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Best Mexican food in the OC

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irishkevbo Apr 30, 2008 11:05 AM

I am born and raised in Orange County and am a lover of all foods Mexican. Have I missed any gems? Who has the best pozole, tamales, ceviche etc...foods that most Mexican restaurants fall short on? Which restaurants are dives and which restaurants are more upscale? Let me know your thoughts.

  1. c
    culinarycandy Jun 19, 2008 06:12 AM

    A weekly habit of mine for over 20 years, Las Barcas on Beach at Atlanta is Huntington Beach's best kept locals secret. My faves have been soft chicken and carnitas tacos, best ever...they cook everything fresh so if you are short on time call in the order first. Love their Argentinian twist on Mexican food--so healthy, so yummy!

    1. bernardo Jun 18, 2008 08:21 PM

      Taco Mesa for the funkiest mix of mariscos, bikers, suits, starving students, exhaust & condiments.......but it does help to be in the mood.

      1. Condiment Queen Jun 18, 2008 06:06 PM

        Most of my relatives lived on Lido and Balboa Island and we would always go to El Ranchito..
        I don't know if its the best but I've sure had some of my best Mex. there..

        www.avilaselranchito.net

        1. i
          irishkevbo Jun 18, 2008 05:45 PM

          Not one rec from Santa Ana huh?

          1 Reply
          1. re: irishkevbo
            Professor Salt Jun 18, 2008 05:54 PM

            El Gallo Giro. They make their own masa and grind it into my favorite tortillas in OC. Do not miss the salsa verde, if you can handle the serrano chili heat. Great licuados and aguas. They also have an adjoining bakery, so the bolillo rolls for their tortas are always fresh. They have a goofy, unintuitive system for ordering and paying. You order in one line if you want tacos, order in another line if you want tortas and fried stuff, a third line if you want raw meat or salsas from the butcher case, then wait in another line to pay. It makes DMV look efficient and speedy, but it is what it is. The meatss for the tacos and tortas can be hit or miss, and in this regard, El Toro Bravo in Costa Mesa gets my vote for best hole in the wall taqueria.

            El Toro Carniceria is Santa Ana is unrelated business and they also make some pretty mean tacos. It's a pretty big carniceria / tortilleria / supermercado. They also have a small section dedicated to Central American dry groceries.

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            El Gallo Giro
            1442 S Bristol St Ste 1A, Santa Ana, CA 92704

            El Toro Carniceria-Meat Shop
            1340 W 1st St, Santa Ana, CA

          2. OC Mutt May 8, 2008 02:14 PM

            I personally like Taleo for upscale. And for artery clogging tex-mex, with pounds of cheese and guacamole, I like Mario's in Loehman's plaza - Huntington Beach.

            8 Replies
            1. re: OC Mutt
              j
              Joani Macaroni May 8, 2008 07:24 PM

              Their food is good but don't go there for salsa. The last time we went (now several years ago due to this event) we were nibbling on the ubiquitous basket of chips and the bus boy came by to refill our salsa bowl. We hadn't been too impressed with it to begin with (rather thin and sort of catsupy looking/tasting) but when he cheerily filled up the cup sporting a gallon sized PLASTIC bottle of generic brand salsa right at our table, I suddenly realized why my taste buds had been less than tingled. . . we now eat at Enrique's which has great, FRESH, CHUNKY salsa. On the other hand, if/when we ever return to Mario's (either there or the one on Springdale) I will probably order their crab enchilada, which used to be very good. Haven't had one in several years now though, so can't really say if they're still good. It was a blend of crab and "krab" but quite tasty.

              1. re: Joani Macaroni
                OC Mutt May 9, 2008 12:03 PM

                agree, the salsa is lousy and also agree that the "Krab" enchilada is terrific! So are the super-nachos.

                1. re: Joani Macaroni
                  FoodieKat May 9, 2008 03:22 PM

                  Where is Enrique's please?

                  1. re: FoodieKat
                    JAB May 9, 2008 04:00 PM

                    Sadly, not in OC but, so worth the drive.

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                    Enrique's
                    17244 Downey Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706

                    1. re: JAB
                      JAB May 9, 2008 04:02 PM

                      And...

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                      Enrique's
                      6210 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803

                      1. re: JAB
                        j
                        Joani Macaroni May 10, 2008 09:10 PM

                        Thanks for posting the address info JAB! Yes, FoodieKat, this is the Enrique's we eat at (on PCH). :-) And often see "Mrs. Enrique" at the cash register. It's a real family business and yes, the other location(s?) are related.
                        The later you go, the longer the wait, but they do a lot of take-out orders, so keep that in mind. My hubby loves the chicken paella to go - fix a salad at home and you'll have enough paella for two normal eaters (but it's so good you may not want to share . . !). However, we usually opt to eat there - and we often try the specials.

