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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Taco Rosa - Review #4

IMPORTANT NOTE: "Taco Rosa - Review #4" is an outdated entry. If that is the entry you are on you will want to CLICK HERE to read all our extensive coverage of Taco Rosa, especially since it includes dozens of photos that are much better quality than the ones found here.

Date of Visit: March 29, 2006

Taco Rosa
2632 San Miguel Road
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 720-0980

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on Google Local

Official Site

Came tonight to meet up with some friends. Deanna was the first in the party to show up and told the co-owner, Marco Calderon, that she had two amigas bonitas coming. Well, the next two people in the party that showed up were me and then Darren and we didn't fit the description of amigas bonitas so Deanna made extra sure to point out Tricia and Jenn to Marco when they finally arrived.

Deanna ordered a bowl of the lobster bisque, Taco Rosa's house soup. When she tried it she said it was too salty and told the waiter it wasn't quite to her liking and he immediately asked if she would like the soup of the day in its place. She agreed to that and liked the replacement soup, the caldo tlalpeño (made with chicken, rice, avocado, and garbanzo beans), much better. Jenn ordered the zucchini quesadilla, Tricia ordered one of the enchilada platters (can't remember exactly what kind), Darren ordered a blackened chicken taco, and I ordered the blackened chicken torta.

For dessert we got the churros and the sopapillas. Everyone dug in, dipping away into the cup of sauce from the chocolate fountain as well as the cup of agave nectar.

Near the end of the meal I got up to take a picture of our group and my favorite waitress went walking by and volunteered to take the picture for me, so I got in the picture too. Then she told how, back in late December/early January, one of the managers printed up my first review of Taco Rosa and had all the employees there read it (now I feel very self-conscious). Apparently they were all asked, "Who was it that worked the day after Christmas and forgot to give this customer his appetizer?" I hope I didn't get anybody in trouble because my point in that review was that they did a good job of handling the oversight. I finally asked this waitress what her name is and I believe she said her name is "Jo."

The pictures didn't turn out quite the way I would have liked them to but they still give some idea of the place and they give me an excuse to go back and take better pictures later.

Taco Rosa Appetizer Tray
Appetizer tray

Taco Rosa Soup
caldo tlalpeño

Taco RosaExterior

Taco Rosa Blackened chicken torta
Blackened chicken torta

Taco Rosa Blackened chicken taco
Blackened chicken taco

Taco Rosa - Zucchini Quesadilla
flor de calabaza

Taco Rosa Sopapillas

Group Shot
Blurry group shot

Tricia and Jenn
Working out the bill

Everyone in the party enjoyed the meal and the service was excellent and personalized. Nothing about this Taco Rosa visit lowers the five Speedy Gonzales rating they received in prior reviews here:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Click on the "taco rosa" label to see all our coverage:

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ricardo's Don Jose - Review #1

14882 Holt Ave
Tustin, CA 92780

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on's Citysearch

Official Site

Joy has submitted another lengthy review after her tour de force review of Taco Rosa, this time of Ricardo's Don José in Tustin:

Ricardo's Don José Restaurants is a chain with eleven locations in Southern California. My partner and I have been to the Don José in Tustin multiple times, and have always enjoyed ourselves. We went back last night to take advantage of a coupon sent in the mail for one free entree with the purchase of an entree and two beverages (they also post coupons on their web site sometimes). Again, we had a satisfying, filling, and pleasant meal. I didn't take any pictures, so I'll try to describe the food with plenty of detail to make up for it.

Walking into Don José, it may not seem like a very authentic Mexican restaurant: most of the customers are white, and everyone speaks English. However, this is far from the Americanized Mexicano-slop I was served in the Midwest: with only two exceptions (potato skins and mud pie), the menu only includes standard Mexican items, and the flavors are similar to what I've eaten in restaurants that drew primarily Mexican customers. The decor is colorful and cheerful without being either too kitschy or too much like a soulless chain restaurant, everything is clean and well-kept, the wait staff is efficient and nice, and they don't play music so loudly that it interferes with conversation. There are often many people waiting in the lobby to be seated, but the line tends to go pretty quickly. There are two dining areas. The one on the left has a large TV, usually playing sports, and includes a short bar with a few bar seats. The right side is larger and is all booths, which make for comfortable seating.

The service is consistently good. Within a minute of being seated, someone brought us chips and salsa, and a minute later our server came to take our drinks order. I didn't keep track of the time after we ordered our dinner, but it came amazingly fast -- no more than five minutes. That was especially impressive because the restaurant was packed. Everything else we asked for (refills, dessert, bill) also arrived quickly.

