Follow us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our photos on flickr • We pay $10 per published guest review; E-mail Blogger for info.

SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudo

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How Mexican Food Has Been Americanized

As a partial answer to what makes Mexican food authentic here's a guest post by Susan T. about how Mexican food has been Americanized here in the States:

Think Taco Bell qualifies as Mexican food? Think again. While the menu may have some traditional Mexican favorites, they've been changed quite a bit over the years to appeal to the American palate. This is true of nearly every Mexican restaurant in the country. Fast food joints and Americanized Mexican restaurants are the only exposure many Americans have had to Mexican cuisine. Even those who don't speak Spanish know what tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas are. But Mexican food didn't start out that way. Here are a few ways it's changed, and why.

Mexican food uses three basic staples—corn, beans, and rice. While it's sometimes eaten fresh, corn is most often used to make other things such as tortillas and tamales. Beans are cooked many different ways, and accompany nearly every meal. After corn, rice is the second-most-used grain, and is also a frequent side dish. These three items were the most abundantly available in Mexico, and formed the basis of the cuisine prior to the 16th century when Spanish settlers landed.

Spaniards brought many changes to Mexico, and the cuisine was not exempt. At that time, pastries with either sweet or savory fillings called empanadas were—and still are—very popular in Spain. The settlers also introduced chicken to the Mexican inhabitants, and soon a combination of traditional Mexican ingredients, chicken, cheese, and a tortilla was formed. It became the quesadilla, which still exists today, and can be found across the United States filled with all kind of ingredients.

Perhaps the single most important influence on Mexican cuisine has been the country's proximity to Texas. This is how the term Tex-Mex originated, and is used by many purists to describe any and all "Mexican" food in the United States to differentiate it from true Mexican fare. As Texas grew and developed, it became known for its meat. Cowboys on cattle drives needed simple foods that could be cooked fireside while on the trail. A pot of beans cooked in tomato sauce, a traditional Mexican dish called chili, could be satisfying, but it wasn't enough for Texas natives. They added meat and spices, and the dish became chili con carne, or chili with meat, which remains one of the most popular dishes in Texas to this day.

Through the years, Americans have added their own touches to Mexican food, either to make it more interesting, more flavorful, or just more palatable as true Mexican food can sometimes be bland. One example of this is the use of cheese not just as an ingredient, but as a food topping. Go to any Mexican restaurant in the United States, and you'll find tacos, enchiladas, beans, just about everything covered with mounds of melted, cheesy goo. Even salads get a healthy dose of shredded cheese sprinkled on top. While Mexicans will add cheese to some dishes, it's not used nearly as much in authentic fare as it is in Americanized dishes.

Probably no food served in Mexican restaurants is as American as the fajita. In fact, it's usually difficult to find it described in print as being Mexican, and is instead labeled as Tex-Mex. The dish's name is derived from the Spanish word faja, which loosely translates to skirt or strip, and describes the cut of meat usually used—skirt steak. Fajitas are also often made with chicken or even shrimp. The meat is marinated, grilled, then cut into strips and served on tortillas with grilled vegetables and salsa, another American invention. Fajitas first began showing up on menus in the early 1970s, and grew so popular so fast that they are now a staple on every Tex-Mex restaurant menu in the country.

There's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy fajitas, chili con carne, or any of the many other Mexican foods that have been Americanized in the United States. After all, they wouldn't have become so popular if they weren't so delicious. But if you ever travel to Mexico and have the opportunity to try some traditional Mexican food, don't pass it up. You may find you like it even more than the Mexican food you're used to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pablo's Cantina, RIP?

