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Friday, May 30, 2008

Del Taco Brings on the Mole

Just made a quick stop at Del Taco for lunch. Wasn't expecting to find anything new but noticed that they now have a Molé Chicken Soft Taco and a Molé Spicy Chicken Burrito. This is the first time to my knowledge that a fast food restaurant has utilized the authentic Mexican molé sauce. These items may only be in test restaurants right now so I can't guarantee that you will find them at any Del Taco you go to.


They also have a new Neapolitan ice cream shake and Vanilla Iced Coffee.

UPDATE: The mole items appear to now be at all Del Tacos.

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Read more about these new items at the Fast Food Maven blog.

Taco Bell Frutista Freeze Coupon


The Griffin Eats OC Coupons blog now points you to a coupon for a free Frutista Freeze beverage from Taco Bell. Available in strawberry or mango and both topped with real strawberries this item has been around in test markets for a while but is now available at all Taco bell locations. I had it a couple times and even though it gave me serious brain freeze I was glad to have an alternative to water or soda to drink at Taco Bell.

Read more about this drink at the OC Register's Fast Food Maven blog.

Live on the Go

Live on the Go
Good news: the OC Mex Food blog here has teamed up with Live on the Go to provide first-time customers with $5 off their first order. Live on the Go allows you to easily order take-out online from your favorite restaurants, including many Mexican restaurants. Just go to Live on the Go, then:
  1. Select your zip code or city to search hundreds of great restaurants.
  2. Select when you want your food to be ready, in as little as 10 minutes or up to 2 weeks out.
  3. Place and pay for your order online, using promo code "OCMEXFOOD" when you check out to get your discount, so you don't have to wait on the phone or stand in line.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

El Tarasco - Review #1

Date of Visit: May 26, 2008
El Tarasco
2931 Nutwood Ave
Fullerton, CA 92831
(714) 996-6260

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Appetizer: Chips and Salsa
Entree: Enchilada/Tamale Combo
Drink: Root Beer
Cost: $12

El Tarasco - Exterior

I found El Tarasco late in the afternoon on Memorial Day when I went out attempting to follow up on a recommendation that had been made to me recently. After having woken up early to participate in a Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast I was pretty tired later on but wanted to use my day off to try to get a region that's normally hard for me to get to. So I went out to the North County area to go to eat with James and Lori. Lori was asleep but James and Thomas and I piled into the car to chase down my lead but when we got to that restaurant we found it closed for the day so we drove around looking for another place to go but every place was closed.

El Tarasco - Patio
Nice Patio Area

Finally we stumbled on El Tarasco in Fullerton and I remembered that it had been recommended to me before. The place seemed almost abandoned but it didn't have the CLOSED sign that all the other places had so we stepped inside and actually found a waitress. We picked a table that had nice long benches and Thomas sprawled out on one and was out like a light for the remainder of the meal (sleepiness being the sub-theme of this writeup).

El Tarasco - Interior Shot #1

I'd heard of El Tarasco before and there are some in LA County but I think there are two or three separate chains and that some are good and some not so good. I don't know which one is the original, or if it matters, but if you have any information please leave a comment.

El Tarasco - Interior Shot #2


El Tarasco - Interior Shot #3

One inescapable facet of this El Tarasco is the many colorful and comical paintings on its walls. They even have a painting of this familiar character:

El Tarasco - Speedy Gonzales

Their chips and salsa are much like Super Mex's: fried corn tortillas served whole and that you chip apart yourself (it's no accident that the term "chip" is used here) and dip into the salsa.

El Tarasco - Chips and Salsa

James ordered the Monday special: the Jr. Super Deluxe Burrito with chicken. I'm not sure if the terms "Jr." and "Super Deluxe" describing the same item constitutes an oxymoron but James said the burrito was good apart from the fact that some of the chicken in it looked gray.

El Tarasco - Jr. Super Deluxe Burrito

I ordered the #33 combo: an enchilada and a tamale. No choice of meat was specified for either but I saw elsewhere on their menu that they served potato tacos and potato enchiladas so I asked if my enchilada could be a potato one. The waitress didn't have a problem with that. I was so sleepy I can't even remember if my tamale was stuffed with beef or pork but I do remember the tamale being the best part of the meal. The potato enchilada made a nice change from the norm and the rice was decent but the beans were kind of thinned out. The sauce covering both main items was rather bland so I kept mixing in some of the salsa intended for the chips.

