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Apr 28, 2008 03:18 PM

Café Hidalgo in Fullerton

I realize that this restaurant is recommended by many, but my experience there was unfortunate. In my opinion, when a restaurant claims to serve authentic cuisine it opens itself up to high expectations. Café Hidalgo does not meet them.

A friend and I went there for lunch. The ambience was an unsuccessful nod to colonial Spain/Latin America. The fixtures were dusty and rumpled. There were at least two cheap, touristy sombreros... an instant red flag of an inauthentic eatery. The sound of boxes of liquor and beer being noisely moved through the dining area to the bar, and the rattling of glass as the bar was restocked, was very distracting. The fact that they did so while we and other patrons were trying to enjoy our meals spoke volumes about their priorities.

The food was no better. The claim that it is authentic is blatently dishonest, and further cheapens the word as used to describe good food. Albondigas served as a meatball sandwich? When simply asked about the albondigas, the server readily stated that they were only a mixture of meats, and not the traditional recipe (which includes rice, onions, tomatoes, and even yerba buena). We ordered two unremarkable lunch specials, and they were served alongside a salad dressed in the thinnest and runniest ranch dressing we had ever seen.

The dinner menu looks more interesting, and perhaps it's better, but I'm not very hopeful.

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  1. Their cumin vinaigrette is the most revolting food substance Orange County has to offer. Just the knowledge of its existence would cause Thomas Keller to drop dead of despair.

    Fortunately, the first U.S. branch of Lizarran is opening across the street next month.

    1. Cafe Hildalgo recommended by many? That's news to me. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being great), I'd give them a 2. I went once for lunch and once for happy hour and each time I was unimpressed.
      My top two in downtown Fullerton are Ruta's and The Olde Ship. For beer on tap & okay bar food (huge portions), go to Heroes. But given so many restaurants in a small area, there really isn't much of a choice.

      1. Yep, I hear ya. Not that I found my dinner experience there to be bad, really. Given all the intriguing menu choices, I think I was expecting something special (or close to it). Instead, I had the most boring Chili Rojo in the world. And for the price I paid, I might as well have sought out an El Torito Grill or Don Jose and saved myself a few bucks.