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Monday, December 10, 2007

Arsenio's - Review #1

Arsenio's Mexican Food
751 S Harbor Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 531-8012

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Here's Johnny Automatic covering Arsenio's in Santa Ana:

A friend of mine suggested trying Arsenio's on Harbor Blvd. in Santa Ana. It's the only Orange County outlet of a small chain based in Fresno. This place is similar to a Taqueria de Anda, a fast food style Mexican place with a play area that caters to Hispanic families looking for a quick family meal. It's menu is really quite extensive and reminded me independent "Greek" burger joints like Omega Burger or Duke's. I say this because they both seem to start with the premise that if we can cook it on the grill or in the fryer they can put it on the menu. So this little place has 19 combo plates and lots of other options in an extensive menu.


After checking out this big menu ( click here for menu: prices are 10-15% higher than shown here) I decided to go with an old favorite of mine that I don't see every place. I ordered the carne adobada combo plate. Combinations run from $6.99 to $9.99 and include rice, beans and in most cases fresh tortillas, guacamole and pico de gallo. You get a few chips stuck in the beans but no tortilla chips are served before you pick-up your meal.


The adobada is pieces of pork marinated in chile, spices and usually something acidic like citrus juice or vinegar to add a little sharpness. Here they cook this up on the grill giving it some nice crispy bits. The pork had good flavor but was not spicy. I have had much spicier versions and prefer those but the flavors were still very enjoyable with this version. The tortillas were grilled up until parts of them were crispy and browned. Served up hot, they were a good vehicle for the meat and condiments. Rice and beans were pretty standard. The refried beans are a pureed style with some cheddar cheese on top. The standard Mexican rice was fresh and well prepared - I've certainly had worse at fancier places. The pico de gallo and guacamole both tasted fresh and each had some heat. I didn't even see them at first buried as they were under a pile of shredded lettuce.


My friend went with the cheese enchilada and beef burrito combo. He found both to be good and noted the red sauce had a little bit of heat and good flavor.


There is a small salsa bar with 3 salsas and other sides like radishes, jalapeños and marinated carrots. They have a pretty standard red sauce, a chunkier red and green salsa, but the winner for me was the pureed sauce of hot green peppers and cilantro. It was bug juice green and closer to a hot sauce than a salsa.


They have the standard non-alcoholic drinks including 4 commercial aguas frescas - horchata, jamaica, piña and tamarindo. Nothing fancy here but all of it is made straightforward and competently. Arsenio's will satisfy you if you are looking for a quick and casual standard Mexican food experience. The wide range of offerings should please anyone in your party. The prices can run a little high for such a standard kind of place. You can easily spend over $10 for a meal and a drink. In a place like Santa Ana there is a lot of competition that can either beat the price or give you more interesting fare for the same money. For a dollar or two more I can go to Taco Adobe for instance. They do have several breakfast burrito specials starting at $2.49 and a couple of lunch specials including 5 rolled tacos and a drink for $4.49. So there are some inexpensive options for a quick meal.

3 and 1/4 Speedys

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Thanks, Johnny!

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