de arbol and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). There was a tomato-based one, a little sweet. And a smoky one, chipotles most likely.
For my entree, I had the lomo en cerveza. Amazing. Like nothing I've ever had before. Like nothing I'd even remotely consider Mexican (but being white, and never having visited the various states of Mexico, what do I know?). The pork tenderloin cut easily with a fork, the beer-sauce on top was incredible. The sauteed greens (spinach?) were delectable, and the fried potatoes (er, patatas fritas) stayed crunchy even after sitting in the sauce for a while.
Hubby had the parrilla ranchera, a skillet-mix of beef, bacon, onions, and red & green bell peppers, covered with cheese. Good, but...er...really greasy. (But what do you expect with beef, bacon and cheese? They have a chicken option too, which may lighten it a little.) We took the leftovers home, and drained them well on paper towels. The children proclaimed them acceptable.
Would I go again? Heck, yes.
Hacienda de Vega
2608 S. Escondido Blvd.
Escondido, CA 92025