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Monday, March 06, 2006

Taqueria el Granjenal - Review #1

Date of Visit: March 4, 2006

899 W 19th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on's Citysearch

No known official website.

Taqueria el Granjenal Exterior

This is the last of three backed up articles I've had to complete. It may be hard to believe but I haven't been to a Mexican restaurant since I went to this place last Saturday for lunch. I used to go here all the time but, as fate would have it, I hadn't been to it in about three or four years. Fortunately everything seemed the same about it.

Taqueria el Granjenal is one of the most authentic Mexican places around. I hear it is owned by a Korean but one would never guess that. Apparently the owner steps out of the way and lets the Mexicans run the food service aspect of things properly. It has a very homey, relaxed atmosphere and when you order your food and sit down at one of their tables to wait for your order don't be surprised if a local comes and sits down at the same table with you while they await their own order.

I ordered the combination plate with a carne asada taco and a chicken sope and they came loaded with toppings. Every order also comes with chips and escabeche and they have what I want to call a Mexican condiment bar. Not exactly a salsa bar because some of the ingredients are dry. Maybe it's more like a chili pepper bar, but you can put your condiments in little paper boats for eating there or into plastic baggies for taking with you.

I think I have ordered a licuado (milk shake) every time I have been there and this visit was no exception. This time it was a strawberry shake which they sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of. Mmm mmm, good.

They had a big banner outside today advertising a hamburger special but I wonder if anybody ever orders hamburgers from here.

Taqueria el Granjenal
I got to read el clasificados while eating, plus my drink had rabies

Not Taqueria el Granjenal
The above picture is actually from a cantina in the same
parking lot; I just like paintings like this

Taqueria el Granjenal
Lots of good fruit juices and shakes here

Overall Taqueria el Granjenal earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

UPDATE: There's a few more pictures at this flickr album of Julian Bleeckr's.

UPDATE (June 8, 2009):

Here's a couple more pictures from my lunch earlier today:




Joy said...

This place looks great -- I already had it on my "to go to" list from the review Gustavo did in the OC Weekly a while back, but I definitely appreciate the pictures and more details.

On a side note, when you say this is a very *authentic* Mexican restaurant, what exactly are you looking for? I ask because I'm relatively new to good/authentic Mexican food, having moved to this region of the country fairly recently, and am trying to learn more about the cuisine and how to appreciate it. (So far, eating a lot of it seems to be a great first step!)

For example, Mr. J and I are pretty familiar with good Thai food and Indian food, at least the basics, and cook those cuisines at home on a regular basis. There are standard dishes we tend to order when we go to a new Thai or Indian restaurant as test cases, to see whether they have a good handle on the basics. But I'm not sure what to order at Mexican places (which is also annoying because it takes me so long to decide on my order, argh). So, along the same lines, are there dishes that you normally order at a new Mexican place, and/or what are you looking for, whether in terms of "authenticity" or otherwise?

ChristianZ said...

I think generally people try tacos first when they try out a new Mexican restaurant. Then burritos. Then enchiladas. Then it's up for grabs. Tostadas, tortas, chile rellenos, arroz con camarones y pollo, you name it. And the gringo in me (which is all of me) likes to have more rice on the plate and less beans.
And I like it when they have some fruit juice or horchata to go with the food. And it helps if they have dessert too. Something like flan or fried ice cream that helps counteract all the spiciness you've just been eating.
I think I might be answering your other questions in the entry I am currently working on.

Joy said...

You know, it's funny, but I almost never order tacos. I think I had too many Bad Experiences with tacos earier in life (if you never ate Mexican food in Michigan in the 1980s, before any actual Mexicans arrived to set us straight, count yourself lucky). I usually order chile rellenos and try to find something else that has vegetables involved in it in some way. But now I am on a mission: Order Tacos.

Unfortunately, I think our next dining out trip (tonight) is going to be Greek, but I'm happy to settle for gyros, which are sort of like Greek tacos when you think about it.

BTW, just found an interesting blog called "The Great Taco Hunt". The blogger is based in LA, which doesn't help me much in terms of finding restaurants, but it's generically inspiring vis-a-vis taco eating. It might give you some more ideas on how to describe the food, also.

ChristianZ said...

Hey, I love chile rellenos . . . and gyros. A good Greek place is The Mad Greek on Beach Blvd. I believe it is in the city of Stanton. And, yes, it's always good to work some vegetables in to your meal.

Joy said...

It's difficult to get vegetables at most Mexican restaurants. That's one of the reasons I liked Taco Rosa so much: escabeche = lots o' veggies. And also why I was so psyched about the zucchini quesadillas, yum.

Joy said...

Mmm, "Greek tacos"... Totally off the Mexican theme, wanted to report back on a great Greek place I just found that's closer than Stanton: Greek Island Grille. Casual place, with *great* bifteki pitas, good everything else, and very friendly service, for a reasonable price (ex: combo of pita sandwich plus fries and Greek salad for $6.95). It's at 3940 Bristol, Santa Ana -- across from South Coast Plaza on the corner of Sunflower.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks for the lead on the Greek place. I'm around South Coast plaza a lot so I'll look for it next time.

Curt said...

Tacos are huge.

Anonymous said...

El Granjenal is the BEST!!! We have lived here (around the corner) for over 10 years and have NOT found better mexican food!!! As lovers of Baja, we were so happy to move into a neighborhood with so much Mexican Culture. After trying many,many establishments in the neighborhood, our hearts BELONG to El Granjenal!! Time and time again they show what this beautiful culture and food are all about!!! You can't get better, consistently, for the price!!!