                        1. re: Joani Macaroni
                          FoodieKat May 13, 2008 01:30 PM

                          Excellent. Thanks! :-)

                  2. re: Joani Macaroni
                    bernardo Jun 18, 2008 08:14 PM

                    Would you believe Mex chicken soup with avocado? Oy vey or holy mole? Seriously though, other than the (gulp!) excruciating wait, this place totally rocks.

                2. m
                  mrlttran May 5, 2008 09:41 PM

                  One of my favorites would be The Taco Factory in Tustin. That is more whole in the wall and I would say their carne asada is some of the best I have ever had.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrlttran
                    i
                    iloveredwine May 6, 2008 10:21 AM

                    Gloria's on 19th street in Costa Mesa for the most authentic carnitas.

                  2. f
                    figg May 1, 2008 06:46 PM

                    My favorite "hole-in-the-wall" is Fiesta Grill on 17th in Huntington Beach. It is next to a laundry mat I use so I always grab food there on laundry days.

                    I tried La Choza once and thought it was pretty good.

                    I have to agree with Javiers as the best upscale. I go to Gabbi's fairly regularly because Orange is convenient for many friends to meet me but I have never been incredibly impressed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: figg
                      i
                      irishkevbo May 5, 2008 09:31 PM

                      Is this the famous Figg from Rockin Figg in HB?

                      1. re: irishkevbo
                        f
                        figg May 6, 2008 08:49 AM

                        Nope. Funny though. I am a surfer from HB and never put the 2 together . . .

                    2. c
                      cdmedici May 1, 2008 06:32 PM

                      I don't think you will get any definitive answers because there is so much to choose from in OC.

                      If I had to choose my favorite "hole-in-the-wall" taco joint it would be El Toro Bravo in Costa Mesa.

                      My favorite "upscale" would be Javier's in Newport Beach or Gabbi's in Orange.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: cdmedici
                        FoodieKat May 3, 2008 10:42 PM

                        I love Gabbi's, but it definitely is more upscale, and not cheap at all. Javier's is not bad for lunch, or for cocktails/snacks. Las Cotijas in Tustin on 1st in Old Town (for fish tacos and fish burritos), and Jugos Acapulcos on 19th St. in Costa Mesa so far are my favorite hole-in-the-wall places. And I liked Mariscos los Mochis in Anaheim for very reasonably-priced seafood dishes.

                        I like the sound of the handmade tortillas, as this has been a personal quest since moving to OC, so I will try La Choza next time I'm in the HB area.

                        1. re: FoodieKat
                          i
                          irishkevbo May 5, 2008 09:32 PM

                          I grew up in Tustin, Las Cotijas, is that new? I'm going to try it for sure.

                          1. re: irishkevbo
                            Das Ubergeek May 6, 2008 10:19 AM

                            Definitely not new. It's an old hole in the wall. Delicious fish tacos, but their "hot" sauce is nothing of the kind.

                            1. re: irishkevbo
                              FoodieKat May 7, 2008 03:36 PM

                              Las Cotijas is at 642 E 1st St, in Old Town Tustin. It's my favorite local hole in the wall for fish tacos, burritos, etc. I totally agree with Das Ubergeek as well; they have delicious tacos, good horchata, and pretty good rice and beans too, but their hot sauce is wimpy (I'm considering bringing my own next time). The Pico de Gallo is not bad though, I usually use this instead. I heart Tustin. :-)

                          2. re: cdmedici
                            i
                            irishkevbo May 5, 2008 09:31 PM

                            Where is El Toro Bravo, do they have a website?

                            1. re: irishkevbo
                              c
                              cdmedici May 6, 2008 06:30 AM

                              You see how funny your question is when you go there. I don't even think they have a working cash register.

                              739 W 19th St, Costa Mesa

                          3. j
                            Joani Macaroni Apr 30, 2008 03:59 PM

                            Are you near enough to Huntington Beach to want to try this place? La Choza is fairly new to the area, although they have another long-time location in L.A. area. Tortillas are handmade fresh on the premises (you can watch them being made while you wait for a table). The place was completely renovated after the last occupant left. It's an older style place from the outside but inside is very nice, lots of room, even a room on the west side for larger group parties. We've been twice. My husband ordered the barbacoa both times. Last time I had the seafood (I think it was squid) and it was good - you can order it 3 or 4 ways. Haven't seen that anywhere else.
                            Their service has improved since the first visit. The main dining area has been just a tad cool both times I've been there, you might need a light sweater if your personal thermostat runs that way. (My husband, on the other hand, was fine in short sleeves). The main dining room is also a bit noisy, so if you want a quieter spot, you might prefer the seating directly across from the main entrance. Here's a site that has some other comments, mostly positive: <http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-choza-rest...> Prices are reasonable, not cheap.
                            La Choza
                            7402 Edinger Ave
                            Huntington Beach, CA 92647
                            (714) 842-7888

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Joani Macaroni
                              d
                              dagrassroots May 1, 2008 12:29 PM

                              For tacos Carnitas Los Reyes in orange cannot be beat.

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                              Carnitas Los Reyes
                              273 Tustin Ave, Orange, CA 92866

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