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Monday, July 28, 2008

Pena's - Review #1

Peña's Mexican Restaurant
1221 E 1st St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 571-0415

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UPDATE: Peña's has closed down.

I first read about Peña's in the Register a couple months ago. I clipped the article in anticipation of making a trip there someday. When I was able to make it there a few days ago I kept thinking in the back of my mind, "That seems to be pretty close to where Nancy Puebla's is." When I got there I found out it actually is in the same spot formerly occupied by Nancy Puebla, and it used to be at least one other taco place before that including "Ruben's Tacos y Mulitas."



Hopefully this game of Mexican taqueria musical chairs will stop now because Peña's has some of the best pozole verde I've ever had. This soup was recommended in the Register article so it was one of the things I was looking forward to trying. I couldn't tell from the article if it was a small, appetizer-size serving of soup or a full meal size and I couldn't find it on the menu once I arrived so I just asked for pozole verde figuring if it was just a little bowl's worth then I'd also order an entree on top of it.


So let me tell you that Peña's pozole verde is a full-size meal. Even its condiment plate has chicharrones, a cheese-stuffed jalapeño, and two potato taquitos in addition to the normal onions, cabbage, and radishes.


The soup itself is rich and hearty with its tomatillo-based broth, tender pork, and big kernels of hominy. Definitely on the spicy side and it was definitely clearing out my sinuses. I wanted to finish off with the arroz con leche but they were out for the day. Based on the soup alone Peña's earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Click here to see the unedited album (8 photos) at .

UPDATE (August 14, 2008)

The OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano saw my entry on Peña's and said what I should've tried there was the cochinita pibil so I went back when I had the chance and got two cochinita pibil tacos and a carnitas taco:


The cochinita pibil tacos were topped with cabbage and what appeared to be pickled red onions while the carnitas taco was topped with onions and cilantro and a salsa verde. Both flavors of taco were excellent and I like that Ramon and Lourdes Peña (husband and wife owner team) know how to cook each kind of meat just right then top it with complementary toppings. Oh, and they had the arroz con leche this time (can be seen in the flickr album linked to above).


joy said...

Mm, that pozole verde sounds delicious! I always forget to order soup in Mexican restaurants, but maybe this will help me to remember.

ChristianZ said...

Yes, remember the soup.

Captain said...

I've never had posole verde, but I plan to change that as soon as possible.

Gustavo Arellano said...

You reviewed the wrong thing, Christian, as delicious as the pozole may be. Peña's specialty is cochinita pibil, as I wrote months before the Register in my review. A much better green pozole can be had at Las Brisas de Apatzingan.

ChristianZ said...

Good points. When I was at Pena's I had no idea how big of a serving the pozole verde would be so I thought there was a chance I'd be getting an entree after the soup. I'd read both reviews you've mentioned and I've been looking forward to going to Las Brisas de Apatzingan.