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Monday, March 13, 2006

Javier's Cantina and Grill - Review #1

IMPORTANT UPDATE (February 11, 2008):

Javier's in Laguna has closed down. The Irvine location is still open and the Crystal Cove location has just opened. CLICK HERE to read all our extensive Javier's Cantina coverage including information on their location that is still open, their location that has just opened, and their location at a Mexican resort (includes a couple dozen photos).

Javier's Cantina & Grill
480 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Javier's Exterior

The parking situation here was almost enough to make me drive away and never come back. One of my pet peeves is places with insufficient parking, or tight parking, or expensive parking. Javier's shares with other nearby shops a two-story parking garage where you have to purchase a parking voucher from a machine. The machine doesn't take bills so you have to go to a change machine in another part of the structure then go back to the machine that gives you a parking pass then go back to your car to put the pass on your dash. I don't know who the Einsteins are that came up with that arrangement. The machine says that parking is $1.50 per hour but you really get ten minutes for every quarter you put in so if you think you might be just over an hour just put in $1.75 or $2.00. I was thinking at first that it would only take amounts in increments of $1.50 but that's not the case. So, that is one good point. You can also try your luck parking in a residential area then walking back to the restaurant. If you go to their other location at the Irvine Spectrum (which, oddly enough, their official site doesn't even acknowledge) you'll have different types of parking-related headaches to deal with.

It is also hard to see Javier's from out front. All the store fronts on this strip are jammed closely together so that nothing stands out. If you've never been before you'll have to pay attention to the numbers on the shops when locating Javier's for the first time.

Javier's Chicken Taco Plate
Javier's Chicken Taco Plate

Javier's Mole Poblano
Javier's Mole Poblano

My friend Sherry tells me that Javier's started when Javier worked at another Mexican restaurant nearby and was mistreated by his employer. He put up with it for a while, then finally got tired of it, quit and started his own restaurant which did so well it put his former employer out of business. If that is all true then I say more power to Javier and down with mean people. If you're a mean person stop being mean.

Javier's Interior - Sherry and Zach in Foreground

After ordering our food arrived very quickly, maybe in three or four minutes. But it didn't seem to have been prepared in a rush. Sherry and Zach each ordered the chicken taco plate and I ordered the mole poblano. I might even say it's the best mole sauce I've ever had; everything about it seemed to be perfectly balanced and complementary to the perfectly cooked chicken it smothered. One thing I'd prefer, and I'll readily admit this is my own idiosyncracy, is that I always wish they'd sprinkle even more sesame seeds on top of the mole. And I mean lots and lots of sesame seeds. But that's just me. And maybe next time I should just ask for it.

Javier's Flan
Javier's Flan

Javier's Deep-fried Ice Cream
Javier's Deep-fried Ice Cream

I couldn't order their deep-fried ice cream because it has walnuts in it but Sherry and Zach ordered it and shared it. I ordered the flan for dessert and it was very well made but presented in an incredibly plain manner: the plate, the flan, and nothing else. I think I've been spoiled by Taco Rosa where they turn every serving of flan into its own artistic creation. And one time about a year ago when family was in town and I had too much time on my hands I made even artsier-looking flan and may try it again soon and post pictures here.

Overall, Javier's Cantina and Grill earns a very solid four Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Other Javier's Reviews:


joy said...

I know what you mean about hating parking problems. There are a lot of restaurants that never make it back up to the top of our list (or never made it there to begin with) because of known or suspected Parking Issues. When there are so many good options that are easier to get to, the food has got to be really good to justify it.

I agree that the flan looks pretty blandly presented. The question is, did it taste as good as the one at Taco Rosa? Maybe they were just having an unusually good night that last time I was there, but that was excellent -- it's raised the bar, definitely.

ChristianZ said...

I hear ya on the parking. Bad parking situations are a huge turn off for me.

The taste of the flan itself I'd have to say is a very teeny tiny tad better than Taco Rosa's. But it really all depends on if you want the cream cheese flavor to it. If that's what you're in the mood for then Taco Rosa wins out. I'm open to cream cheese flan but, like seafood, it's the type of thing for me where I have to be in the mood for it. I'm really going to have to get an entry going on my own flan soon. Sometimes I wish I could go into the kitchen of some of these places and show them how to do it. But Javier's could easily up the ante a little just by throwing some raspberries onto the plate, a mint sprig maybe, a little drizzle of chocolate . . .

ChristianZ said...

Here's my post about the flan I made:

Flan, Glorious Flan

Lottie S said...

Javier's is a beautifully decored and high quality restaurant.

I recently visited the one at Irvine and I must say I was very impressed by the whole restaurant.It looks fabulous, they must have spent a bomb on furnishing the place. Also, the food tasted wonderfull. I had the chicken Fajitas and I they were extremely tasty. I really felt like I was experiencing true mexican food.

I have never been to a restaurant with toilet staff so this is something about Javier's that also managed to impress me. After tipping the woman working in the restroom there was a selection of fruity chewing gum, mints and general sweetie things to take if desired. I personally felt it neccessary to take a mint, after a very oniony main course.

I would highly recommomend this restaurant to all mexican food lovers. I would even go so far as to say it was the best restaurant i've ever dinned in!

As for parking...that was slightly difficult as it was a Friday evening and it seemed like the whole of California was at Irvine. The multi-story car park was jam packed but I think that was just because of the time of week so I would imagine that during the day time parking is pretty easy and Javier's is just a short walk from the parking lots.

Hope all you mexican food fans find this helpful!

ChristianZ said...

Thanks for the comment. You left your comment on our entry about their old, closed-down Laguna Beach location. Did you know we have more entries about Javier's including one about the location you went to?