best mexican in the OC?
- cessna_girl007 Jan 25, 2006 10:19 AM
hi! I'm new to this board and new to the OC, so I don't know if this has been discussed yet, but I would like to know where is the best mexican in orange county? I grew up in texas, so I LOVE mexican food. I just don't know where to find it here. thanks in advance for all of your help! =)
Welcome to the board!!!
My favorite place for Mexican is Taco Rosa in Newport Beach. Great menu, wonderfully prepared food and a FULL bar... :) Here's my review...
Now, if you are looking for Tex-Mex... that's a different beast, sadly, I'm not aware of any place that does it 'properly'... perhaps another post strictly on Tex-Mex might serve you better! :)
I agree with Dommy. There is another Taco Rosa in the Tustin Marketplace and it has never disappointed either myself or my office mates. I love the fact that they don't put down chips and salsa on the table when you are seated. Instead, they give you a basket that changes from time to time which may include tostaditas, chimichangas, etc. While the burritos, tostadas, tacos, and enchiladas are very good, I prefer the other items on the menu including pork in banana leaves, carne asada, arroz con pollo, and a terrific halibut steamed in banana leaves. The service is friendly and knowledgeable and they get you in and out in an hour, which is important when you're working. I live in L.A. and have a long drive to work, but my son is begging me to take him down there some night for dinner. The full bar is enticing but no napping after lunch allowed in my office! I can't say enough good things about this restaurant.
I don't know if I've found any Mexican food that really is absolutely spectacular, but here are my top choices for pretty good to really good Mexican food.
The SuperMex chain offers solid Mexican food that rarely disappoints. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either. Their Super Burritos that they serve enchilada-style are really good. There are multiple locations; the two I visit most often are the Fountain Valley and Irvine locations.
Taleo Mexican Grill is a pretty good upscale restaurant. Prices are higher than your regular Mesxican restaurants, where entrees will range in the $12-20 range, but it is really good stuff. This is located in Irvine off the Jamboree exit.
Taco Surf is another local chain, 6 or 7 locations mostly located near the coastal cities in OC that specializes more in adding fish and shrimp to the regular dishes like burritos and tacos. I've only been to the Costa Mesa location.
As Dommy mentioned Taco Rosa, Taco Mesa is a smaller, more simplified version that is not a sit-down restarant, but you order at the counter. Same owners as Taco Rosa, which is the newer restaurant.
There is also the Alberto's chain, which is good, but has some hit-and-miss dishes. There are many spinoffs from this chain, where names are slightly modified to Alerto's, Alejandro's, Alfredo's, etc. The food tastes pretty much the same at all these places. Food is cheap and pretty good, but there sometimes is an overabundance of lettuce in some dishes.
There are some mixed results at some places like Avila's El Ranchito. I have enjoyed the food at the Costa Mesa location, but others have reported disappointing results are some of their other OC locations.
There are other good Mexican restaurants like Don Ramon's in Huntington Beach, and Senor Ruben's in Fountain Valley.
I'm sure many others will add their favorites to the list. Hope this gets you off to a good start for your taste buds. :-)
Have found the Taco Mesa restaurants,especially the Newport location,to be a more authentic and enjoyable experience all around then the more upscale and gussied up food at Taco Rosa.The recipes at both places are very similar, yet Taco Mesa's food,besides being about 30-40% cheaper,seems to be gutsier and more flavorfull then Taco Rosa.The food at Taco Rosa is a bit more gentrified to appeal to its upscale clientele,and the blackened items are less spicy,and the food seems much tamer.Each time I have been there I come away dissapointed,while I have enjoyed the food each time at Taco Mesa.
re: stormin norman
I knew you knew it - just didn't want to confuse somebody new...
I like the shrimp taquitos w/ guac myself, but I'm trying to figure out what day those are the special - ie. if there is any pattern. Anyone know?
Actually, I like the blackened calamari salad at Taco Rosa the best of most of their lunch dishes - it does seem to have that kick to it.
re: torta basilica
I knew you knew I knew....Can't seem to find any rhyme or reason to their specials schedule...usually the CM branch serves their enchiladas in mole sauce on Tuesdays ,while the MV branch serves their mole specials on Saturday....but not always;go figure...I always find something I like
re: stormin norman
I have go agree with some of the other posters on Taco Mesa, even the original one on 19th St, that it is way overrated. I really don't see what people see in their food. It seems like people tell them it's good so they go with the crowd and say it's good too. One thing it is not is authentic. It doesn't even make the top 3 mexican places on 19th St., let alone Orange County. I'll bet if you went to TK Burger a few doors down and asked them to chop up the patty before putting it in the bun, it would qualify as a torta and rank higher than Taco Mesa. I would add Alejandros on 19th and Placentia for a fast, cheap meal. So TM may not even make the top 5 on 19th.
Also, would add
Mi Casa on 17th. CM
Don Jose, Magnolia and Adams in HB.
Super Pollo, a chicken place but with a very good carned asada burrito. Superior and 17th, CM. Across from the Tower Records or whatever it will end up being.
Super Mex, various locations.
