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Jun 10, 2005 02:21 PM

Mexican in South OC?

  • s

We've been living in Ladera Ranch for almost a year now, and still have not found a good, local, sit-down Mexican restaurant and are simply dying without one. We've been to El Adobe in SJC a couple of times now-good atmosphere, but much too bland. Also been to Tortilla Flats in MV-again, too bland and average. Agave in RSM is ok, but a little too trendy/not really Mexican enough for us. We'd like to find a restaurant like El Adobe-not a takeout place, or order at the counter type of place, with a traditional feel. Any suggestions? We'd be open to Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, SJC, San Clemente, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, and maybe even South Laguna Beach. Please nothing further north-we can't handle the traffic more than our commutes already require. I seriously hope such a place exists-it amazes me that we haven't found a great place yet!!!

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  1. There are a couple of Taco Mesa Branches in south County w/ good food,but no sit down service...where have you been that is you are using as a model?

    1 Reply
    1. re: norman

      We have a Taco Mesa close to us, but my husband doens't really care for it, as it's a bit too Americanized (the sauces and such). We love El Farolito in Placentia, and enjoy El Matador in Costa Mesa (though not everyone on here cares for it) and Javier's in Laguna/Irvine for more upscale Mexican. We just need something closer to home, rather than work. And we definitely want a restaurant, not an order at the counter kind of place. We've got Las Golondrinas right on the other side of the 5 on Crown Valley for that . . .

    2. b
      Big John Stud

      You have El Campeon in SJC...just south of el adobe in the El Adobe plaza. It's the best mexican in south oc...hands down. Lunch counter style with outdoor seating. Great meats, huge tacos overflowing with chunks of tender meat, great aguas. Cheap and wonderful and a neat place.

      There's Aurora's Taqueria going North on PCH in Dana Point. It's a little walk-up window with outdoor seating. It's real good too.

      Javiers in Laguna Beach is good sit down a little fancy mexican seafood type stuff. last time i was there i had 6 cadillac margaritas and crab enchiladas and was drunk and in heaven.

      Molina de Oro is a litte restaurant in SJC....on Southeast stripmall of Camino Capistrano and Del Obispo (by blockbuster) kind of. It's good. Good pozole and burritos. IT's lunch counter then sit down.

      Olamendis on PCH in Capo Beach is for sure better than the places you've eaten but expensive for what it is and fairly 'white'.

      Taco Mesa on Los Alisos is pretty good. It's at Los Alisos and Trabuco.

      Los Golondrias in Capo Beach by Stats is good. Good burritos.

      There are some. They are all better than your Tortilla Flats/El Adobe drek. Except for Javiers they are not as 'nice', but it's mexican's not supposed to be 'nice'.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Big John Stud

        Thanks for the recs. But we're still looking for a real restaurant where we can sit and enjoy ourselves and a couple of margaritas after a long week of work-no counter stuff. I've been to Olamendi's and I can't say it was that memorable, and Javier's doesn't take reservations for just the two of us, which makes it simply unbearable during the summer . . . Any other suggestions?

        1. re: Samantha

          We've tried Ricardo's Place, in San Juan very near El Campeon. It's a regular sit-down place with a menu that features more than the standard basics.
          And we were getting tired of every entree coming with stuffy, bland re-fried beans and rice and they do have a non-average menu and pretty good food.

          On a higher scale, but extremely good, is Taleo Mexican Grill, at Jamboree and the 405.


          1. re: Midlife

            Ooh, thanks. Just what I am looking for.

            Been to Taleo a couple of times now, as I work right across the freeway. Unfortunately, I feel that the quality has gone down in the past month or so.

      2. El Campeon is good & authentic but it's not a casual "sit down and have a cerveza" after work kind of place. I don't even know if they have a liquor license I just order "to go" at the counter.

        Aurora's is more of a stand, but not bad really. Pretty authentic as well.

        Las Golindrina's also has a place off of Greenfield and Crown Valley in the Loehman's shopping plaza by the 73. That location is probably closer for you. Still not a sit down restaurant per se, more of a take out restaurant with tables.

        Las Golondrinas Mexican Food Products
        27981 Greenfield Dr , Laguna Niguel 92677-1494

        There is a place at the corner of Moulton/Golden Lantern and Crown Valley called El Cortez. They have passable food and it is a casual "sit-down and have a drink with your mex" type of place. It won't set your world on fire though.

        El Cortez Mexican Restaurant
        28971 Street Of The Golden Lantern , Laguna Niguel 92677

        There is a similar place in SJC I believe in the center where the Mervyns is, south side of Del Obispo, east of Camino Capistrano. It's called Carlos's. Not great, not bad.

        Carlos Mexican Restaurant
        31878 Del Obispo St , San Juan Capistrano 92675

        There is another place I've been wanting to try in SJC. North of the Mission on Camino Capistrano on the west side of the street. Take the Ortega Hwy exit and turn right onto Ortega (if you are heading south on the 5). At Camino Capistrano take another right. It will be down past the Mission, railway station, and the little shops. It will be on your left. It has a good sized parking lot so it'll be hard to miss. It's a stand-alone restaurant, not in a mini mall.

        I was down there with a friend a while back and the aroma eminating from that place was intoxicating. There is a real south-of-the-border feel to that neighborhood (in between interior design shops, odd combination). It looks like a casual, sit down have a cerveza, authentic Mexican restaurant. I'd love to know if anyone on this board has been there and what their opinions are.

        El Maguey Mexican Restaurant
        31481 Camino Capistrano , San Juan Capistrano 92675-2647

        The best carnitas taco I've had in a while (other than the OC Fairgrounds at the swap meet. YUMM!) is at Ted's drive through in Laguna Niguel at the shopping center off of Aliso Creek and La Paz where Tall Mouse is. Weird drive-thru. They make pretty much everything, and I mean everything, liver & onions one night, swiss steak on another. Very bizarre. Their breakfast burrito is OUTSTANDING. Their hot dogs are crap. Very busy place on the weekends, just a former drive-thru restaurant with sit down seating that's seen better days. A real gem for South County-ians suffering from chain restaurantitus. This is a good lead but really still not what you are looking for.

        If you go to El Maguey in SJC please report back, OK?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pate'

          Great. Will definitely try El Maguey (and a few of the others when we're not looking for a sit-down restaurant) and report back. Thank you!!!

          1. re: Pate'

            It's been a long time but we used to hit El maguey at least a couple of times a month. it's authentic enough to make you wonder if you should be there. The food was OK. We drove a few extra miles to La Siesta in San Clemente. The authenticity is questionable, the food is better than average, and the locals love it. In Capo Beach, Olamendi's is a popular spot with locals but we found it "too" Baja.

          2. I too would recommend El Maguey in SJC. My wife and I live in Boca Raton, Fla. To make a short story long, the Cuban food is outstanding, but Mexican food in S.Fla. bites the big one, and does so big time. Some of the stuff we have had in S. Fla. is like it was taken out of a box from the "Old El Paso" section of your local gringo supermarket. My inlaws live in Laguna Beach, and El Maguey is always a two or three times a visit stop for us when we go out to SCal for a week's visit (that and Ramos House in SJC, too). The mole is excellent, and the chiles rellenos cannot be beat!

            1. I've always thaought that El Patio (San Clemente) was a sleeper. And the owners are cool and laid back. They're also willing to prepare specialty dishes ("off the menu") by request.