I really like the Don José chips; they are exceptionally thin and crisp, and often still warm when they arrive at the table (I think they are made of flour tortillas). You only get one choice of salsa, which is pretty good. It's chunky, as I like it, rather than smooth. It's just spicy enough to be interesting, if not as hot as I like it: you can clearly taste the raw onions, cilantro, and chile peppers, in that order. The salsa has been better on other trips, which I think is due to the varying quality of the tomatoes.

In many past trips, I've ordered the Chicken Sonora plate. I especially like the "Sonora corn" served as a side. It also features a marinated and grilled chicken breast, a chile relleno, refried beans, rice, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, tortillas, and I think some other side or salad. But this time I was determined to order a chicken taco -- based on an earlier conversation with Christian on this blog. I ordered the combination plate #7 (soft chicken taco, chile relleno, and chile Colorado, $9.75) and my partner ordered the combination plate #6 (soft shredded beef taco and tamale, $8.75). Both come with refried beans, rice, and some lettuce. My dish came with so much food that I had a full plate's worth left over for lunch the next day. My partner ate almost all of his dish, though.

Don José serves my favorite chile relleno in this region, that I've found so far, at least. On the menu, they call it "grilled chile rellano." I'm trying to figure out how they cook it, because it's distinctly different than most restaurants. (I don't know if that means it's inauthentic, or if it represents a different part of Mexico. Maybe spelling it rellano rather than relleno signifies a different region, or maybe it's just a misspelling.) I think that what they do is fry the batter by itself first, like a thick eggy pancake, then wrap it around the cheese-stuffed chile and reheat the whole thing in the sauce. The result is a delicious, distinct egg flavor in the coating, without any of the oiliness or bits of undercooked batter you can get with deep-fried versions. Also, they use a relatively small amount of cheese, which allows much more poblano flavor to come through. The sauce is a light tomato-based sauce: not very spicy, but interesting enough to add to the dish.

The soft chicken taco was served on a separate plate. Even though it had two corn tortillas, there was so much filling that I couldn't manage to pick it up to eat it until after I'd eaten about a third of it with a fork. Even then I made a total mess of my hands in the process. The taco was good, with fresh-tasting ingredients and big chunks of chicken. It didn't stand out much, though; later I realized that all it needed was a dash of hot sauce (which they don't have on the table, but I could have asked for some).

The chile Colorado was also good. The sauce was flavorful, although again, I wish I would have asked for more chiles or hot sauce. The meat was also good, although a few pieces were somewhat chewier than I'd prefer.

(To clarify about the heat level: although the food here isn't as spicy as I'd like it, I seem to have a greater tolerance for heat than others, so don't think the food's not flavorful. For example, it's still spicy enough that my white-bread parents and sister would think most dishes were too hot.)

I'm not fond of the refried beans at Don José. I prefer my beans to have more texture, whereas their beans are smoothly mashed. But worse, they don't have much flavor. Also, they put too much cheese on top for my taste (I keep forgetting to ask for less or no cheese on the beans). My partner likes his refried beans smooth and cheesy, and after adding a bit of salt to perk them up, he liked them fine.
My partner liked his taco and tamale. Being the very neat person that he is, he somehow managed to pick up his overstuffed taco and eat it without dropping filling bits in his lap and without getting sauce all over his hands (it's his special superpower). I didn't snatch any of his taco before it was gone, but I got a couple bites of his tamale. I don't generally enjoy tamales because I find the masa to be too thick and/or dry, but this was pretty good. There was relatively more filling and less masa dough than usual, and the masa wasn't as heavy tasting (probably because, according to their site, they use vegetable oil rather than lard -- definitely not traditional). Also, the masa dough was somewhat crispy on the outside. Maybe they fried it straight up, without the corn husks (if so, is it still a tamale?), or maybe they burned it on purpose to get this crispy edge, or maybe this was an accident and it doesn't normally taste like this. I don't know, but it made a really nice contrast with the soft filling.

My partner was too full for dessert, but since I was saving half my meal for lunch, I still had room for more, and ordered the fried ice cream ($4.25). It turned out to be the only dish I didn't like, although it couldn't have been too bad, since I ate it all! The coating was not at all crunchy or crispy. Since the ice cream was still hard, I think the ice cream wasn't fried for long enough or the oil wasn't hot enough. However, it would still have suffered from the fairly flavorless coating: I like a pronounced flavor of nuts or cinnamon or both, but this had neither. The ice cream ball was served in a fried tortilla shell, which was also lacking in flavor; there was a sprinkling of cinnamon on the bottom, but it really needed more fat/oil flavor, and maybe some powdered sugar. Even the whipped cream was disappointing. They also offer flan, but we've never had it, since we rarely order desserts.
On previous visits, we and our dining companions have ordered many -- possibly almost all -- of the other dishes on the menu. I don't remember details, other than my in-laws loving the fish tacos, just many happy meals and no significant disappointments. This is a really good, cheery, dependable restaurant, although not what I'd call a really good traditional Mexican restaurant. What's missing is more Mexican touches, such as more salsa options, condiments on the table, drinks such as aguas frescas. I give it a Speedy Gonzales rating of 4 out of 5.