I laugh that Taco Mesa is now non-hip. You're really going to compare it to Don Jose or Super Mex. Come on. I mean I love El Gran and El Toro Bravo, but you have to give credit to Taco Mesa when they first showed up for stretching the idea of Mexican out. Plus daily specials and soups. Their fish special on fridays with the carrots and mashed veggie for 9.99$ is so good for that price- the steak tacos with bacon. It's not AMAZING and it's not HYPE. I'm not going to drive across town to go there, but I've lived down the street for 8 years now and I end up going to Taco Mesa more than any other nearby restaurant.
If you have friends who are hyping Taco Mesa then you have friends who need to get out more. Don't hate it because of them.
I LOVE Taco Mesa, and could give a rip if it is "authentic", I'm looking for good! Authentic takes a second seat to delicious. Period. And, Taco Mesa is a fantastic value. Their bacon wrapped shrimp filled with a soft Mexican cheese is about the best food I've eaten period...and for only $10 for the entire meal!
If you're looking for cheap carne asada burritos, I think the ones at Taco Factory in Tustin (Walnut/Newport) are clearly superior to the ones at Albertos. The strips of beef in the burrito are simply much more flavorful, tender and better marinated than the asada in Albertos' burritos.
Here a few of my favorites:
Los Cabos on Tustin in the city of Orange is probably my tops. Lots of long time customers and awesome staff .
El Faralito in Placentia is really good with amazing fresh chips and spicy red salsa.
There's a place called La Casita on Lincoln in Anaheim/Orange that is pretty awesome and really quaint; haven't been there in a while, though.
For fast food mexican there's a place called El Taco, one in Tustin one in Anaheim, that is pretty amazing. Their taco sauce in the packets is sort of unbelievable. It's got a little coco powder in it. The quesadillas are unique, decadent, and delicious. The taquitos are strangely unparalleled. It's quite a bit better than Alberto's, in my opinion.
There are many others, so just try some out.
I think El Farolito in Placentia is by far the best Mexican restaurant in Orange County.
Others, like Taco Mesa, are just Americanized Mexican. If you're looking for a counter service, Jalapeno's is pretty good, and IMO, a lot better than Taco Mesa. I am probably the lone dissenter here, but I seriously do not understand the infatuation with Taco Mesa. Mediocre at best, and they only take cash (no debit cards).
Taleo in Irvine is good for upscale Mexican (though some dishes, like the quesadilla appetizer, are a miss). I do like Javier's, though I prefer the Laguna location over the Irvine one. There's also a good Mexican restaurant in San Juan called Ricardo's. Similar to El Farolito with delicious carne asada. I also still like El Matador in Costa Mesa, even though it has been threw a few ownership changes-it's a hole in the wall and has been around forever, but I love it for a big old plate of greasy Mexican food.
While I respect you don't like Taco Mesa, your information about it is wrong. They take more than cash - I've used my debit card there (at both Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa) I would call to confirm what forms of payment they take if you're wondering.
Also, what you call "Americanized" is simply "not Baja." Taco Mesa is lighter fare, though, diet wise.
Their website ( http://www.tacomesa.net/ ) and the writing below describes their venue of recipes as "rooted in pre-Columbian cooking fused with Spanish, French and Southwestern culinary influences" (writing applies becuae it is quite similar to Taco Rosa and is same proprietors)
See, aslo, http://www.ocweekly.com/food/grub-gui...
If you want good "Americanized" Mexican, go to The Hacienda in Santa Ana (weekday lunch only; Sunday Brunch). I like it, but it is definitely "Americanized" Mexican food.
re: kc girl
Perhaps it is only the Taco Mesa in Ladera Ranch, but I know for a fact that they do not take debit cards.
Maybe it's the "health" factor of Taco Mesa that I don't like. I expect my Mexican food to be greasy, and Taco Mesa, like you said, is lighter than your typical Mexican food. I just don't like it all that much-I know everyone in OC loves it, but I remain unimpressed.
You're not the only one unimpressed with Taco Mesa. I've also only been to the one in Ladera Ranch and you are correct about them only taking cash there, which seems weird. With all the positive feedback you hear about them here, I figured possibly the other branches were different/better, because I don't taste anything special there at all. So many of the dishes are topped with a lot of raw-tasting bitter paprika/chile powder that completely overwhelms the food. I want to like it because their patio with fountain and mountain views is a nice place to relax, but so far, I just don't get it...
re: stormin norman
That's probably true, the original is usually the best. Another example of that kind of thing is the tiny taco shack La Sirena in Laguna, which I like a lot. A while back they opened a second place in the strip mall across the highway from Montage Resort in S. Laguna and to me the 2nd one just doesn't have the same pizazz as the original. I don't understand why it's so difficult for the offshoot branches to copy the original kitchen's food exactly.
re: kc girl
Thanks kc girl. When I think Americanized I think Don Jose or Mi Casa or Mario's not Taco Mesa. Yes I have friends who don't like Taco Mesa and I also have friends who don't like sushi. You can not like Taco Mesa and that's okay but you not liking it doesn't make it suck all of a sudden. And I've never even been to Ladera Ranch let alone eaten there.
