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SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudoMexican Flavors on the High Seas

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cafe Maiz - Review #2

Cafe Maíz de El Cholo
27567 Puerta Real
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(949) 367-0777

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(UPDATE: Cafe Maiz has closed.) Met a brother for lunch the other day at El Cholo's Cafe Maiz in Mission Viejo. Quite a bit had changed since my last visit a few months earlier. The biggest change is that it has converted from an order-at-the-counter type place to a table service place.

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Look for the quotes on the beams above the patio


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They also now have tableside guacamole where your server makes fresh guacamole for you according to your specifications. We asked for it medium in spiciness and it was still quite spicy so if you don't like your food too spicy start mild and keep some of the peppers to add if you find you need to.

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They also now have brunch (I think on Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 2pm) and I tried out the chilaquiles, which are scrambled eggs, chicken, and green onions over corn chips. There was much less sauce on these chilaquiles than normal (which meant my chips didn't get too soggy too quick) but they gave me some extra on the side. There was a certain lightness to these chilaquiles that I found appealing; it wasn't the usual mushy mess (see here for Gustavo's complaint/resignation about the typical sogginess of chilaquiles).

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My brother enjoyed his fish taco and al pastor taco with rice and borracho beans:

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Another new thing on the menu is roasted corn on the cob served with butter, cheese, chile powder and lime wedges:

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This was appropriate since it fits the name of their place to have corn on the menu and also because I recently started seeing chili-lime corn on the cob for sale at Disneyland.

They also began serving flan which is good because I was waiting for them to add some dessert items. I think out of other restaurants theirs tastes the most like the flan I make, and I think mine is pretty darn good.

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Of course you end your meal with some complimentary pecan pralines, one of El Cholo's signature items:

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The total with tax and tip for our guacamole, one corn on the cob, two entrees, and two flans was $35. On the way out I noticed they are building a Cafe Maiz Cantina next door.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Del Taco Chicken Enchilada Bowl

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Drove through a Del Taco restaurant yesterday and saw that they are testing (at least I think it's a test) a new Chicken Enchilada Bowl with "Slow cooked beans, seasoned rice, grilled marinated chicken, zesty green sauce, freshly grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped cilantro," for a cost of $3.99 and the combo which adds small fries and a drink is $4.99. Similar to their breakfast bowl but with corn tortilla strips (soft, not fried) instead of hash brown sticks and chicken, beans, and rice in place of eggs, bacon, and chili. The picture doesn't convey that there's a lot of food under the surface:

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More information at our LA blog, including a picture of the Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bowl.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Library Card + Chipotle = Free Burrito


Here's a note from Judy "the Foodie" who has written us a couple guest reviews.

So, after having nixed my cable and Internet service at home to make for recession-proof living (I'm fine), I've become quite the regular at quaint establishments such as the Orange County public libraries.

On a recent visit to one of these neighborhood research repositories, I learned of a special promotion Chipotle is doing this Saturday, March 28. If you have an Orange County Public Library card (not to be confused with a city library card), you can bring it to one of two Chipotle locations and pick up a free burrito, bowl order of tacos or salad.

Yup, I was excited when I heard about it too, and curious. No doubt, this is probably the fast-casual's way of staying competitive in this economy. Who can blame them? Even upscale establishments are offering ridiculous two-fers and happy-hour specials to keep lines spilling out their doors. Aren't we all looking for the relief to kick in?

Details you might ask:

What: Free burrito, bowl, order of tacos or salad
Where: Chipotle at either Northpark on Irvine & Culver or in Tustin on Newport & First
When: Saturday, March 28, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

DON'T FORGET: This special is only valid if you show your OCPL card

Maybe we'll all run into each other!

Happy eating.

Judy "the foodie"

I think I actually have an Orange County Public Library card so I'm going to try to make it there myself. Read out complete Chipotle in Orange County coverage by clicking here.

UPDATE

Judy and I just met at the Irvine location for lunch. There were a lot of people there showing their library card pride. Here's some pictures:

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Casa Gamino Fire

The Orange County Register has reported that Casa Gamino near the corner of Brookhurst and Ball in Anaheim has burned down due to a two-alarm fire. Follow the link to see pictures of firefighters at the scene. If anybody has any information on whether or not Casa Gamino plans to reopen here please leave a comment.

UPDATE

Casa Gamino has re-opened for business. Here's some pictures of when I met my cousin there for their $9.95 lunch buffet about a week ago:

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Contodo Mexican Grill

UPDATE: Contodo Mexican Grill has closed down. CLICK HERE for our complete list of restaurant reviews and links to each one.

