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SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudoMexican Flavors on the High Seas

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Avila's El Ranchito - Review #3

Date of Visits: July 24 and 25, 2007 and October 10, 2011
Avila's El Ranchito
2515 E Coast Hwy
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
(949) 644-8226

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Here's some photos of the new Avila's Corona del Mar location, just across and down PCH from their prior location. They also have a little bit of a Mexican market in the front:

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These are photos of their old Corona del Mar location:

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - Exterior

I stopped at Avila's last week when I was out running errands and got some lunch. I'd never been to this location before so, hey, new material for the blog. Little did I know I would be back again the very next day but that's what happens when you absentmindedly leave your debit card behind.

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - Wall Painting

Of course the meal started out with the requisite complementary chips and salsa, but what made Avila's salsa unique was the very distinct green onion component. Some of the green onion slices in it were like manhole covers.

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - Chips and Salsa

On my first visit I ordered their Taco Tuesday special, the filet mignon tacos with rice and beans. Trust me, there's filet mignon in there:

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - Filet Mignon Tacos

Bits of the filet mignon were a little on the tough side, but with those out of the way and stuffed with some rice and lettuce and the salsa these were some fine tacos.

My meal the next day was even better, a chile relleno/pork tamale combo plate. The pork tamale had veritably exploded and was overflowing with nice cubed chunks of carnitas. The chile relleno was light and fluffy and I actually ate more of the chile pepper than I normally do.

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - Chile Relleno/Pork Tamale

And there's nothing wrong with showing a little American pride while retaining your heritage:

Avila's El Ranchito/Corona del Mar - American Pride

I wanted to try the strawberry-filled churros I saw on the menu but each time I was brought the check without being asked if I wanted dessert. I didn't fight it because I probably don't need dessert with every lunch (or maybe any lunch for that matter). I still want to try those churros sometime though.

Avila's El Ranchito in Corona del Mar earns a 3.5 Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mexican Stands at OC Fair

Here's the Mexican food stands you'll see if you make it to the Orange County Fair before their last day on August 5:

Orange County Fair -
Pepe's

Orange County Fair -
Noel's

Orange County Fair -
Rose's

Orange County Fair -
Hussong's

Remember the 1980's when everyone had a Hussong's t-shirt?

Orange County Fair -
Churro Cart

Orange County Fair -
I don't know what this stand (above) was called but it served fish tacos.

Orange County Fair -
Baja Blues

This is likely to be the same setup next year as well. I didn't see where they were serving the Twinkie Relleno but a stand near Noel's Mexican Food was serving Deep-fried Coke. Yes, you read that right: Deep-fried Coke.

UPDATE: Here's a stand I saw when I went to the fair in July 2008:

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Pepe's Marisco's

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taqueria Janitzio - Review #1

Taqueria Janitzio
2520 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92869
(714) 538-3001

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Taqueria Janitzio - Exterior

Here's another review from Johnny, this time of Taqueria Janitzio in Orange:

The owner Gabriel Ramirez is originally from the town of Janitzio which is located on an island in Lake Patzcuaro in the Michoacán region of Mexico. Many of the dishes are in the style of this region.

Taqueria Janitzio has an extensive menu of well over a dozen combination platters, 10 different kinds of soft tacos plus sopes, tamals, burritos, enchiladas among other things. They also have specials. When I went they had shrimp tacos and a combo platter of fresh salmon. Most combination platters are in the $6.95 range with soft tacos running $1. Beverages includes regular and Mexican sodas (including Mexican Coke) and bottled beer.