They have great Mexican breakfast at the Coyote Grill restaurant in South Laguna. Their lunch and dinner is average. Not bad, nothing special. Happy hour can be fun there and a litle ocean view from the patio. http://www.coyotegrill-lagunabeach.com/
Also, in Laguna is a lunch casual, to-go or eat-in counter-order place with fresh Mexican called La Sirena Grill (2 of them , actually). There's one by main beach on Mermaid Street and there's one across Pacific Coast Hwy from The Montage Resort. http://lasirenagrill.com/
Looks like there is one in Irvine now, too. I have not been to that one yet. The original La Sirena Grill is on Mermaid Street, a whole in the wall that proved fantastic and worth expanding.
Taco Mesa is a unique style of Mexican food. But, I would not call it Americanized. I would call it fresh and healthy, so maybe that seems "American?" There are no plates covered in hot, oozing, plentiful cheese (for that, I really like El Matador Restaurant ~ 1768 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa) In fact, some of the cheese they use at Taco Mesa is low fat, but you can't tell by the taste. Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa is Oaxacan, pre-Columbian cooking fused with Spanish, French and Southwestern culinary influences. Much of their menus is duplicative, but Taco Rosa expands their menu and has daily specials (and increases some prices) (and, the Costa Mesa Taco Mesa can get kind of grungy at times. Not the kitchen or the food, but the patio tables. Costa Mesa 17th street is the original location of Taco Mesa. It's in the old Taco Bell building.)
How can you go through best Mexican in OC and not one mention of any place in Santa Ana.
I will give you two and an area.
El Rincon Chilango W 17th Street ( right opposite Ship Inn )
El Taco Rincon South Main street .(Great $1.50 tacos )
( Also just take a drive along South Main Street and stop at any place and try them )
p.s. Taco Mesa is very good but best Mexican on 19th street Costa Mesa are El Granjenal, Toro Bravo and El Chinaco. ( Jugos Acapulco can be pretty good as well )
p.p.s Also i like Super Antojitos ( i have a taste for the mole :-) )
El Granjenal is decent -- worth driving the short distance from the 55 -- but not great, and I have trouble forgetting a night earlier this year when someone ran over a skunk on 19th just outside the (semi-enclosed) stand, and no employee called the Costa Mesa animal-disposal unit or shoveled the dead beast into a closed container or even put up a fan to blow the fetid air back into the parking lot. Everything seemed to be confused, because I ordered carnitas and chicken, but they served me limburger tacos with durian guisado.
Taqueria El Granjenal
899 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Here are a few of my favorites:
Baja style fish tacos:
Los Cotijas Taco Shop
642 E 1st St
Baja style fish tacos and ceviche:
Pepe's taco truck
Corner of Main and Pine
One block south of 1st
All sorts of tacos, burritos and sides:
Taqueria Y Tortilleria El Campion
31921 Camino Capistrano #15,
San Juan Capistrano
(also a very small version on Harbor and Wilson in Costa Mesa)
El Gallo Giro
(love the website
)Location closest to you is Bristol in Santa Ana
De Anda Taqueria (many locations)
From OC Weekly:
Taqueria de Anda makes fine tacos, but its real specialty lies in its burritos. Especially alluring is Anda's beef tongue version, which the always-working cooks prepare so exquisitely you'll want to confess to your priest that you thought for a fleeting moment you were Frenching a cow and liking it. 308 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, (714) 871-4211. Also at 1029 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-0856; 1505 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 956-9359; 221 S. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, (714) 821-4055, and pretty much any city with a Mexican section;
650 N. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92867
201 S Bradford Ave
Placentia, CA 92870-5616
re: oc climber
I most often find myself across the street from El Campion, at El Molino de Oro, because it's next door to a Kinko's and a Starbuck's. El Molino has also gotten good reviews here and the two places look rather similar to the uninitiated. Are you familiar with El Molino and could you compare the two?
I stopped at El Campion once and found that I needed to dredge up more of my unused Spanish moreso that at El Molino. But both seem to use steam tables and you stand at the food counter while they prepare your food. I recommended El Molino to someone who found that a turn-off because he though the food wasn't as fresh as if from a kitchen. I guess he doesn't get into restaurant kitchens much as I would think that many slow-cooked items are in steam trays in the kitchens you can't see.
re: Veronica C
I saw this and other recommendations for Javier's in Laguna Beach, so I decided to try it for my one getaway day from a convention in Anaheim. It is now an El Callejon, apparently changing earlier this month. The cochinta pibil was very tasty. What was really new to me was my first glass of a Mexican Nebbiolo from L. A. Cetto in Baja. This was very nice, keeping varietal character while in a more fruit-forward than usual style, and a great match with the food.
Stuartmm is sooo right. The best Mexican on 19th street Costa Mesa are El Granjenal, El Toro Bravo and El Chinaco.
I have had a decent torta at El Rincon Chilango in Santa Ana.
My favorite in Santa Ana is Zapatas Grill on Bristol and Alton where the Target shopping center is. The best tortas I have had since I lived in Mexico.