Contodo Mexican Grill
970-C North Tustin St
Orange, CA 92867
(714) 289-9101
(714) 289-9103 FAX

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Contodo Mexican Grill Logo

Running this site is a job for three or more people but I'm only one person. Just keeping track of all the restaurant openings and closures is a job in and of itself and many of these pass under my radar and therefore go unmentioned. I did just see however a comment on the Monster Munching blog about a new Mexican restaurant opening up in Orange by the same guys that brought us the Baja Fish Tacos chain. It's called Contodo Mexican Grill in the city of Orange and I'm not sure what makes it different from Baja Fish Tacos but I'm going to try to get there on Thursday or Friday and check it out. Their website says they are combining the philosophy of "always fresh and delicious" with the new philosophy of "fast and easy."

UPDATE

Made it there for lunch so here's some photos:

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The line here works very much like the assembly lines at Subway and Chipotle. You can get burritos or tacos or quesadillas or bowls or salads or tortas with your choice of carne asada, chicken, carnitas, or birria (shredded beef braised in spices) as the meat.

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Beware the werejaguar


Did you get here from Google? Google is good at getting people to this site but is not good at showing people how much information this blog really has. Scroll up a little bit and click on "Show Help Panel" and it will lead you to way more information than just this one review. Or CLICK HERE to be taken to our list of over 200 Mexican restaurants reviewed so far. It may be hard to believe but this one entry here on Contodo Mexican Grill is only the tip of the iceberg at this site.


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The taco plate comes with three tacos and you can have them on corn or flour tortillas. Going for variety whenever I can I got one on corn and two on flour with a different kind of meat and a different kind of salsa on each, with my favorite being the roasted corn salsa.

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Carne Asada, birria, and chicken tacos

I didn't see the shrimp tacos that I love so much from Baja Fish Tacos so I asked and, no they don't have them. Oh, well. My tacos were all good, filled with moist, juicy, tender meat. No fat, just flavor. The main items come without rice and beans but those can be added. A comprehensive order form can be downloaded from their site in PDF format and filled out and faxed in if you want your food ready when you arrive.

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Other Contodo reviews:

Eat in OC

Fast Food Maven

OC Weekly

Did you get here from Google? Google is good at getting people to this site but is not good at showing people how much information this blog really has. Scroll up a little bit and click on "Show Help Panel" and it will lead you to way more information than just this one review. Or CLICK HERE to be taken to our list of over 200 Mexican restaurants reviewed so far. It may be hard to believe but this one entry here on Contodo Mexican Grill is only the tip of the iceberg at this site.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Week at Taleo

Taleo Mexican Grill
3309 Michelson Dr
Irvine, CA 92612

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Sure St. Patrick did his work in Ireland, spreading Christianity, driving out snakes, consorting with leprechauns and whatnot, but that doesn't mean he's not celebrated beyond the confines of Ireland. Taleo Mexican Grill in Irvine will be having a number of St. Patrick's Day specials for a week starting tomorrow (some items may be available today).

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The main food item they are featuring is a green pumpkin seed mole sauce (smooth yet nutty, mild yet flavorful) that can be served over chicken, salmon, halibut (as seen above, although my picture doesn't do it justice), or tamales, as well as chile verde and pollo verde dishes. From 5-7pm on St. Patrick's Day itself there will be specials in the bar including green margaritas and half-price appetizers. Other menu developments are coming soon to Taleo. Be sure to always ask your server about specials they may have the day of your visit that may not be on the regular menu.

More information about their March specials can be found here.


Coupon

We are pleased to offer a coupon in conjunction with Taleo Mexican Grill good for a complimentary appetizer or dessert item of your choice.




Taleo's Official Website

Click HERE or on the "taleo" label below to read all our coverage of Taleo Mexican Grill, including the especially big "Deluxe Review" with extensive photos and food descriptions:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blanca - Review #1

Blanca
3420 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 673-0414

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Date of Visit: December 11, 2008

Where Food Trumps Strange Vibe and Atmosphere

Here's another guest review by Judy "the Foodie" Asman about a meal we shared together a couple months ago on Lido Isle.

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If the Spanish word "Blanca" translated into "strange," then the name would be most fitting for the Via Lido restaurant. Boasting a wide-ranging tapas menu, gourmet ensaladas, entrées, and fine wines, Blanca—one can assume—is named for its white motif. Should this be the case, then "Blanca" only partially captures the experience of this oft talked about eatery.