As you can see from the photo they do a $3.99 lunch special that is a real bargain. You get you choice of two items served with rice and beans. You can chose from soft taco, tamal, sope, taquitos, chile relleño or cheese enchilada. I went with an adobada soft taco and chile relleño this time. To start with, they always bring you a little appetizer - kind of their take on nachos - it is a light flavorful salsa, some refried beans and some cooked chiles over tortilla chips. It's a nice start while you wait for lunch. I didn't get that far into my chips before lunch arrived. The chile relleño was a classic style with a good zippy chile, lots of cheese and a medium fluffy batter (which is good - I don't care for the ones that are like an omelet around the chile or the ones that seem just like breading). The adobada taco was really good. Adobada is pork marinated in a red sauce. It was excellent as served and needed no salsa added. They do have a fresh salsa bar with a red sauce, green sauce and pickled jalapeños, carrots and onions. Rice and beans were good but pretty standard. The salsa bar helped spice up the rice.

This lunch served at a sit down chain would probably be $6.95 easily and it would certainly be no better. I would rate Taqueria Janitzio 3.75 with an extra nod to the great value.

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Thanks, Johnny!

Taqueria Janitzio - Nachos


Taqueria Janitzio - Adobada Taco Platter


Taqueria Janitzio - Interior

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Recent Register References

There's been a few mentions of Mexican food in The Orange County Register recently. An article today explores the Elvis collection at Azteca Mexican in Garden Grove (unaffiliated with the Azteca's mini-chain in Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Anaheim). One from yesterday talks about Las Campanas, a gourmet Mexican restaurant opening soon in Rancho Cucamonga and scouting out sites in Orange County and an article from Thursday mentions the "Twinkie Relleno" being served at the OC Fair (look under "More Photos" from this article to see a picture of the beast). All links open in a new window:

Wahoo's Fish Taco - Review #1

Date of Visit: July 17, 2007
Wahoo's Fish Taco
3000 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 435-0130

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Wahoo's Fish Taco - Exterior

I've been to Wahoo's Fish Taco numerous times since starting this blog, but, to anybody who's been following the roundup entries here you'll know that until now I've never been able to visit any for review purposes. My first encounter (to the best of my memory) with Wahoo's was in 1994 when I attended the Sawdust Festival and ate at the little taco stand there. I didn't even realize at the time that it was part of a bigger chain that was only going to get bigger and bigger (we'll cover their history in a later review).

Filling a work assignment recently near South Coast Plaza I was within walking distance of Wahoo's location on Bristol (which I think may be their original location) so I utilized them for lunch one day ordering the #2 combo, likely their most popular combo as you can get any combination of two tacos or two enchiladas or one of each, selecting a chicken enchilada and a Polynesian shrimp taco. Breaking from form I ordered the white Cajun-style beans instead of their popular black beans. Their cilantro rice is the best rice I know of at any Mexican restaurant and I typically eat every last grain of it, scooping much of it up with my chips. A minor drawback to Wahoo's is that you have to pay for chips and salsa. Shouldn't chips and salsa be complementary? Anyways, their shrimp tacos are a small step below that of the shrimp tacos served at Baja Fish Tacos and Taco Surf but are still worth trying when you want to add a Hawaiian spin to your otherwise Mexican meal.

Wahoo's Fish Taco - Combo #2

A plus to Wahoo's is that they generally have a wide selection of beverages to choose from out of their refrigerator. On this visit I was glad to see Hansen's Vanilla Cola back in stock after it was missing over my last couple visits.

Expect more coverage of Wahoo's in the future. We will be covering other locations and other menu items. For now they earn a 4.25 Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chronic Tacos - Review #2

Chronic Tacos
7520 East Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92869

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Chronic Tacos - Exterior

Now I know why people have been doing so many searches for "Chronic Tacos" lately: it's because they have just opened a new location in Orange Park Acres. Guest reader John Olsen aka "Automatic" informed me about it then accepted my commission to go and take some pictures. This is another place so new that no information can be found for it online (until this review goes up); not even the official Chronic Tacos website mentions it.

Here's Johnny's report:

I went to the location that just opened in the East Orange area known as Orange Park Acres. Big long line at about 12:45pm.

This location has ten tables to sit at.

I went with the burrito lunch combo special. Burrito, chips, salsa and drink $6.49 It's enough for for 2 normal appetites. I went with pork al pastor, spanish rice, black beans, onions, cilantro, cheese. Flavors were good with maybe a touch of sweet spice on the end.

Chips were good but I have to give low marks to their regular salsa. It is too sweet with a tomato paste-like base. The salsa of any Mexican place has a big influence on my opinion on a place. For some dishes the salsa is the only thing to judge a place by other than freshness of ingredients. This one tasted like an average store-bought mild salsa that you get in a jar, the cooked kind you find on the canned goods aisle.

This location is drawing big crowds all the time, maybe because of its proximity to Santiago Canyon College or maybe because Taco Bell is the only Mexican food anywhere near by.

Returned at Christian's request to take some pictures. So I returned for dinner with my wife Thea. Thea is a huge cheese enchilada fan and usually that is the first thing she tries at a new place. She did the same here ordering two cheese enchiladas. They make these in front of you like everything else but they don't ask you if you have any preferences. They put shredded cheese and sauce into a corn tortilla, rolled it up and then poured some more sauce on top. Then it was off to the microwave to be nuked to melt it all together. The sauce for the enchiladas suffered from the same problem as the salsa. It is definitely sweet and Thea said it tasted more Italian than Mexican. Indeed I tried a couple of mouthfuls of the cheese and sauce. Without a bite of corn tortilla, it tasted like pizza topping, not enchilada filling. Very strange. I am happy to report that they have a hot salsa also. It is red chile based with obvious flakes of pepper and pepper seeds visible. Adding some to the enchilada lent it a more Mexican flavor.

With these two experiences I would suggest any real Mexican food fans should avoid the mild sauces.

I tried the Fatty taco combo with the beer battered shrimp. It was stuffed with shrimp and after adding some cabbage, onions and the sour cream-based sauce they suggest for seafood, it was a full taco as you can see from the photo. The sauce is a nice choice being creamy and spicy. The shrimp taco had good flavor and I'd order it again. This time I asked for hot salsa to go with the chips and found it to be much better.

You certainly get good quantities of food. I saw a number of people order the nachos, usually two people sharing one order as they are really big. But then everything is good-sized here. I am sure if you are a teenaged or college-aged boy you'll love it here. For us, we found that Chronic does some things very well and somethings not well at all. So that leaves me considering this place a 3 - right down the middle ratingswise.

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Thanks, John. To the rest of the readers, we've got another review of John's coming soon.

Chronic Tacos - Exterior Shot #2


Chronic Tacos - Enchiladas


Chronic Tacos - Shrimp Fatty Taco

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Review #1

Date of Visits: July 9 and 14, 2007
Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill
18010 Newhope St., Suite B
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 427-0008
(714) 427-0006 FAX

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Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Exterior

I've got a lot of stuff in the pipeline, including several guest reviews, so this review is going to be a quick photo tour of Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill in Fountain Valley across the street from the Costco. This place is so new that it doesn't yet appear in any online directory listings that I'm aware of, and neither Yahoo and Google maps can find the exact address in their systems. So much for modern technology.

Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Interior

Fitting in very much with its industrial surroundings, Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill serves up food similar to every other place whose name ends with "Fresh Mexican Grill" with a heavy emphasis on seafood.

Here's my carne asada and carnitas ultimate taco platter, made "ultimate" by the addition avocado slices:

Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Taco Platter

And here's their signature dish: the Cielo Tierra y Mar platter, with chicken, steak, and shrimp. Pretty good for only $7.95:

Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Cielo Tierra y Mar

And two carnitas tacos to go:

Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill - Carnitas Tacos To Go

The main thing I remember about the takeout food was that it was very aromatic. If you find yourself shopping in bulk at Costco try skipping their food court sometime and crossing the street to Cancun Fresh Mexican Grill, which earns a 3¾ Speedy Gonzales rating:

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