Serranos on Warner off of Bristol makes some good tacos too.
hi! I'm brand new too and this is my first post! Personally, I'm not a fan of Javier's, but their LB location has beautiful views and great Margaritas! Avila's El Ranchito has not been one of my favorites, but I hear the one in Newport/Costa Mesa is different from the rest. The ones I have been to I haven't cared for. I went to Taco Rosa once and their salsa was tasty and the meal I had was great. Definitely not a greasy spoon and a little upscale. Maybe it was more Southern Mexico style, I'm not sure about regions of cooking for Mexican food!
I really love Las Barcas in Huntington Beach. Definitely a "greasy spoon" but so tasty! I also like the burritos at Las Golondrinas in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano, but I don't think they're really considered Mexican food, per say. Another good burrito is the Albertacos (or whatever name each one is called!) chain. I like places that serve Jamaica (red hibiscus tea/punch) and many places don't serve it!
Also, if you like what I like to call "Cali-Mex" or maybe what people call Baja style, I adore Wahoo's fish tacos. They serve what they say are "killer grinds" which is great food in surfer-speak.
Thanks everyone for your replies--you have given me some new places to try!
I also love Las Barcas in Huntington Beach on Beach Blvd. north of Pch in the Rite-Aid/Big Lots center. Great food, chips, and the self-serve salsa bar is terrific (especially for its milder salsas that taste great and won't burn your tongue). The only problem is that its not a great place to dine at because there are no servers or alcohol and the dining area is very small and fills up quickly. For Mexican food dining at a big beautiful restaurant in HB, I like La Capilla on Adams next to Beach Blvd.
A couple of others:
The Chili Pepper in Santa Ana/Orange. Main Street south of Chapman. They have an awesome weekend brunch if you like the Mexican breakfast.
Pepe's in Fullerton on Placentia at Nutwood. This one is more greasy taco stand style. Really good.
Las Barcas, Beach Blvd in Huntington Beach has been my addiction for 20 years now...fantastic soft chicken tacos, carne asada and carnitas too. Fresh made to order, very generous with the meat, very healthy too. It's an HB institution, founded by Argentineans who seem to have a knack for gourmet quality twists on "Mexican" and "Italian" food from my experience.
Los Sanchez has become a recent favorite of mine, having the best nachos that I've been able to find in OC so far. Large size portions, plenty of hot melted cheese, large portions of beans and whichever meat selection, enchilada sauce added, and large heaps of sour cream and guacamole served on a separate second plate.
If anyone's found better nachos in OC, please post about it, because Los Sanchez has set a high standard to me, and no other place has come remotely close that I've found.
I'd recommend El Faralito in Placentia for a deliciously authentic mexican meal. I've never been disappointed by the food at this place and I've been going here for the past 15 years. It's a family run restaurant that's located in old town Placentia. I'd recommend the Burrito Especial, Steak Picado, and a regular ala carte burrito with carnitas, beans, and pico de gallo...YUM!!! the margaritas are also quite tasty =)
Time to plug El Molino de Oro, in San Juan Capistrano. It's a order-at-the-counter place that is really something to talk about:
El Molino de Oro
31886 Plaza Drive
There is also another great mexican place diagonally across the intersection of Camino Capistrano and Del Obispo from it. The name always escapes me but it is just as good if not maybe a little more 'authentic'. The clientele seems to be more non-english-speaking, if that's a positive indicator.
My personal favorites are:
Mario's at five points plaza in Huntington Beach - Awesome shrimp and scallop enchilada, also known for their margarita's!
Chronic Taco's in Huntington beach on the corner of Orange & 11th st
I highly recommend the grilled shrimp taco's - Baja style
Huge portions and they make your food however you want it!
An old post, but useful. Chronic has fantastic potato tacos (if they're still on the menu) -- like, fantastic fantastic.
For my money, though, can't beat Taco Mesa... those tacos alambre are the stuff of dreams.
El Farolito has a "junior" -- literally, it's called "El Farolito Jr." -- on East Street about 100 feet south of the 91 freeway in Anaheim where they have absolutely insanely good tacos al pastor at night, and CHEAP.
I don't know -- I know there's one in Newport and one in Huntington, it wouldn't shock me to find out there's a third. I don't usually venture too far into the 949, so someone else may know better.
And let's not forget the reigining king and queen of the fish taco -- El Taco Nazo, on Beach Blvd. in La Habra (yes, that's still OC!) and Senor Baja, in a bizarre location at Weir Canyon and Serrano, next to the Ralphs in the butt end of Anaheim Hills practically in Riverside County. Best. Shrimp. Tacos. EVER.
In north OC, El Farolito in Placentia (already mentinoned in several replies) is excellent.
Also, El Camino Real on Euclid Ave. in Fullerton is worth a trip. Anita's New Mexican on Harbor in Fullerton represents the kind of food one sees in New Mexico and southern Colorado--if you know the answer to "Red or Green?" you know what I mean. Also Taqueria de Anda has great burritos (several locations).
El Fortin on Commonwealth in Fullerton has great Oaxacan food.