Thanks to a friendly invite from Christian Z, I dined at the dockside restaurant earlier this year. Originally anticipating enjoying a late-afternoon meal in what many consider to be one of Newport Beach's most quaint settings, Christian and I were disappointed to learn the restaurant opened at a later hour than we thought—shooting down our plans to take pictures of our dishes in afternoon sunlight.

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Meeting up in the parking lot of a local grocery store, Christian and I found ourselves in a Via Lido reminiscent of an old Western town that was recently abandoned by residents seeking the next gold rush. Off a downtown street both empty and quiet, we stepped onto the platform leading to the various rooms that are the whole of Blanca. Passing what was obviously the full bar on the left, Christian and I turned the corner and opted to sit on the deck alongside the harbor, while the few white tables and white puffy booths inside remained empty the entire time we were there.

With only a few servers tending almost no other customers, Christian and I were surprised to have waited as long as we did for menus and water. In the end, our service was courteous and friendly—but that didn't stop us from observing the strangeness of our experience as the night went on.

With colorful lighting in a somewhat dark atmosphere, and a friendly waitress who went through a number of outfits and hairstyles before landing on one that looked more like a club cocktail waitress outfit, Christian and I put it together that—for that evening anyway—Blanca seemed more focus on appealing to its late night club crowd, which we gathered would start piling in during the later hours.

When Christian and I finally ate, we were pleasantly surprised. At that point the atmosphere was nothing to speak of. Practically no customers came in while we were there, except for a group of college boys who seemed to be reuniting during the close of the holiday season. Our service left a lot to be desired despite our server's best efforts. So it was monumental that when we were served our food—we actually enjoyed high-quality dishes prepared to savory perfection.

I ordered the Posole, which was not only a very recession-friendly price of about $6 or $7, but it was soothing, flavorful and elegantly presented. The bowl was delivered on a white base plate bearing all of the garnishments and spices in small dainty doses—a couple of lime slices, cleanly cut radishes, chopped cabbage and oregano. The soup’s broth was most pleasing, and the ingredients were fresh. Although the dish does not appear on their current menu (according to their Web site www.blancanewport.com), its possible this was the Soup du jour, listed as $4.95.

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Christian expressed equal satisfaction with his meal—barbecued tiger shrimp with a sweetly flavored glaze. I seem to remember he had a nice rice pilaf alongside his shrimp, but the current menu online only lists a similar dish as "Coconut and Graham Cracker Battered Shrimp" ($11.95) with purple cabbage slaw and sweet and sour sauce.

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After listening to me rave about the Posole, Christian couldn't help but ask our server for a sampling of some. He enjoyed it quite a bit, he would tell me later. Even though after dinner, while standing in the parking lot, he would notice our server had charged him for a full bowl! Before going our separate ways for the night, Christian and I mused about how puzzled we were at our dining experience. Looking back to face the empty street, and the enigmatic eatery we came to know as Blanca, there was one thing on which we could agree—the food was not-too-shabby.

Prices:
Appetizers: $6 - $7; Tapas: $7 - $10; Soups and Salads: $5 - $8; Entrées: $7- $12; Deserts: $5 - $7; Wines: A variety that includes European wines, Australian brands and Californians, $8 - $375.

Thanks for the writeup, Judy. Here's a picture of the flan we shared that was actually three little flans streaked with caramel:

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tacos El Vaquero

Here's a quick little review of a stand I came across at our farmer's market. The stand was Taco's El Vaquero (sic). The selections are limited but fresh and tasty. This day he had chicken, steak and goat meats for tacos or tortas. I had a goat and steak taco. Both were very good, loaded up with the works. I also tried a fabulous agua fresca that was a mix of apple, melons and banana. One of the best aguas frescas I've had in a long time. He just does farmer's markets in Northern Orange County (Orange, Fullerton, Garden Grove and Anaheim, I think) as well as catering.

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You can see the phone numbers on his sign. Don't go to the address though - as I say, it is just catering and the markets. I think the address is his home.

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Carne asada and my first birria taco!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Taco Rosa's Happy Hour Stimulus Menu

Both Taco Rosa locations (Newport Beach, Irvine) have announced some recession busting deals for their new "Happy Hour Stimulus Menu," that will be available Mondays through Friday (except holidays) from 2 to 6:30pm.

$3 Items

  • Lobster Bisque
  • Stuffed Jalapeños (4)

$4 Items

  • Guacamole & Chips
  • Chicken Taquitos (3)

$5 Items

  • Blackened Chicken Tostada
  • Blackened Chicken Quesadilla
  • Texas Steak Nachos

$6 Items

  • Portobello Quesadilla
  • Salmon Salad
  • Tostadas de Ceviche (3)

Also, on Sundays selected kid's meals are only $1 with the purchase of an adult entree and on Mondays burritos and combination plates are buy one, get one half off. For March their monthly specials include several seafood items and crepas de platano (banana crepes) for dessert.