El Tarasco - Enchilada/Tamale Combo

To further the "sleepy" theme, one of the paintings was of a Mexican hiding under his sombrero taking what appeared to be a very long nap:

El Tarasco - Interior Shot #4

The food here was not bad but didn't really inspire. It was more from the "Take a tortilla, put some meat in it, and put some sauce on it" school of thought. A tad better than neutral El Tarasco earns a three Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

El Tarasco - Bill Clinton
Umm . . . no comment

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Taqueria El Chilito - Review #1

Taqueria El Chilito
15852 Pasadena Ave
Tustin 92780-5414
(714) 730-9182

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Here's another review reprinted with permission from the Griffin Eats OC blog:


I drove by Taqueria El Chilito the other day and I was immediately excited. Looking at the shabby exterior of the restaurant made me think, "I bet they have great Mexican food!" Unfortunately, I had just eaten lunch so I made a mental note to return later to try it out. The next day my wife felt like Mexican food. She felt like having nachos from Alberta's. I told her about this new place I passed the day before and she agreed to try it. I drove out to Taqueria El Chilito and thought to myself, "I might be discovering our next favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint!"


I pulled into a parking space and walked through the door. There were a couple coolers of Mexican ice cream bars. They sounded good since it was such a hot day, but I passed them up.

Read the rest of this entry

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gabbi's Mother's Day Brunch


(IMPORTANT NOTE: This entry was originally published on May 10 then updated on May 21 . . . and then a little bit more on May 29. Scroll down to "Part III" for the update.)

Part I

A lot of people have been searching lately for information on where to take their mom for a Mother's Day Brunch. I don't know of any Mexican restaurant in Orange County that has a specific Mother's Day Brunch deal but I'm taking my own mom to a Mother's Day Brunch one day early and we're going to Gabbi's. We're going there after she tried the food at another Mexican restaurant a while back (I won't say what place it was except to say that it's name does not start with the letter 'T') and after eating the food there she said, "I'm going to kiss the ground at Gabbi's when I go back next."

If I get some good photos I will post them here later on but when I was there a few days ago meeting up with an LA Times reporter Gabbi told us they were about to bring back some old menu items as well as introduce a couple new items based around the squash blossom which is now in season. Below is a picture of the ceviche from that visit:

Part II

Photos:
So here's the pictures taken at our one-day-early Mother's Day Brunch:

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Still no sign (picture taken May 10, 2008)

I tried out the new squash blossom quesadillas:

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Mom got the grilled shrimp salad which she said is "like heaven:"


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And then we got the flan for dessert:

DSCF3827 "flan"

Also, by popular demand Gabbi has brought her tropical quesadilla back to the menu. It's one of my favorite items there.

Part III

It might seem like I've been talking about Gabbi's a lot lately but this should be the last update in a while. I had three somewhat related visits recently, concluding about a week ago when I met up with Andrea Adleman from the Los Angeles Times and Griffin Tamura from Griffin Eats OC. The visit was largely so Andrea could get pictures for her report which will appear in The Guide, the pullout entertainment section which appears every Thursday in the Times (yes, even the Orange County edition), on May 29. Griffin's report appears here. During that visit I was able to get some better photos and here they are:

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Tropical Quesadilla


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Squash Blossom Quesadilla


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Coconut Tres Leches


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Gabbi's Flan

Click HERE or on the 'gabbi's' label below to see our complete coverage of Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen, including dozens of photos . . . and an expla­nation of why they don't have a sign.

Part IV

The Orange County Register today (June 5, 2008) has a whole article about the desserts at Gabbi's, including a couple recipes. CLICK HERE to read it.