After reading praises on here and from a friend about El Farolito, I made an effort to try the place for lunch on a Saturday. I wasn't very impressed from what I tried, carnitas. It wasn't bad, but it was all that memorable either. It was just eh. Maybe I tried the wrong dish as my friend said she always gets arroz con pollo. And the chips weren't very good at all, hard and stale tasting even though they seem recently fried.
for the best mexican I enjoy going to Santa Ana or Costa Mesa. Keep in mind that many of these places are hole in the wall (and you usually feel like you are in mexico, as some do not have people working there who speak english)
for Santa Ana I enjoy El Picante on Standard just south of Edinger. It is a small place right next to a lavanderea (sp?). They have the best carne asada sope (like a tostada but with a thick crisp base) They make then fresh so they are not heavy. Their salsa is also amazing (you get 3 different, homemade ones at your table) If you like horchata you must have some here, they make it fresh daily and it is hands down the best I have ever had.
for Costa Mesa I recommend cruising down 19th street. You will have to go down a little ways. Jugos Acapulcos has great temales, as well as a wide assortment of fresh juices. if you keep going down there is a strip mall with an Alijandro's (I think that's what it's called) on the corner. If you go in that shopping center you will find a very good and authentic panderea as well as a restaurant in the corner or the center - check it out, very good food.
Taco Rosa in Tustin Marketplace serves nice tamales (especially the mini sweet corn tamalitos), and the restaurant itself is very nice. The other dishes overall are decent, but the black beans are bland. I have not yet found a truly authentic Mexican place since moving to OC but I haven't tried that many places to be fair. But I have found El Gallo Giro in Santa Ana has great pan Mexicano, and I understand they also do good tortas and liquados.
I am going to try some of these places especially the ones recommended by ajoy. They sound more on the mark.
Does anyone know where to get good sopes? My mom has been looking for these.
I'm a Mex food lover and have eaten at many of the recos on this thread. To me, the notable standouts are Taco Rosa (terrific Sunday brunch buffet, though I don't care for their margaritas), Taco Mesa (at least the Mission Viejo and Orange branches. Their blackened chicken burrito is wonderful, and try their off-the-menu Chillaquillas-with-chicken-and-eggs off the menu), Javier's (great though price margaritas, and their seafood entrees - notably the Cabo Azul combination - are the best in OC) and Taleo's.
Two restaurants that don't get much mention here are Gabbi's off the circle in Orange, which to me is the best-kept Mex secret in the OC. Good margarita's, terrific chile rellenos and tacos de hongos - upscale Mex similar to Javier's. And for those of you living near Foothill Ranch, check out Miguel's. They have a nice bar and fine margaritas at good prices. They have three or four wonderful dishes in the restaurant, anything with their carnitas (which are the best I've tasted, bar none), chile rellenos, carne asada and their "tacos for two", which is really tacos for four, and comes with carne, carnitas and chicken. Straight ahead, basic mexican, but all very tasty.
My favorite authentic style Mexican is in Laguna Hills (and a new location in Lake Forest) called 'La Rana'
If you like Taco Bell or Baja Fresh style "Mexican" food you probably won't enjoy 'La Rana'. My favorites there are:
Zucchini Flower Quesadilla made from handmade corn tortilla
Tacos Al Pastor and fish tacos
Shredded Beef Gorditas
27001 Moulton Pkwy (Oso Pkwy)
Laguna Hills, CA 92656
Just went to Gabbi's last night for dinner. I thought it was much better than Javier's. The shrimp with green mole and empanadas stuffed with plantains and black beans, in particular, were delicious (my hubby also loved the chile rellenos). Definitely more upscale though (a lot more fancy than the Mexican places I grew up with), and it's not cheap either. It's a nice place to take a date or for a special occasion.
There are two places that I consider for truly authentic Mexican food in the OC. Taqueria De Anda & Taqueria Garcia.
Taqueria De Anda is well know in these parts for serving up a truly authentic Mexican Taco. Simply, grill heated corn tortillas, meat of choice...carne asada, alpastor, pollo, and carnitas. Including other Mexican favorites that you just won't seen on the menu at 'Americanized' Mexican food restaurants like lengua, sessos, cabeza, and buche. Added to those two are, your choice, clinatro or onion, or both. It doesn't get any simpler or more authentic than that. If preferred you can have either a green or red salsa added on. Click on link for locations. (Picture below is a plate of tacos from Taqueria De Anda)
Taqueria Garcia, long version: The food here is brilliant; authentic Mexican food. Tasty food that is very affordable. Don't expect to find 'sour cream' or shredded 'chedder' or 'jack' cheeses in or on their foods/dishes. It's authentic Mexican crema & queso fresco here. Even the juices are freshly made. And don't get me started on their red & green salsas served with your chips. Oh yes, they're 'pan' roasted chiles used for them. You'll see them 'cooking' them up throughout the day. You don't come here for the ambiance, though they do have a jukebox with all Mexican music. Tiny place in a tiny strip mall. The staff is friendly and appreciate your business.