Click HERE or on the 'taco rosa' label below for tons of information on both locations including dozens of photos, address and contact information, and links to their official site.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Carnitas Chicken from El Pollo Loco

Carnitas Chicken from El Pollo Loco
Leave it to a crazy chicken to do something like preparing chicken meat in a pork-like fashion. I tried to stay away from this item but have had people ask me, "So, OC Mex Food Guy, what is up with that carnitas chicken from El Pollo Loco? Don't they know carnitas is pork?" The official line from El Pollo Loco is, "We've taken a traditional pork dish and made it tastier with citrus-marinated chicken."

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I finally tried it today for lunch and I think I liked it. It was certainly different and very moist and juicy with some peppery flavor enhancement. You can get a chicken carnitas platter like I did or a taco or a burrito or as the centerpiece of one of their low-carb bowls.

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Extreme Closeup

If you've tried it leave a comment with your opinion.

Official Site

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rita's Baja Blenders &
Mission Tortilla Factory


Location: The Pacific Wharf area of Disney's California Adventure

I thought I had covered all the Mexican food there was to cover at the Disneyland Resort but have learned that there is still some more. This particular review is going to cover two places that have things to ingest and imbibe while not actually serving "meals."

Rita's Baja Blenders

Official Site

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Rita's Baja Blenders is a little hut (actually it's an "old water tower from an abandoned fishing warehouse") that serves nothing but margaritas; two alcoholic varieties for either $6.79 or $7.29 or non-alcoholic for $4.99. They come in lemon-lime or strawberry while the non-alcoholic also has flavors of the month.

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One time I was there as California Adventure was about to close and Rita's had already been closed for a while. I noticed another Disneyland visitor go up to Rita's and start banging on their aluminum windows apparently hoping that someone inside would open up and give him a margarita. Eventually he gave up and walked away but about ten minutes later I saw him back there again asking a Disneyland janitor if Rita's was going to open up. I guess this place has its fans.

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As seen above they can give you two flavors at once, perhaps even three. My non-alcoholic margarita here is Blue Hawaiian on the top and strawberry on bottom.

Mission Tortilla Factory

Official Site

UPDATE: This attraction has closed.

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The nearby Mission Tortilla Factory aims to teach Disneyland guests a little about Mexican history in the state of California and about tortillas as an early (and current) food staple.

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This is basically a self-guided tour that usually starts with a three minute introductory video but I have gone a few times when the video wasn't playing.

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You'll also see a number of murals on the tour:

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The next room after the video intro has viewing ports set at different heights that you can peer into and see some holographic videos of tortilla-making through the centuries. My camera didn't do them justice so you will just have to see them for yourself.

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You then enter the production line where there is a machine on the right that makes flour tortillas and one on the left that makes corn tortillas. You can have a sample of whatever kind they happen to be making when you are there. Personally I favor storebought flour tortillas over storebought corn tortillas, but the contrast blurs when the tortillas are handmade.

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One "cast member" told me that if you come on your birthday you are given a special treat. I have been told that the special treat may be a whole dozen freshly made tortillas but I will have to wait until later in the year to find out.

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Just beyond the two machines is a demonstration kitchen where artsy Mexican food with a Disney spin is cooked in the morning then displayed the rest of the day. Sorry, you can't eat it; at least I am told you are not allowed to eat it. Every time I have been there have been different items on display, many of which are pictured below.

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They also have recipe cards available for free of different Mission recipes, some of which are actually for Mexican dishes. I have seen four different recipe cards there.

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Before you exit you can weigh yourself on the tortilla scale. Yes, it gives your weight in tortillas, but it doesn't say if it's corn or flour tortillas or what size. I mean, when I go to the market and look at the Mission tortilla section some are big ones for burritos and some are smaller ones for gorditas, amongst other sizes.

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Despite my confusion as to exactly which type of tortilla I was being compared to I weighed in at 2240 tortillas . . . but I'm trying to work down to 2080 tortillas.

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If you're at California Adventure and you want a tasty history lesson and a quick break from the rides take a couple minutes to do the Mission Tortilla Factory tour. On another DCA note, I found out that the nearby Cocina Cucamonga will be moving to this spot that used to be the Lucky Fortune Cookery:

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Click here to see the complete album (42 photos) at ; more photos can be found at the DaveLand website.