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REVIEW: El Farolito, Placentia

Some of you remember my (short, not very nice) review of Ricardo's in Orange. I said "Next time, El Farolito."

Next time was last night.

"I want Mexican food," said I, "and it's my turn to pick. I want to go to El Farolito in Placentia, about 50 Chowhounds have recommended it to me."

"Forget it," said she, "if 50 chowhounds recommended it, it's going to be very expensive and impossible to get in to."

"I'm going to call them and find out," said I, "and if it's less than a 20-minute wait we are going."

Well, there was no wait when I called and only about a 10-15 minute wait by the time we got up to Placentia, and I'm glad I prevailed.

El Farolito is in "old town" Placentia, which is a surprisingly Wild-Mexican-West place given the usual tract-homes-and-minimalls vibe of North OC.

First, you just sign yourself in. Print your name and how many in your party. That way everyone who works there can actually work instead of having to be the host or hostess.

Second, the beer cooler (in the room just past the entry) is apparently self-serve. They do keep an eye on it, to make sure that nobody underage is grabbing a beer, but if you want a beer while you're waiting, walk over and grab one. There's a bottle opener mounted on the wall to the left. Mostly Mexican beer -- I grabbed a Dos Equis.

It was such a random crowd -- there were grizzled old surfers, Mexican families, yuppies down from the hills of Yorba Linda, and teenagers on dates.

We sat (near the beer cooler, hooray!) and menus were put in front of us. The food is exactly what you expect from a sit-down Mexican place in Orange County -- combo plates, various meat platters, appetizers, etc.

I ordered carnitas with frijoles de la olla and my second Dos Equis. My wife got enchiladas rancheras with chicken, regular refried beans and a root beer. Chips and salsa -- a bit greasy on the chips but quite tasty, and good salsa with more kick than it looks like.

The enchiladas were quite tasty, said my wife... I didn't even get a bite, so I can't vouch for them personally. I was too busy scarfing the entire freaking plate of carnitas. Homemade tortillas, great juicy fried pork, tasty beans and rice, and some of the salsa that went with the chips. I asked for -- and got really quickly -- more corn tortillas and a lime. They were fantastic. I didn't even talk the whole time, I was just too busy mowing down that plate of food and alternating with sips of cold beer. You'd have thought I had just turned up shipwrecked off the coast of Michoacán.

We saw other food going past -- a burrito the size of a masala dosa, the Nachos of the Sierra Madre ("gravity? we don't need no steenking gravity!") with three layers of "stuff" between the chips, a huge sizzling comal with a shocking amount of carne asada on it. It all looked fantastic.

The service was friendly and quick, but not chatty, which is fine. There were huge numbers of people going both in and out -- I'll bet you they served 500 dinners.

The bill was the best part. Two imported beers, a huge plate of carnitas, a big ol' enchilada plate, and a soda -- $26. I asked the guy at the front desk (the owner, as it turns out) if this was related to El Farolito Jr., which is on East St. near the 91 in Anaheim. "Oh, that's my sister," he said. Just so you know.

All I wanted after that was a paleta -- but I was overridden before I could start the search.

Thanks, 'Hounds! You done yourself proud.

El Farolito
201 S. Bradford St. (1 block south of Chapman Av.)
Placentia, CA 92870
714-993-7880

El Farolito Jr.
1339 N. East St. (1/2 block south of 91 freeway)
Anaheim, CA 92805
714-533-6032

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  1. Great review; glad you liked it. I'm usually too full from the chips & salsa by the time my meal arrives (which becomes my lunch the next day). Everything there is pretty darned good 'cept the tamales.

    A colleague of mine said that Mi Casita & Q Tortas in that neighborhood are good too. The only other restaurant I got to in that neck of the woods is around the corner (the name escapes me) for some awesome beef stew.

    So what's next on your list?

    If I had to recommend anything, it'd be Fun Sushi Momo (sw corner Bastanchury/Harbor) or The Olde Ship (Harbor/Berkeley).

    And thanks for the 411 on El Farolito Jr.

    3 Replies
    1. re: OCAnn

      Sushi's out for a while, since it's probably Mrs Ubergeek's favourite dinner and she's, er, better than eight months pregnant. Eventually we will do the tour du sushi, but for now it's kind of a bummer only to be able to eat cooked rolls, since I won't torture her by eating raw fish in front of her when she loves it so.

      I'm not sure what's next. Probably Summit House, since we have a $100 gift certificate for it. Other than that, whatever strikes our fancy.

      1. re: OCAnn

        q tortas was one of my favorite haunts - great tasting carnitas and bang for the money. but got tired of the rude lady (owner) and i said that's enough and took my bizness elsewhere.

        el farolito's thick greasy chips are tasty. not a refried beans eater but i enjoy el farolito's beans.

        1. re: OCAnn

          No matter where I live or work, I always find my way to El Farolito. The food is very authentic and the salsa - ohhh that salsa! I would love to find the recipe!!

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          El Farolito
          201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870

        2. I loove this place, got introduced by someone at work in Brea. Wish I could make it there for the lunch hour. The chile relleno burrito there is very tasty and the beans taste authentic.

          1 Reply
          1. re: groover808

            Not as good as El Farolito, but better than most fast food Mexican is Molcasalsa on n/e Harbor/Imp Hwy. I believe Molcasalsa is a SD chain (I love the one off the 5 @ Mission Blvd in O'side); the one in O'side is just slightly better than the one in Brea, but it does in a pinch when I get the hankering for a chicken quesadilla or a carne asada burrito. Mmmmmm.

          2. Went to el farolito last night, after having read the same 50 Chowhound reviews seen by Das Ubergeek. HATED IT. We got chicken en mole ranchera and the beef machaca plate. Both came with gray runny tasteless refritos and whitish tasteless rice that looked like it was prepared from instant. The machaca, made with chopped, rather than shredded beef, had nearly no flavor and the so-called "mole" on the chicken seemed more likely to actually be heated tomato sauce with only the least possible seasoning. To eat these wonders and glories, we were given a fork, only (no spoon or knife) and there were no condiments or bottled sauces on the table. Incidentally, speaking of sauces, the table salsa for the tostaditos was similar to the stuff that claimed to be "mole" on the chicken, except that, while still basically a tasteless, no texture at all tomato sauce, it had been dosed with something to make it "hot". Tasteless but burning ISN'T my idea of goodness. All in all, el farolito was one of the worst Mexican resaturant experiences I've ever had, and ranked right up there with el coyote, el cholo and others as an "all-time worst ever." IMHO, it's the Old Spaghetti Factory of Mexican food. Never again.

            5 Replies
            1. re: bagdoodle

              I went to El Farolito Jr. last night and experienced none of that -- had a very tasty chile relleno burrito. The chips were miserable, but the chips are always greasy and miserable.

              1. re: bagdoodle

                I usually get all rice (I don't care for beans); which have never been white (mine have been red w/bits of vegetables). I've never had their machaca nor their ranchera plate, so I can't speak to those plates either. Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy El Farolito.

                1. re: OCAnn

                  I should look this up I guess, but does anyone know if Tlaquepaques is still over that way?

                  1. re: MaryT

                    Yep, around the corner from El Farolito.

                    1. re: MaryT

                      Both the restaurant & the take-out counter are still closed, however.

                2. The chips and salsa are still the best around. I always get extra chips to make chilaquiles the next morning. They are so thick and crunchy they hold up well and don't get soggy.

                  The rice and beans are as good as it gets. The creamy beans with probably a lot of lardo are worth every bite.

                  I can never get myself past the carnitas. I've swayed once in my life but never again. El Farolito is a staple.

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                  El Farolito
                  201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870