500 S Euclid St
Anaheim, CA 92802
I'm definitely throwing my hat in for both El Toro Bravo and El Gallo Giro. I've eaten Mexican all around the county and in Los Angeles and for me, those are two standouts. I don't mean to be a downer, but I think Taco Mesa has gone way down hill. The location on 19th in Costa Mesa was a staple for us in the late nineties but now it's never on my radar. The last disappointing meal we had there was a few months back and I have no intention of giving it a final shot. I'm not sure if they've declined over the years or if I've just grown tired of their singular flavor profile that dominates most of the dishes.
I'll only give a small warning on El Toro Bravo. It can be "peasanty" at times so watch out for bits of cartilage and crystalline fat in some of the "alternative" cuts like neck and ribs.
R. Jason Coulston
P.S. - For hardcore hangover food, Alejandro's drive through on 19th in Costa Mesa is a sure fire bet. It's hard to beat a pile of french fries covered in carnitas and salsa. Authentic? Not by a long shot, but authentic enough for Westside denizens.
Forgot to mention Los Sanchez restaurant. Totally authentic 'Sonora Style' Mexican food. A huge menu (that also includes Mexican caldos (soups) and seafood) with huge portions!. Just check this out...
Carne Asada (char-broiled beef)
Chile Verde (pork)
Chile Colorado (beef)
Enchiladas (2, beef, pork, chicken or cheese)
Tacos (any meat)
Taquitos (3, chicken or beef)
La Tostada Grande
Al Pastor (pork)
Lengua (beef tongue)
Chilaquiles (tortilla chips w/ cheese)
Milanessa (breaded meat)
Burrito Dinner (any kind of meat)
Chimichangas (choice of any meat)
Higado Encebollado (liver & onions)
Pollo Frito o Empanizado (fried or breaded chicken)
Chuletas de Puerco (pork chops)
Quesadilla (meat or cheese)
Not sure why some on this post are lauding Taco Rosa. It's not very good. Best thing about the place is the Taco Tuesday (tacos for $1 - only the carnitas taco is good).
Want REAL mexican? Check out El Campeon Carniceria in Costa Mesa. Order your food inside then go sit outside on the cheesy metal tables and enjoy. CHEAP and authentic.
Taqueria Don Victor.
I saw this place driving down Beach blvd after a surf in Huntington Beach.
I had no idea what it was or what they were selling. The clientele looked like the real deal standing in front so I stopped in for a bite.
Lamb in hand made tortillas = my kind of place.
It's not for the meek because it looked like a bomb went off inside of the place. I got my food to go and was a happy camper camping on the 405 freeway trying to get home.
Is it the best who knows. It's the only mexican food I've had in the OC but it was legit.
OK, I'm going to stick up a little bit for Taco Rosa.
Is it at all like the food you get in Mexico? Nah.
Is it the best in any single category (seafood, tacos, meats, combo plates, etc.)? No.
However, it fills a niche that I desperately need filled, which is a Mexican restaurant that I can bring vegetarians, Jewish people, picky kids, people who are freaked out by "exotic" food and people who don't like holes-in-the-wall (yes, all at once!). It's decent service, they do decent drinks, and it isn't stunningly, stupidly overpriced like Javier's.
I can't have a family dinner at El Campeon (not nice enough). I can't have a family dinner at Javier's (too expensive). I can't have it at Mariscos Puerto Esperanza (nothing for vegetarians). I can't have it at El Rincon Chilango (can't fit 11-12 people in there at one table and still not nice enough).
Do I love Taco Rosa? No. But I like it OK and it fills a need.
We went to Taco Rosa to try their Taco Tuesday (our standby Fresca's in Brea isn't as good as it used to be); unfortunately their TT is limited to the bar and there were no seats, so we sat in the main dining room and ordered off menu. I thought they were pretty solid. We had the puerco pibil and the lobster fajitas. Nothing was overly salted, sauced or cheesed, but flavoured just fine; nothing was too Americanised. Unfortunately, they had no horchata, so I had the watermelon agua fresca. All told, chips & guacamole, two beverages, and two dinner specials was just under $40 after tax (pre tip).
While I'm not sure I'd go back for dinner ($40 seems high for Mexican--maybe I'm being cheap), I'd certainly return for their brunches....
Another of my favourites these days is Molcasalsa on Imperial @ Harbor in Brea. Love those carne asada burritos & horchatas....
El Farolita is very good. Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa is pretty good. Los Sanchez is very good.
Las Barcas in Huntington Beach is also good. Coming from a real picky Mexican, here.
Stay away from Don Joses, Don Ramons, Marios chains and Javier's. I will have to try Taco Rosa from what I see. .
Best Mexican Food in O.C. is Gabbi's on Glassel in Orange, just South of the circle in old down town. They are Mexican/Yucatan, Fresh food and a Great Ambience!
