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Friday, October 07, 2005 | Off the beaten track, in the tiny community of Del Dios between Escondido and Rancho Santa Fe, is a funky place for Mexican food. Locals, since 1972, know Hernandez Hideaway for margaritas, tamales, tacos, burritos and steak picado in a seriously offbeat room. Consider a no longer used fireplace where a blow-up cactus and other oddities rest, and oilcloth tablecloths … it’s that kind of place. And for the most part, the food is simple and honest.

Three of us ate warm, non-greasy chips with a decidedly bottled middle-of-the-road salsa and drank a margarita ordered “up” (it was served warm in a martini glass … likely our mistake in ordering “up” rather than on the rocks). A lobster burrito is loaded with succulent pieces of the crustacean, rice and cheese and the carnitas plate comes with large -some crispy – lean pieces of pork, onions and a chunky, minimally seasoned guacamole. The rice is a bit dry; the beans standard refried. A refreshing cole slaw that comes with most dishes – the vinegar dressing is not too tart – is a tasty counterbalance to the richness of the other dishes. There is a Sunday brunch menu available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which includes the usual huevos rancheros and other egg dishes. The restaurant is part of the Stevens Restaurant Group, owners of Escondido’s Las Brazas and Del Dios Country Store. Hernandez Hideaway

Tidbits

– General Manager Matt Francke will soon own San Diego Wine Company. He has managed the business for seven years and plans to continue the store’s philosophy of the best wines at the lowest prices. Rich Potenza from The Wine Bank will join the team that includes longtime employee Mark Fratta. The biggest change will be a Web site so that customers will be up to the moment on new wines and tastings. San Diego Wine Company, 5282 Eastgate Mall, San Diego, (858) 535-1400.

– Do something fun this weekend and join local chefs, vintners, farmers and ranchers to showcase the bounty of California’s fresh, seasonal ingredients. Participating chefs include, among others: Jeff Jackson (the Lodge at Torrey Pines), Amiko Gubbins (Parallel 33), Jack Fisher (Nine-Ten), Carl Schroeder (Arterra), AJ Voytko (The W Hotel), Antonio Friscia (Stingaree), Deborah Schneider (JSix) and Michael Stebner (Region). The event is at Torrey Pines Lodge and tickets are $60 for the day events that feature food demonstrations, discussions, music and a picnic. A portion of the proceeds goes to Slow Food, (www.slowfoodsandiego.org) an international organization dedicated to promoting ecologically sound food, bio diversity and preserving traditional foods. Order tickets online at

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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