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Mar 28, 2012 06:56 PM

authentic mexican in Orange County - but not too divey!

Hi Folks.. a different spin on the "authentic mexican" question. I work in Newport beach. Father-in-law is in town and asking me to take him to authentic mexican place tomorrow evening with some other family folks. To define authentic for us.. .really a low bar.. we are asian... never been to mexico.. although like spicey food and know that most tex-mex is americanized up the wazoo. So no preference for regions or knowledge of regions.. but enjjoy great sales.. moles.. the wife's side of the family is vegetarian.. my side is not.

We will be based in Newport Beach.. and can drive to say Santa Ana or to Tustin or Laguna... but probably any further is problematic. On flip side, I'm not gong to Sol Cucina or Javiers!

Based on searches in this board there are many options in Santa Ana. However, it seems many of these options are cheap options vs. good sit-down options for a family with 2-3 kids. I'm not saying cheap = bad.. but I think will need a modicum of ambience for this crowd. [i however am salivating at some of these options mentioned for Santa Ana!!!]

Thank you for any suggestions.

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  1. In Costa Mesa for sit-down, there's Amorelia Mexican Cafe and Avila''s El Ranchito.

    1. Avila's in Newport is not good.

      I like Taco Rosa in Irvine, and there is one in Newport, too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jaykayen

        Avila's is a fine place to eat and drink, but it is not authentic, and I like Taco Rosa a lot, but it is not authentic either.

        Avila's is a little closer to what you might find in upscale/family restaurants in parts of Mexico. I was down there for a few weeks working a few years ago and had some wonderful steaks and high end meals since the dollar was so strong, and our party had the only gringos in the place, so I would consider it authentic. But most of the menu is more Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex.

        If you want to go along these lines, you can add El Torito Grill at Fashion Island to the list of options, but again, it is not going to be the real deal.

        Here is a recent thread along the same lines:

        Any of the recommendations from Das Ubergeek would be worth checking out, but you might want to call to see if they can go vegetarian. If the wife's family will eat seafood, I would try his recommendations for Mariscos Licenciado #2 or Mariscos Los Primos, in Anaheim or Ostionería Bahía in Orange.

        1. re: ocshooter

          Thank you for that link. I spent a good deal of time yesterday reading it! My quesiton is, of the restaurants mentioned which are the fanciest? a lot of yelp reviews of those restaurants suggest they are more casual/fast foody, vs. "nice" sit down. Doesn't have to be fancy, but has to be comfortable enough to not feel like a fast food/divey. Taco Tuesday shouldn't be the best selling point!

      2. Thank you for all of the responses! I will pass on Avilas and Taco Rosa. I don't find either of them particularly good to be honest (I went to Taco Rosa once on recommendation and found the food to be honestly very bland.. my wife who is not a foodie found it to be the same and was upset that i dragged her "all the way there".. which isn't that far).. and it I imagine the food isn't so authentic vs. what someone could easily find on the East Coast (where the in-laws are traveling from).

        1. I'm assuming you don't mind paying the price for fancy sit-down food, in which case I'll recommend Gabbi's in the Orange Circle. Most of the places in the other thread aren't exactly holes in the wall, but they're not linen-napkin places either. There are very, very few linen-napkin Mexican places in OC, and of those few, even fewer are actually authentic.

          If you're willing to lower the bar a little bit on the ambiance side, Ostionería Bahía would do fine, as would Fonda La Meche in Stanton, assuming they're OK with seafood and/or cheese; you could go to Casa Oaxaca in Santa Ana, but bear in mind that the vegetarians may have issues (the bean paste is always made with lard, for example).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Thank you. We are totally cool with not having fancy linen napkins etc. Just trying to avoid the $2 taco tuesday draw or garden plastic chairs in the dining room. Want it to be great food, but not "divey". Wine glasses not required by any means at all.

            Casa Oaxaca would have been great giving the location, but lack of vegarian options is an issue. Seasfood is not an option for the vegetarians as well.

            Realizign there may not be that "perfect" place -- what do you think the best option is in Santa Ana? I'm thinking Casa Oaxaca may be it. Having the wife call and her family can cope with the vegarian options there.

          2. Gabbi's in Orange is really nice and very authentic albeit authentic upscale Mexican cuisine. The food is great and it's fun watching them make their tortillas by hand.