Indeed a challenging inquiry. OC is blessed with an array of establishments featuring solid Mexican food. Most are holes-in-the-wall and, IMHO, there are virtually no real heavyweights, e.g. Rivera, Babita, Frida. As such, I am forced to acquiesce to categorical suggestions:
2056 South Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92707
Awesome hole-in-the-wall in South Santa Ana. Carnitas, Cueritos (pig face), Trompas (pig lips), tripas, buches, cabeza, moronga (blood sausage), chicharrones, manteca (lard), etc. The fresh, fried pork stuff comes out the giant lard pot at about noon everyday. These folks take real pride in what they do and it shows in every bite. The carnitas by the pound is extraordinarily good. Get it whole or cut in larger-sized chunks, not all chopped-up. Be sure to ask for the handmade tortillas ($ xtra). Get a bag of each of their salsas, gratis. Da bomb!
Best Fine Dining Experience:
Javier’s Cantina & Grill
7832 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.
(in Crystal Cove near Bluefin)
Newport Beach, CA
45 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Great, higher-end, yet traditional Mexican. Superb vibe and service. The Crystal Cove location is, perhaps, one of the world’s most beautiful Mexican restaurants. Killer ocean view and a truly magnificent bar. Love their Surf & Turf (steak & lobster). Ask for the re-fried black beans.
El Indio Tortilleria
1502 West 5th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703-2902
Charming hole-in-the-wall where everything is delicious from their fresh, house-made tortillas and chips to their chicharrones. Fantastic chicken mole. Awesome burritos, especially their tripas, buches and chorizo.
El Rincon Chilango
1133 W. 17th Street
Santa Ana, CA
Tel: (714) 836-5096
Tasty tlacoyos, quesadillas and tacos canastas. Delicious chilaquiles con huevos. Amazing barbacoa de chivo (baby goat) on weekends only. Fabulous foodstuffs prepared in authentic D. F. (District Federal, Mexico City) tradition. Service is generally slow since everything is made to order.
906 E. Washington Ave.
Santa Ana, CA
Wonderful cheese enchiladas. Ground beef ones are good too! Love their chile rellenos. Start off with a cheese crisp and their secret salsa in a squeeze bottle. Beer and very good wine margaritas. Sammy, Martha and the crew provide excellent, attentive service to ensure your complete satisfaction. Never a disappointment in 25 years.
Mariscos Puerto Esperanza
1724 N. Tustin Ave.
Chef Santiago and his wife Concha Vallejo have graced OC with some of the finest Sinaloan/Nyarit style cuisine to be found stateside. Santiago’s 30 + years of restaurant experience is apparent in every dish he offers. A must have is the Pescado Robalo Zarandeados, a savory whole white fish from the waters off Mazatlan. Grilled to perfection and topped with an exquisite roasted chile and tomato sauce. Served with grilled marinated veggies, two styles of rice and frijoles borrachos, it’s guaranteed to rock your culinary world. The langostinos and the lobster are certified alternatives. Love their basic but exquisite cheese enchiladas (off menu). Robust margaritas made with a special tequila (agave) wine from Mexico and a unique horchata slush are requisite accompaniments.
1. A cousin of the family behind El Rincon Chilango has opened a restaurant on Lincoln near Euclid called Los Chilangos. Same menu, same quality, a little bit faster, but also a bit more bright-light cafeteria looking.
2. Be patient at Puerto Esperanza; they got a glowing review in the Reg a couple of weeks ago and were apparently very quickly "dans la merde"—totally overwhelmed by a suddenly-full restaurant, which I honestly think they've never had before.
Having lived in New Mexico six years and visited on many other occasions, Mexican chow in So Cal is nothing if not a big disappointment. Having said that, some urges are primal and need to be satisfied so strangely enough two extremes of the refined and basic vie for attention. Namely, Taleo on the refined end, especially for seafood and some comforting if not knock your socks off enchiladas. On the basic side, just a smidgeon outside OC on PCH in LB, Enrique's beckons. Nice camarones con ajo (off menu) and chicken soup with avocado, ole. IMHO Taco Mesa only for the experience (suits, students & bikers, oh my) and Taco Rosa & Javier's for NE visitors. And Avila's is to laugh. Still need to try Gabbi's in the quest for salvation.
re: Das Ubergeek
So checked out most recent reviews could find on web for rec #1, Mariscos Puerto Esperanza. Extracts:
Reviewer #1 (12/14/09): ".. a major disappointment. Maybe this place used to be a stellar restaurant.....shrimp wasn't de-veined and the "tostada" was a stale tortilla out of the box.... seafood was over-cooked.... relatively inexpensive, but considering the quality, I don't think we would go back....".
Reviewer #2 (12/12/09)"....What was unforgiveable was the quality of the food......salsa which could at best be described as "angry water". .....relleno appetizer .... casket of chewy, over-cooked shellfish..... ."Langostinos Zaraneados" was another vessel of over-cooked sea creatures...... "Salmon Yucatan" ($12.95) ...... not only was the fish over-cooked as well, but the grilled veggies were bone-chilling cold...."
Those undoubtedly just came from the OC Register, which had reviewed MPE on 12/09/2009. Give it a couple of weeks and try it, because apparently they were totally overwhelmed.
Also, apparently the deveining thing is an American affectation; I had the same complaint about Mariscos Chente (which is heralded as the best marisqueria in LA) but apparently raw shrimp are not deveined, and once I ordered cooked food (at Chente) I was much, much happier.
