Ladera Ranch, CA 92691
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After my previous failed attempt to find the Ladera Ranch location of Taco Mesa I tried again and found it this time. If you go looking for it don't pay too much attention to the numbers on the street because they could be misleading. Just get off the 5 freeway at Crown Valley Parkway and drive about three miles east to Bridgepark Plaza and it'll be on your right hand side. It is said to be in Ladera Ranch but as Ladera Ranch is an unincorporated segment of Orange County it also sort of counts as being in Mission Viejo. Taco Mesa is a four store chain that is the slightly more blue collar version of the somewhat more white collar Taco Rosa, all of which are run by Ivan and Marco Calderon.
My brother and I arrived at Taco Mesa just in time to still get breakfast and found that a lot of early risers were there finishing up their breakfast, some inside and some taking advantage of the outside seating and the expansive view of the arroyo it offers.
I ordered a quesadilla mañanera, described on their official site as a, "Whole wheat quesadilla filled with cheese and eggs scrambled with tomato, onion and cilantro. Served with sour cream and fresh fruit." The quesadilla was perfect in every way except that I couldn't pick it up and eat it. It was just greasy on the outside and floppy so that if I picked it up all the filling would fall out so that I had to eat it with a fork. I mentioned this same minor complaint with Taco Rosa; just make the outside a little crispier and keep the filling together better. This could be accomplished by cutting down on the amount of grease it fries in and maybe using a layer of cheese covering most of the inner side of the tortilla before adding the other fillings. Then maybe some more cheese. Then all the filling ingredients are sticking to at least a little bit of cheese and not just loose and rolling around and falling out. Still, it was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds, and when my brother saw it he remarked that he should've ordered it himself. He had already forgotten that I had tried to tell him to order it but he had ignored me and ordered one of the non-breakfast quesadillas. Better luck next time.
Just like Taco Rosa, Taco Mesa makes up two types of aguas frescas fresh each day. Today they had mixed fruit and horchata, and I went for the horchata and found it to be very full-flavored without going overboard, perhaps the best horchata I have had.
When I first encountered Taco Mesa almost fifteen years ago it was my first realization that Mexican food could rise above the standard, run-of-the-mill presentation and approach artfulness (is that a word?). In 2006 they are still on top of the game, thereby meriting a high four and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:
Other Taco Mesa entries: