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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Celinda's - Review #1

Celinda's Original Mexican Deli
29941 Aventura #O
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
(949) 589-0354

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I was doing some work in South County and came across Celinda's. Out in Rancho Santa Margarita there isn't a lot of competition in the restaurant business that isn't a chain. So Celinda's is a nice surprise in a city with few non-chain options. They are located in one of those tilt up concrete industrial parks that pop up like mushrooms in Southern California. This one is kind of a mix of small businesses and fast food restaurants. Celinda's takes advantage of the lack of competition by trying to cover all the bases. You can get your food for dine in or carry out. They offer catering services and call ahead party orders. You also can buy an assortment of packaged hard taco shells, tostada shells, tortilla chips and salsas to go (or as it turns out to dine in. Celinda's doesn't serve chips and salsa with the meals but many people buy a bag of chips from the rack to snack on before their meal comes).

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The interior looks more like a quickie mart or catering business except for one wall (sorry no photos) with a mural painted on it. I have been here a few times and every time the place is very busy with a mix of people dining in and people picking up orders to take away. They have all the usual Mexican fare - tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas and combo meals. Combos run $6-7 dollars with rice and beans. So they are pretty reasonably priced. On my most recent visit I tried a pretty standard Mexican combo - the cheese enchilada and hard shell taco. My taco was filled with carne asada ( you can pick your filling). Both entrees were well made but pretty standard fare. Nothing really surprising or sublime. The enchilada was filled with jack cheese, then covered with a classic enchilada sauce that was a little watery (maybe because it was nuked) then topped with cheddar cheese. The beans were almost soupy like a thick puree. The taste of the beans was the most memorable taste of my meal. They say only the tamales are made with lard, maybe they put some bacon in these instead. They were also easy to doctor up with some of their chile de arbol hot salsa. Their salsa bar has 4 different fresh salsas along with fresh and pickled jalapenos, limes and hot sauce. A salsa bar is being pretty close to a requirement for a good Mexican place. Good to see a fresh one here.

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On a previous visit I had one of my favorite items here - the chile relleno burrito. It is a standard chile relleno wrapped inside a tortilla with beans, sauce and more cheese. You don't find the chile relleno burrito just everywhere and it is a real specialty here. In fact, I think it is the most distinctive item on a menu that can be a little too safe sometimes.

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Celinda's would have some stiff competition if they were in my neighborhood where there are a couple of dozen great Mexican restaurants within a mile radius. But for part of the county dominated by Taco Bells and Pizza Hut, Celinda's is an oasis in the desert. They'd be a 3¼ to 3½ Speedy place in most areas but for the salvation they bring to the hinterlands and the damned good chile relleno burrito I give them 3¾ Speedys.

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4 comments:

Captain said...

In an area with easy access to real Mexican cheeses, using gabacho style jack cheese in Mexican food should be a capital crime.

But I will give this place a try next time I'm in that area. Thanks for the report.

Anonymous said...

celinda and armando, the owners there, make the dining experience SOOO MUCH BETTER.

chiliquiles there are too bomb! gotta get it with some egg of course. =9

but i would have to say... my fav there is getting the kids bean and cheese burrito with a side of rice and beans add a little salsa on the rice and wash it down with a mixture of jamaica hibisco + orange bang. sweet heaven!

Johnny Automatic said...

nice to hear some other suggestions here. It is not possible for us try everything on every menu!

purplemorris said...

I ordered a dozen taquitos and asked if it came with quacamole.
There wasn't any in my order so she asked someone in back for some quacamole and they gave her a teaspoonful in a tiny salsa cup.

I asked if that was for 12 taquitos and she said that if I wanted more I have to buy it separately. OK, fine avocados are expensive.

Once our MOPS group ordered from them for an event and Celinda's charged us $16 for a soup container of lettuce. Now that was crazy.

I like the little bean burritos there, but they nickel and dime you for everything and the people are not very friendly or helpful.