And even if you skip MPE, that leaves you six places to go on my little list there. Be aware that some of them (El Rincon, Los Chilangos and Las Brisas) are actually Mexican, rather than the Mexican-American, soi-disant Sonora style found in New Mexico.
re: Das Ubergeek
Not wanting to eat the dirty and often sandy-gritty digestive tract is an American "affectation"? If so, count me among the affected. On New Years Eve I deveined a passel of very large prawns from Mexico -- I wish I had a photo of my work waste to post here!
I haven't been to MPE, but I agree with bernardo's reviewers (and Ubergeek), at least in principle.
re: Harry Nile
I seem to encounter un-deveined shrimp in Mexican places. I don't like taking them out myself at the table, but I do it if I have to. My problem at Chente with the aguachile is that the prawns were butterflied open and the vein was loose. You could have plunged it in water and jiggled it and it would have floated away, but they didn't.
I haven't had the aguachile at MPE; I don't like aguachile, I've discovered. That said, I have eaten my share of shrimp at MPE and while I can't swear they didn't have veins, I didn't notice them or go "ewwww, sandy vein" at any point.
I have been to this restaurant a dozen of times within the last couple of months and have never had a bad experience. I agree with Das Ubergeek that they may have been overwhelmed after the article in the Register. I've tried almost every item on their menu. Every dish is flavorful and prepared in ways I've never had. It is extremely unfortunate that they were understaffed.
The direction this discussion is taking reminds that there's no unique criteria for "best" Mexican or any varietal or ethnic cuisine for that matter. There's no doubt a wide variety of regional cuisines in Mexico that logically would not be pitted against each other (like pitting Cantonese vs Chiu Chow vs Hunan vs Shanghai vs Sezhuan?). And then there's the matter of "authentic" or eclectic or country-style or peasant or whatever, each a category in its own right. Would you really pit CA vs Southern vs Texan vs New England? Or pizza vs BBQ vs chicken vs steak? Or greasy spoons vs family style vs eclectic fine dining? Maybe what works is suggesting some winners within narrower and better defined categories and styles. The "best" undeveined shrimp and fried grasshoppers in the world may not be what the OP had in mind. Or maybe........
Previous poster recommended La Chiquita on Washington in Santa Ana. This place has been around for close to 50 years and with the new owner (about 30 years) has lnot changed.
A ulnique item to try is the sopito. We love the bean and stringed beef and have been ordering it since 1970. It is amazing and we can't just seem to get past this item!
For above average bean/rice combo type cuisine, try Casa Brito in westminster.
I had the enchiladas suisas plate last time and it did not disappoint. Really good camarones plates and mojarra frita, too. Cute waitresses. It's on Westminster blvd.
between edwards and goldenwest. Don't confuse this place with Casa Gamino, which is right down the street. While the food there is okay, Casa Brito is simply better.
Casa Brito Mexican Food
6618 Westminster Boulevard, Westminster, CA - (714) 891-7513
For something a little different, I heartily recommend Sarinana Tamale Factory at:
2218 W 5th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Not only are the tamales fantastic, but the hard shell ground beef tacos are heavenly. They are memorable to be sure. This place has been around forever I think. My entire family enjoys this place immensely.
Taqueria de Anda.
i frequent Placentia. but other locations include Fullerton and Orange
My list of AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurants.. coming from a person that has traveled to 5 different Mexican cities and has a Mexican Bf.
Mariscos Puerto Esperanza in Orange - The best Mexican Seafood dishes
Jalapenos in Tustin - We frequent this place for take out.. tacos, burritos..
Costa Brava Santa Ana - Also famous for Mexican Seafood
Carnitas Los Reyes - Tustin - The best Carnitas!
I also like Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa.
My family has been going here for over 40 years. It is not part of that awful Don Jose chain. They also have one in Lake Elsinore. The best Rellenos, Tamales, beans, chips, everything is tops. You would never be disappointed here. We live in Vegas now, but when we come to CA the first place we go is Don Jose's.
Don Jose'smexican Restaurant
9093 Adams Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
One I can cross of the list now is Del Agave, in San Clemente. We've lived here several years and had pretty much decided that, believe it or not, Avila's was the best in town. But I'd seen some good reviews of Del Agave so we tried it Saturday night.
I wouldn't say it was bad. The space is very nice, the service good and the salsa was very good. But the food just seemed to lack imagination. I don't know........... too bland???
My wife had a combo of chicken taco and chicken enchilada (her standard) The plate looked just fine except it was very 'salad-y' (if you can picture it). The taco was OK, she said, but the enchilada had no sauce over it, just lettuce and lots of salsa fresca. The rice and beans were good.
I had my standby: Carnitas. Very nice sized portion, with lots of guacamole and salsa, rice and beans. But the carnitas were pretty bland. Not much flavor although the texture was good.
Price was not too over-the-top but the above, with no drinks, was $31(without tip), so this was no bargain either.
I don't want to badmouth a place if I'm missing the idea of some specific regional style of cooking........ and I tend not to like over-sauced dishes or greasy ones, but this was a surprise. Could be just under-spiced/sauced for the traffic here?
215 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672