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May 23, 2010 12:45 AM

Tlaquepaque – OC’s New Old Best Mexican?

Nestled in secluded Old Towne Placentia, virtually another world unto itself. Open for 40 years in the same location, closed for 4 years after a fire, now extensively remodeled and refitted, Tlaquepaque is open again. Salut! Fabulous Mexican cuisine in a delightfully charming setting that harkens back to my years living in Mexico.

Margaritas – Wonderful. Nice-sized (10 oz.). Although not overpowering, I needed only one. $6

Chips & Salsa – Fresh, hot, crispy and of medium thickness. Made from superior corn tortillas that taste just shy of handmade. Delightfully fresh, vibrant salsa with a nice punch. I didn’t even consider asking for the “hot”, tomatillo or any other. Great combo.

Menudo – Perhaps the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve enjoyed many. Serious menudo with three types of tripe and pata (trotters and tendon) in a slightly pungent, sinfully rich and buttery tasting broth. No hominy. I surmise that the stock was made with beef marrowbones, slowly cooked for a good, long time. One slurp and I was enchanted. The tripe was perfectly tender and the pata was easily freed from the bone. The real deal. Simply exquisite. $5.99

Chilaquiles – Superb. Choice of rojo or verde – mild, medium or spicy, with or without chicken. Delicious verde rendition obviously made using the same aforementioned tortilla chips. Two eggs on top, perfectly fried over easy as requested. An underlying convergence of slightly sweet and notably spicy surprised at first but became more engaging with each fork full. In fact, I would have appreciated a bit more sauciness. $5.99

Rice – Excellent. Very very light tomato base, seasoned with a bit of garlic and enhanced by a smattering of sautéed onions and veggies. Savory, homespun flavor.

Beans – Yes, indeed! Cooked with manteca (lard) and gently laced with cheese. Outstanding flavor and texture.

Service – Exceptionally friendly and attentive without being overindulging. Offered a free refill on my menudo. As great as it was, I respectfully passed after scraping and leaving my plate and bowl as clean and dry as a bone.

IMHO, Tlaquepaque is better than it was pre-closure and now tops El Faralito’s (up the street) versions of everything that I tried. I will likely return within days to further my foray into its menu.

Enough said!

101 W Santa Fe Ave
Placentia, CA 92870
(714) 528-0110
Closed Mondays

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  1. Thanks for the great review. We're not up that way often but good to know about for the next time we are. Keep us posted on your next menu selections and please - a description of the interior - booths? Tables? Patio? Large group sections or seating available? Any cozy areas for more intimate dining or all one large area? Parking? Thanks!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Joani Macaroni

      Hi Joani,

      As it stands now, Tlaquepaque essentially has one fairly large dining room with tables and chairs dispersed throughout. There are no booths or patios, however there are two or three relatively cozy corners, including one in the front by the window and a couple in the rear. There is one larger table near the entrance with a more direct view of the open kitchen. The interior is quite attractive and very nicely and uniformly outfitted in modern yet traditional Mexican décor. Parking is readily available both on the street and in a private lot directly across the street.

      According to my server, expansion plans are underway to conjoin the adjacent facility in the near future. This will provide accommodations for large parties and events with seating for up to 350 persons. Previously, mariachis and other live entertainment were hosted in the restaurant on the weekends. I take it that this will return. I do recall that, in the past, the music and vibe was quite loud at times, almost to the point of distraction for my fellow diners and me. Think Guelaguetza on Olympic in Koreatown.

      I will provide an addendum soon. Their carnitas looked amazing!

      1. re: degustateur

        Please keep us posted. Thanks to both you and OCAnn for the info on the ambiance of both places - this will definitely help us decide, depending on what kind of dining "mood" we're in and how large our group is.

    2. I was there a week after it opened. To me, El Farolito feels very homey with food to match. Tlaquepaque, in its newest format, is not homey and has a slightly upscale feel (compared to its previous incarnation and El Farolito) with food served the same way.

      When we went, I had the carnitas and found that I prefer El Farolito's more, but preferred the horchata @ Tlaquepaque. It sounds like I may have to do a return visit. =)

      El Farolito
      2737 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

      Tlaquepaque Restaurant
      120 S Mill St, Santa Paula, CA 93060