This has happened before where I go a number of times to a restaurant and get a bunch of pictures and just as I'm getting ready to post about them I hear they have closed. Pablo's was an oddball concept that started in Hawaii and then opened up a restaurant in Tustin that they planned on calling Pablo McGinty's to show that it would be part Mexican and part Irish (interesting to me since I have lived in both Hawaii and Ireland). Then as they were building they decided to change the name to Pablo's Cantina. Then after they opened they changed the name to just Pablo's. I went several times and they were always making tweaks to their menu. At first they had meats available on the menu that you wouldn't expect from an ostensibly El Torito-like place, such as lengua and other "authentic" Mexican items, but my guess is the clientele didn't order this stuff so much and probably just ordered typical combo plates. I tend to eat at places when their crowd will be small so I don't know what their busy times were like but I did see enough people there to make me slightly surprised that they were closing. Maybe even trying to put your place at the Tustin District, with its poorly planned parking, was the death knell from the beginning. If anyone else has anything to say about Pablo's please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

International Taco Festival

Thursday, November 10; 6–8pm
$1 Tacos

Swedish meatball tacos? Alaskan smoked salmon tacos? Curry goat tacos? Smells like a good time is just around the corner.  The Fullerton Sister City Association and The Muckenthaler present a night of international nibbles, live music by rock’n blues favorites The PleasureTones, lawn sports, gallery tours, a fun kids area, and chefs “from around the world.”

Make sure to save the date and help raise money for Fullerton Sister City exchanges!


Muckenthaler Cultural Center
1201 West Malvern Avenue
Fullerton, California 92833
Phone: (714) 738-6595

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Taco Rosa November 2011 Specials

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Both Taco Rosa locations this month are offering Fall-oriented dishes such as a zucchini flower quesadilla appetizer, served with Brie cheese and Fuji apples; the Chile Relleno Pie entree wrapped in a flaky puff pastry and stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, peas and carrots; and their first offering ever of savory pumpkin flan for dessert. They also have a Steak Picado entree on special this month that I don't have a picture of yet.

Click here if you are unable to view the slideshow above.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicken Carnitas back at El Pollo Loco

Press release from El Pollo Loco:

We’re inviting carnitas connoisseurs to ¡Feel the Mexcellence!℠ and enjoy a mouthwatering variation of a regional favorite—with an El Pollo Loco twist!

The season to celebrate is upon us and El Pollo Loco is gearing up to do just that! Back by popular demand and available through the New Year are the flame-grilled chicken leader’s Chicken Carnitas and much anticipated Chicken Tamales! Always indulging the taste buds of its loyal chicken lovers, the culinary experts at El Pollo Loco have re-introduced this traditional Mexican dish--It’s carnitas with an El Pollo Loco twist. Namely, pollo! El Pollo Loco guests can now enjoy Chicken Carnitas, prepared the traditional way with citrus juices and spices for authentic carnitas flavor and is available four different ways:
  • Carnitas Taco combines El Pollo Loco’s tasty new Chicken Carnitas with diced onion, wedge of lemon and fresh cilantro piled in warm corn tortillas.
  • Carnitas Bowl is a tasty twist on El Pollo Loco’s Pollo Bowl® with plenty of Chicken Carnitas served with diced onion, wedge of lemon, fresh cilantro and Pico de Gallo salsa atop Spanish rice and pinto beans.
  • Carnitas Burrito combines Chicken Carnitas with diced onion, fresh cilantro, Spanish rice, pinto beans, melted Jack cheese and a mild salsa prepared with Poblano chilies and wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.
  • Carnitas Meal features a generous portion of Chicken Carnitas accompanied by Spanish rice, pinto beans, wedge of lemon, warm tortillas and freshly prepared salsa.
In addition to Chicken Carnitas, Chicken Tamales are back at El Pollo Loco! Inspired by the time-honored kitchens of Mexico, El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tamales are made the traditional way with authentic corn masa, filled with delicately spiced chicken simmered in a rich Colorado chile sauce infused with Mexican herbs and spices, hand-wrapped in cornhusks, and then cooked to perfection. Our tamales are sold individually and in bundles of four served with a choice of our delicious fresh made salsas. Click here for a printable coupon valid for a FREE Chicken Carnitas Taco with minimum $5 purchase:


Headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, El Pollo Loco, Inc. currently operates nearly 400 restaurants located primarily in California, with additional restaurants in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Utah. El Pollo Loco’s menu features its signature citrus-marinated, flame-grilled chicken in individual and family-sized meals served with warm tortillas, freshly prepared salsas and an assortment of sides.

El Pollo Loco also serves a variety of Mexican-inspired entrees featuring the chain’s citrus-marinated, flame-grilled chicken, including Pollo Bowl® entrees, grilled chicken salads, grilled burritos, tacos and more. For more information, visit

Follow El Pollo Loco on Twitter:

Like El Pollo Loco on Facebook:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tamarindo Truck

Tamarindo Truck
Various OC Locations
(714) 640-9371



Official Site


The food truck craze is starting to come full circle now. For years there were the dime-a-dozen taco trucks that would show up at construction sites, warehouses, some office buildings, etc. When Kogi started a little over three years ago they were Korean food fused with Mexican but still mostly Korean. Then other "gourmet" trucks (at least more "gourmet" than the roach coaches) started up and many of them had nothing to do with Mexican food apart from the odd taco and burrito here and there, usually with non-traditional fillings. Now, in just the last couple months a couple trucks have started up that feature what is pretty much straight up Mexican food but operating at a level with the so-called gourmet trucks out there that attract rabid foodies from miles around. A shining example of just such a truck is Tamarindo Truck, who recently agreed to the following interview with us:
How and when did you first get the concept for the truck?
We were traveling in Mexico for the better part of last year and no matter how many delicious acclaimed Mexican restaurants we ate at (and enjoyed) we always found ourselves coming back to street food. It didn't matter if it was a stand selling tacos, mariscos or tortas, there was something very true about them all. It wasn't fancy or a "reinvention of the wheel" but it was damn good. Real food for real people made with generations of care. You could taste it and you could feel it. That's what inspired us to get back to basics, bring some delicious food to the streets of Orange County and serve it up with a little love. To this day the compliments that stick in our minds the most are the ones that revolve around home, people saying that eating our food reminds them of their childhood or makes them remember their mothers, grandfathers, sisters, etc. As a cook there is nothing better than that.


How long from conception to reality?
The hardest part for us was finding a truck that suited our needs. We take pride in buying fresh and cooking everything from scratch, that requires a certain type of kitchen.


Have you been successful finding local, organic, sustainable food on your truck?
We do our best to source locally; I would say this is our number one priority. We are hoping that the trend catches on and it becomes easier for everyone to do so. We love working at Farmers Markets, its great to be able to walk a few feet off our truck and pick up some amazing ingredients. It's even better to be able to talk to the people who had a hand in growing it. That's the culture behind food that inspires us to cook.


Any story behind the name Tamarindo?
We love Tamarindo, plain and simple. When we are in Mexico we buy it raw, peel it and eat it. My mouth is watering now talking about it. I don't know who came up with the saying “raisins are natures candy”… they obviously never encountered tamarindo. The natural combination of sweet and sour is just delicious and doesn't require any altering. Look out for Tamarindo shrimp in the upcoming weeks, we know its gonna be a hit!


Are tamales working for you?
Everyone is really enjoying the tamales. We wish we could keep up with the demand but as you know, they go quick and are incredibly time consuming to make from scratch. We are going to be selling them in bulk for the holiday season. Tamales are very traditional in Mexico around Christmas and Posadas. We hope they bring something special to those who might not be able make it home this season.


For years there were Mexican lunch trucks and not much else in the way of other food trucks. When the gourmet food truck craze started the only way you could find Mexican food was if it was fused with another cuisine. But your truck is straight up Mexican while bordering on gourmet. Are people grasping this concept?
The only thing we are concerned about people grasping is that we are passionate about cooking fresh and delicious food. Food can evoke so many feelings and it's our hope that our food does that for people. The word gourmet has gotten a lot of hype lately and it's hard to grasp. We use fresh products, clean flavors and cook everything you are eating from our little truck. It's what we are passionate about, eating real food from the earth with as little processing as possible. If that makes us a gourmet food truck, lunch truck or anything else for that matter, we will take it. Mexican food really can push the envelope and make you think, “Hmmm, what is that flavor I am tasting?” We choose to use traditional, fresh and at times deliciously simple touches to evoke that in the Tamarindo Truck experience. That's what we want people to grasp and we definitely think our customers are.


Will there be any dessert items?
We will have dessert items in the very near future. We want to carry our theme of clean and authentic flavor profiles throughout our desserts, highlighting freshness of course. Some of our favorites include churros with a tamarindo caramel dipping sauce and delicious fruit popsicles just like all the ones you can find all over the streets of Mexico. We are partial to flan and buñuelos as well… But who isn't!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Thank you to Sarah Resendiz for graciously answering our interview questions. We'll be highlighting other "Gour-Mex" trucks soon…

Monday, October 03, 2011

October 4th is National Taco Day

SOL COCINA: Battle of the Tacos  |  OCT 4
Guests to choose the winner of Chef Deborah Schneider’s dueling tacos!

NEWPORT BEACH, October 2011 – In conjunction with National Taco Day on Tuesday, October 4th, two of SOL Cocina’s latest signature tacos -- Grilled Taco “Al Pastor” and Crispy Crab 'Tinga Taco – will go head-to-head in competition to be named SOL National Taco Day Champion. Guests will have the opportunity to cast their votes at the restaurant during lunch and dinner hours (11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.). There is no purchase necessary to participate in voting, and after final votes are tallied and a taco champion has been determined 10 guests will be selected at random from the winning submissions. Each of the 10 lucky individuals will receive a complimentary SOL House Margarita.

Grilled Taco “Al Pastor”Thinly Pounded Pork Loin in Ancho Chile-Garlic Recado,
Flash-grilled and served on corn tortilla with Oaxaca Cheese and Fresh Pineapple
$4.50 each

Spicy Crab ‘Tinga Taco
Two Crispy Tacos filled with Sautéed Crabmeat, Smoky Chipotles, Onion and Red Peppers
2 for $6.

“We have always looked to our guests for inspiration,” said Matt Baumayr, Managing Partner of SOL Cocina. "I am confident that everyone will enjoy both of the two tacos ‘competing’ in this challenge!”


Read OC Mex Food's coverage of Sol Cocina.

Sprechen Sie Espanol?

Del Taco Celebrates 'Tacoberfest' Featuring Taco Deluxe
(Lake Forest, CA) Oct. 3, 2011 – Del Taco restaurants across the country are putting a spin on one of Germany’s most famous events – Oktoberfest.   Beginning on National Taco Day – October 4th and lasting until October 31st, Del Taco will offer taco specials all day, every day for a month-long  “celebration worthy of tacos” called Tacoberfest.
At the center of Del Taco’s Tacoberfest is the Taco Deluxe with five layers of fresh flavor including seasoned beef, freshly grated cheddar cheese, crisp lettuce, sour cream and pico de gallo. Combining great taste and big value, Taco Deluxe delivers the best tasting taco for under a dollar.

For Tacoberfest, Del Taco restaurants will feature the Taco Deluxe for 89-cents, along with other great values like two Crispy Fish Tacos for $3, two Big Fat Crispy Chicken Tacos for $4, and two Big Fat Grilled Chicken or Steak Tacos for $4.

“Why should German foods have all the fun this month? Our tacos are worthy of a celebration, too. Our full line of tacos are made with fresh ingredients, deliver great taste and bold value,” said John Cappasola, Chief Brand Officer at Del Taco.   “We’re proud to feature the Taco Deluxe as part of Tacoberfest.  It’s loaded with five fresh flavors for under a buck which is a price that is sure to delight our customers.”

Consumers can “like” Del Taco and receive a coupon for a free Taco Deluxe with any purchase on Del Taco’s Facebook fan page –


Read OC Mex Food's coverage of Del Taco.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Adolfo's (Laguna Beach)

998 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651-2727
(949) 497-2023

Listing on Trip Advisor

Listing on Menuism

No known official website.
Yahoo! Maps

Enter starting address:

City, State and/or Zip





Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taqueria La Bamba

Taqueria La Bamba
446 S Harbor Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92832
(714) 871-2636

Review at OC Weekly

Listing on Urbanspoon

Official Site
Yahoo! Maps

Enter starting address:

City, State and/or Zip




Taqueria La Bamba (yes, I think it's named after the song) is a humble little place hiding away on a small corner in Fullerton and was recommended to me by Gustavo Arellano (I think - actually, now that I think about it more it was recommended to me by somebody that Gustavo had introduced me to). It's a pretty good representation of a mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall joint and anyone looking for an authentic Mexican food experience in Orange County could find one here. Chips and salsa here aren't just chips and salsa but chips strewn with beans and cheese and served with robustly flavored red and green hot sauces:


The crispy cubed carnitas that had been recommended to me lived up to their recommendation and make a great example of Mexican food. And they get bonus points for the yummy avocado salsa (it was too chunky and unblended to be called guacamole). And more points for serving freshly made fruit and vegetable juices.


Four Speedy Gonzaleses:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jugos Acapulco Followup

Jugos Acapulco
745 W 19th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 722-8513

Listing on

Listing on Urbanspoon

Jugos Acapulco on Urbanspoon

No known official website.
Yahoo! Maps

Enter starting address:

City, State and/or Zip


This is embarrassing to admit but since starting this blog I have packed on 40 pounds. For about 15 years before starting the blog I was holding at an incredibly steady 175 lbs. But then the weight started piling on and I eventually topped out at around 219 lbs. The funny thing is I don't think my eating habits changed once the blog started; I was eating about the same only now I was taking pictures of the food and reporting on it. But I couldn't deny the increase in weight. Maybe it was simply a slowing metabolism due to age. Whatever the cause I needed to do something about it.


Now I don't do diets. I believe in making lifelong changes to eating habits. My simple approach was going to be: lower sugar intake, eat less processed foods, increase fresh fruit and vegetable intake. I then remembered that a Mexican place I went to over five years ago served fresh vegetable juice. Why hadn't I been back there? On my one prior visit I had a papaya drink. This time I had to get the vegetable juice. They have several varieties to choose from or you can tell them exactly what vegetables you want in your blend. I went for their version that closely mimics V8. You get a big styrofoam cup full of it and they give you the blender too with all the juice that wouldn't fit in the cup and there's probably more in the blender than in the cup. When you're done you feel like your body has loaded up on nutrients.


They have tacos and other food items too but the tacos were, uh, pretty standard, nothing to write home about:

Next time I'm in the area I'll probably be getting my food from El Toro Bravo and my vegetable juice from Jugos Acapulco. They also have mixed fruit bowls too called "pico de gallo:"


I got one of these and enjoyed at home later (no, I didn't use all that chili pepper). A little extra dose of sunshine for the day. I can now report that my weight is down to 210 and hopefully I can get it to keep dropping down to that optimal 175.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Get Ready for the Great Food Truck Race

Season 2 of the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race will be beginning on August 14th. Two of our favorite OC food trucks are in it, Seabirds Truck and The Lime Truck. Seabirds Truck serves vegan cuisine (though many non-vegans such as myself love their food) and The Lime Truck serves what could be called California Coastal cuisine. Both trucks regularly serve Mexican-inspired items. Here's a look at just some of them:

Seabirds Truck


Potato Taquitos

Breakfast Quesadilla

Nacho Mama's Nachos
Nacho Mama's Nachos

The popular Seabirds sauce for sale

Jack Asado Taco and Beer-battered Avocado Taco

Official Site

Seabirds on Twitter

The Lime Truck



Carnitas Fries and a Taco

Blue Crab Ceviche

Jane's Addiction Quesadilla


Official Site

The Lime Truck on Twitter

The Orange County Register's Fast Food Maven has the details on reuniting of the two trucks at a viewing of the premiere episode of this season's Great Food Truck Race and even more info here.