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Santa Ana Mexican Food Scene Report, Notes, and Questions

I made a day trip out to Santa Ana today to make a reconnaisance of the Mexican fod scene in this OC town.

Honestly, I was quite impressed with what Santa Ana had to offer. I parked the car right by First and Main, near the artist colony - an area that looks like it has been gentrified recently. Cool looking galleries and a few hip cafes (The Fox's? Den looked interesting --any experiences there chowhounds?).

I then headed over to what looked like the epicenter of the Hispanic area, the drag along Broadway. This was just about time after Sunday Mass when all the families were out walking, so it was kind of nice.

I was surprised to not have seen another gringo the whole time or heard english (kind of liked it, felt like a transport to Mexico) and I thought it was odd that the billeters outside the shops didn't harrass me (I guess they assumed I couldnt speak Spanish).

Then I struck paydirt -- I found the fabled Chivas "Tortas Ahogadas" truck across from the Northgate market. It was awesome, nice big truck, a whole team working inside, not to mention a HUGE LINE! Even better, a side van associated with the truck was pumping some Cumbia! music and selling cds. I actually just leaned up against the fence and watched the action in the truck for quite awhile, along with the people eating their tortas y tacos.

I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me from Oaxaca, who was with a young kid maybe a few years younger then me who was ordering. The kid was from Guadalajara, and filled me in about this patrimonal sandwich from his hometown. Both were pretty much chowhounds, great passion for their cuisine, and surprised that I was just as interested.

I won't go into detail, as it always pales in comparison to the real experience, so please go check it out (N. of Main on Broadway, parking lot of Northgate).

I then went across the street into Northgate, a mercado chain that the DiningDiva, a fellow poster from the CA board had done a report of (SD location). This place was jammin, hard to get around but entertaining (for me at least - i have a unending passion for ethnic markets). The meat counter, which streched around a long corner, must of had 20 employees who couldnt keep up with the numbers being drawn. I made it over to the cooked foods case, next to the huge tortilla maker opereation. There after a long wait, I picked up a Tamal Oaxaqueno de puerco en chile rojo wrapped in a bannana leaf (havent tried it yet, will devour tommorow).

I later came across a place in the Food 4 Less center called Jugos Alcapulco, jam packed with ppl. I didnt get to order. Has anyone been here or the Panaderia Ensenada across the plaza?
At the Jugo place I saw a sign for 'vampiros' and some other interesting names --any idea of what this is? At the bakery i saw a sign for a "taco yucateo" -- what is this?

Two taquerias looked appealing -- Azteca and Guadalajara as well as Mariscos Tampico? Has anyone dined at any of these places? Worthwhile?

I had to get a raspado from one of the many vendors set up on broadway. Man, is that delicious when its hot out.

But by far my greatest discovery (mind you, I am obsessed with Mole) was a Mole shop! Only two moles - verde or rojo.

I thought the place was closed as it had a phonebook on the door bar -locked and is quite small. I was looking in the window where I could see all the boxes of mole, as well as the tubs, when my lucky stars, I saw a guy. He came and opened the door. No english, but I was able to pass off some conversation with my rudimentary spanish,the Mole is called Teloloapan and is either from Guerrero or in the style of that estado. He explained to me how to cook it , measurements and all. A small tub cost me only 3.50 and boy does it smell heavenly. The store is called Rivas Food Co. (413 N. Broadway, 714-872-0607). website: http://www.molerojo.com

Cant wait to try it out.

On a side note -- I foolishly walked about 20 blocks to get to the Bowers Art Museum where upon entering saw a sign - No Bags allowed, and there i was with a bag of tamales and mole and spanish newspapers. So I didn;t get to go in (wanted to see british museum mummies and latin art collection), but I did notice their extremely nice looking museum restaurant which had a zagats remark festooned promptly in front (I dont know what that means). Pretty high end, ox tail ragout with chiles etc.
Has anyone ate here?

My last stop was to hit up the place which sent me to Santa Ana initially: El Gallo Giro. After hearing all the praise on this board --I couldnt resist. Once again, recurring theme, packed.

I loved the fact that you can see the whole operation: ultra fast torta man, HUGE! carnitas copper pots, frioles ladler guy, nixtimalzed corn and tortilla machine, team cutting meat, meat counter, licuados station and best of all they are having a special on tripitas tacos. I'll be back. (Bristol and Erdinger).

Well, there you have it. Sorry so long, but I would love to hear your comments or advice on other secret gems.

Tortas Ahogadas: http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/09...

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    1. re: ks in la

      Thank you ks.

      -- I just finished the Tamal Oaxaqueno (Puerco en chile rojo) from Northgate for dinner. It was excellent.

      I was a little skeptical about this Tamal as it was from a Supermarket and I prefer pollo en Mole negro to pork, but this little monster was definitely high quality.

      Not greasy one bit, very lightly sauced -- in fact I was worried the pork would be dry, but not at all.
      The scent of the Bananna leaf and corn is truly wonderful as you unwrap it and steam begins to rise.

      I also noticed they inclosed a single leaf of an herb --I believe epazote -- not sure though. Any ideas anyone?
      At $1.89 a piece, they are stacked in the hot case next to the over flowing and very popular Papas Fritas (more like potato wedges).

      1. re: kare_raisu

        Holy cow! Northgate encloses Chaya in their Tamal!! Now THAT is authentic.... Excellent... :)

        http://www.webspawner.com/users/spina...

        Thanks for the report, Santa Ana is a place I myself have yet to explore! :)

        --Dommy!

        1. re: Dommy

          I think it may have been a small piece of that leaf, not nearly as big as in the link. Dommy -- have you had a tamal with this leaf anywhere else? Id be interested to find out.

          Definitely check out Santa Ana, its a genuine little piece of Mexico.

    2. Wow, you covered a lot of ground in one trip. Nice report!

      1. Many Thanks GrindzHound. I really enjoyed my day there.

        I was wondering if anyone has tried tripitas tacos that el gallo giro was advertising on special. I dont know if i can drum up the courage.

        3 Replies
        1. re: kare_raisu

          I've had a tripitas taco in the Seattle area. Tripitas is intestine - think short lengths of sausage casing. A little chewy, but nothing outstanding either way.

          paulj

          1. re: paulj

            I believe that tripitas is the inner lining of the stomach and not intestine.

            1. re: JAB

              Tripitas is diminutive of tripa - little tripe. So it could, in theory refer to tripe cut into little pieces. But, if I'm not mistaken, 'menudo' comes come a verb for cutting up or making small. I think I've seen tripa as an option for tacos, though usually tripe is made into the famous weekend soup.

              In any case, the version I had consisted of small rings, but it wasn't squid.

              paulj

        2. I just bought an 8 oz container of the Rivas Mole Rojo from a Latino shop in north Seattle ($3.50).

          The shop had another Teloloapan version in 16oz tubs, but from a Mexican source (Castillo?).

          Now I have to decide whether to test it side by side with the TJ Rojo that I made yesterday, or wait till that is done.

          I just sampled the Rivas mix. It has a bit of roof-of-the-mouth bite. I'll have to take some care to make sure the sauce isn't too hot for my family's taste.

          paulj

          1. This is great stuff. I sometimes find myself in the area and always wondered about where to go. *watching topic*