Part V

Since Google keeps sending people to the wrong page when they search for "Mexican restaurants in the Orange Circle" I have to explicitly state here that Gabbi's is the ONLY Mexican restaurant in the Orange Circle . . . although there is another one just outside the Orange Circle.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Zack's at the Beach

Zack's Pier Plaza
405 Pacific Coast Hwy
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 536-0215

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Now I tried to take the month of April off from going to Mexican restaurants for review purposes but I knew there might end up being times when I just had to eat and that food of the Mexican variety might be the most handy and convenient. Just such an occasion arose recently while at the beach near the Huntington Beach Pier.

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Zack's two locations have been servicing beachgoers for almost twenty years now with surfboard rentals, beach supplies and snacks. When I found myself helping out with a surf activity at a singles conference and the hunger pangs began coming on it was time to make a trek to the snack stand. Once I got there and saw that they they had a whole section on their menu board dedicated to Mexican food I made the trek back to my group's spot on the sand and retrieved my camera. On my way back to Zack's I passed Rico G. and told him where I was going and he recommended the "Strips and Cheese."

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I perused the Mexican section of their menu, including the tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and taquitos, and settled on the cheese strips and a fish taco.

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I figured "Strips and Cheese" would be like nachos and it turns out they were with the only difference being that the cheese is not melted. On a hot summer day you can probably have the sun melt the cheese for you. You can get your own cup of hot sauce (that almost looks like cocktail sauce . . . but it is really spicy hot . . . and kind of thick) from an industrial salad dressing dispenser.

The fish taco was . . . interesting. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure the meat in it was sliced up fish sticks. It didn't taste . . . bad . . . it was just kind of funny and maybe that's about to be expected at a snack stand at the beach.

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I'm not sure I can give Zack's a Speedy Gonzales rating since it really can't be compared to any sort of bona fide Mexican restaurant but keep in mind that if you're enjoying the surf, sand, and sun down at Huntington Beach that Zack's has some Mexican items on their menu that fit the bill for me when I was there recently.

Zack's Too
21579 Pacific Coast Hwy
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 536-2696

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Friday, May 16, 2008

On the Riviera


I don't know if it's on the newsstands anymore but if you can find it at your dentist's office be sure to check out the May 2008 issue of Riviera magazine. Pages 122-126 feature a lot of information on Mexican restaurants in Orange County, most of which have been featured here. They even have a section on all the Mexican restaurants to be found on 19th St. in Costa Mesa. Actually, you can check it out right now online by clicking here. Use the page finder tool to jump straight to page 122.

Tacos Pepe - Review #1

Tacos Pepe
918 N Glassell St, #D
Orange, CA 92867
(714) 538-9721

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tacospepe01


I used to work near Tacos Pepe over a decade ago and often ate here. Recently I had the chance to go back with some friends.

Tacos Pepe is easy to drive by and over look. It is situated in a rundown looking strip mall on the northwest corner of Glassell and Collins in Orange. But on the other side of those mirrored windows is some good authentic Mexican food. In fact it is so authentic that you might need to brush up on your restaurant Spanish. No English was spoken by the cashier the day we went. They served the usual assortment of tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas and quesadillas. They also have some less common items like pork chops and short ribs. They also serve seafood and a full breakfast menu. They have soft drinks and agua frescas for beverages. I enjoyed an excellent fresh strawberry agua fresca the day I went.


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Several of us had the carnitas in various forms. Here it is served in a burrito mojado or wet burrito. Served ala carte you get some chips and marinated carrots as garnish. The burrito mojado is just over $5 and is a really good deal. Regular burritos run just over $4.


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Kay also had two carnitas tacos along with her taquitos. She reported that they were both very good.


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I had the enchiladas de mole poblana. 3 chicken filled enchiladas were covered with an intense mole sauce. It had a strong chocolate component along with a number of spices. The spices reminded me of the ones in al pastor - a touch Middle Eastern or Indian. I've had more refined versions, but few with more gusto.


tacospepe04


They served batter coated, fried fish tacos, but with lettuce instead of cabbage. As with most places the full plates come with Mexican rice and refried beans which are fine but pretty standard.

There's nothing fancy about the insides - just about a dozen 4-person booths and tables. But I don't go to little hole-in-the-walls like this for the atmosphere, just the food. And Tacos Pepe delivers there. 3¾ Speedys

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales