|Fresca's Mexican Grill|
41 Auto Center Dr
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
Listing on Yahoo! Local
Listing on Ask.com's Citysearch
UPDATE: This location has closed down.
Here's Johnny Automatic back in action with our first review of a place out in Foothill Ranch:
Dropped in on the relatively new location of Fresca's the other day. This one is in a new strip mall up in Foothill Ranch. Christian reviewed the Lake Forest location about a year ago. Like him, that location was a place I used to frequent when my work was nearby.
As Christian noted, this small chain is like a lot of other quick casual Mexican places. It's right in the same group as Baja Fresh, Rubio's and La Salsa. I find these places to be just enough Mexican to brand them as such but not enough that you can't offer it as a lunch option to a wide range of eaters. So it seems a lot of these places are intentionally corporate-think safe. You will not find lengua or buche offered at any of these places.
In fact this is the kind of place I don't really want to like. The menu looks like it was calculated by an MBA. It covers all the familiar territory with a token dish to cover the range of familiar Mexican dishes. It also Americanizes lots of stuff. Instead of tortas they serve Mexican subs on a Mexican roll, but with mayo, mustard and a side of chips. They also carry salads and the new trend, the rice bowl.
But over the years I've had plenty of satisfying meals here. This time I went with a suggestion of one of the comments here. I tried the Yucatan Fundido. It is described as "two grilled flour tortillas filled with a chicken/vegetable mix and topped with a jalapeño cream cheese sauce. This runs $6.50 as a combo with black beans and rice. Now as far as I can tell fundido is Spanish for fondue. So I suspect this whole concoction is made up out of whole cloth. Upon ordering you are handed a serving of tortilla chips. So the next stop is the salsa bar. And this is one of their strong suits. They have 3 really good hot salsas (as shown below) and some mild salsas that I didn't try, because what the point? The Japonesa, salsa arbol and en fuego were all good. But my vote goes to the excellent "en fuego" salsa. It is deeply smoky, thick as paste, and seriously hot.
They serve black beans as a side, which is a nice variation. Unfortunately they aren't terribly memorable but not bad either. The same is true of the rice, but I think of rice as a salsa vehicle. For all its questionable authenticity, the Yucatan Fundido is really quite a tasty item. I'd be hard pressed to find the jalapeño in the sauce, but it is flavorful and a nice compliment to the whole dish.
As a bonus, this location has a very nice patio that is perfect for a lovely warm November day like when I went. Fresca's fits firmly into the category they have intentionally picked for themselves. But there are places they rise above the pack. Careful selection from the menu will give you a good lunch choice and the hot salsas do not disappoint. But ultimately all of these type of places are about predictability and that they have in spades. Sodas, commercial agua frescas, beer and wine to drink. 3 and a half Speedys:
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