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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Taco Mesa - Review #1

27702 Crown Valley Pkwy
Ladera Ranch, CA 92691

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on Ask.com's Citysearch

Official Site

Taco Mesa Exterior

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.

Taco Mesa Interior

Taco Mesa Menu Board

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.

Taco Mesa Salsa Bar

I ordered a quesadilla maƱanera, 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.

Taco Mesa Quesadilla

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:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Other Taco Mesa entries:

12 comments:

omar said...

Sounds like an enjoyable place, I'll have to check out a Taco Mesa sometime.

So I'm guessing there weren't a lot of mexican restaurants to be reviewd May 1. :) did you try any?

ChristianZ said...

I don't know if it counts but I actually went to Del Taco on May 1. But it wasn't for review purposes, just for quick eats. I will be doing a formal review of Del Taco sometime though.

joy said...

Looks like you got a fair amount of fruit on the side: that's a bonus for me.

Funny, the quesadilla doesn't look too greasy on the outside to pick up, although I can see how the filling would fall out if you tried.

Okay, this place is definitely moving to the top of my To Go list. What are the prices like? Their site doesn't list them.

ChristianZ said...

My camera always makes things look better. Had to eat it with a knife and fork. When I make quesadillas on my own I try not to use any grease or butter. They still cook fine and there is all that cheesy goodness inside. For the quesadilla and the horchata my total came to $8.08, tax included.

Dave said...

Go on Taco Tuesday for $1.00 tacos. However, that said, pricing is very reasonable. Their excellent Nachos are $5 to $6 depending on meat. Not greasy at all on the nachos.

ChristianZ said...

Mmm, Taco Tuesday.

Kirk said...

Hey Christian - Great photos. You know in all my years, I've never, ever, been into a Del Taco????

ChristianZ said...

Never been to a Del Taco? Well, they are pretty much inescapable in OC.

omar c said...

heh, yeah I found myself at a Del Taco drive-thru on May 1 as well.

Kirk, DT's no great pinnacle of Mexican cuisine, but not too bad for fast food - a pleasant change from a world of mcdonalds, burger kings and taco bells.

ChristianZ said...

Del Taco, yeah, it's fast food, but it's well respected in Orange County. Nobody makes it out to be better than it is but they are good at what they do. And their strawberry shakes are excellent.

Anonymous said...

Taco Mesa unveiled a new menu about a month ago, and the food is fantastic!!

ChristianZ said...

We mentioned the new menu in another entry here but I still haven't been there since hearing about it. Hope to make it there soon. I've got a coupon to get their flan for $1.00.