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Thanks, Joy. Always open to more reviews.

Salsa Extravaganza

So, I made these salsas for a little informal church gathering. Due to the circumstances I wasn't able to give them all the TLC I wanted to and the photos are a little blurry but everybody still seemed to like them and it gives an idea of the versatility of Mexican food. I've made traditional salsa and papaya salsa before but this was the first time I'd made Honeydew-Garbanzo Bean salsa. It was modeled after a salsa served at a Mexican fast food place that I used to go to in the food court at the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Hawaii (Señor Pepe). I don't even know if I remembered correctly what was in that salsa but people seemed to like my concoction.



Honeydew-Garbanzo Bean

UPDATE (August 22, 2006):

Made some watermelon-raspberry salsa last night using yellow watermelon obtained from Gelson's. The first picture shows the ingredients before they became salsa. The pictures turned out much better than the ones above.

Salsa Ingredients
Salsa Ingredients

Salsa Ingredients
Watermelon-Raspberry Salsa

Honeydew-Garbanzo Bean

Also see my entry on Making Salsa.

Friday, March 24, 2006

El Matador - Review #1

1768 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on AOL CityGuide

El Matador Exterior

(For an UPDATED take on El Matador with photos of their recent renovation please CLICK HERE to read El Matador - Review #2.)

A reviewer at this restaurant's Yahoo! Local page says, "Don't let the location in an old storefront next to a tire dealer put you off . . . " and the guy who told me about it says, "Don't be frightened by the horrific decor from the outside...." When I got there I could see what they were getting at. The door to the restaurant almost seems like it could be a side door to the tire store, they are that close. There are a couple of parking spaces right out front but I went into the alley and parked by the carpet store.

El Matador Exterior

If you like old school El Matador has a corner on old school. They have changed hands a number of times in forty years but have apparently always kept the decor largely the same. I was tempted to bash open a few of the piñatas hanging from the ceiling but I restrained myself. Their front window advertises that they serve fish tacos which any Mexican restaurant feels like they need to advertise nowadays to stay relevant but I don't think customers patronize El Matador for temporal relevance but for familiarity.

El Matador Interior

Guess this particular meal was somewhat of a brunch because I ordered chorizo with potatos and eggs. I'm a sucker for a good chorizo meal. Reminds me of the times when my dad would cook it up on Saturday morning while I was watching cartoons (Hong Kong Phooey!) and the aroma would permeate the house. El Matador's chorizo was probably the closest approximation to those childhood memories I've experienced in a long time.

El Matador Exterior

El Matador gets a three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

View the complete photo album (24 photos so far) at flickr.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tia Juana's Long Bar & Grill - Review #2

14988 Sand Canyon Ave
Irvine, CA 92618

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Listing on's Citysearch

Official Site

Tia Juana's Exterior

UPDATE: Tia Juana's has closed down as of late 2011.

So, I went back to Tia Juana's on a lunch break just to get some pictures because last time I was there only one of my pictures turned out. Ordered the Alaskan Mero entree again but instead of ordering the deep fried ice cream I got their tequila lime cheesecake as a dessert.

Tia Juana's Shrimp Enchilada Platter
Tia Juana's Shrimp Enchilada Platter

Tia Juana's Alaskan Mero Entree
Tia Juana's Alaskan Mero Entree

Tia Juana's Interior
Tia Juana's Interior

Tia Juana's Lime Cheesecake
Tia Juana's Lime Cheesecake

My co-worker Ed ordered the shrimp enchilada and liked it better than shrimp enchiladas he's had elsewhere because it had big chunks of shrimp in it. He was about to order dessert but was too stuffed from the chips and his entree. He said he'd give Tia Juana's a four Speedy Gonzales rating. I'm sticking with my original three Speedy Gonzales rating (although it's maybe more solid this time) and combining the two for a three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where have we been? (The Table of Contents)

Below is a table showing restaurants we have reviewed since late December 2005, the city they are in, and who reviewed them. They are placed in the order they were reviewed chronologically. Obviously there are more reviews on the way. This table is sortable, meaning you can click on the table header "Restaurant," or "City" at the top of the table and the table will be sorted in alphabetical order by the criteria you selected.

Mexican Restaurant Names

Once you see a restaurant you want to read about click on its name to read all about it.
Review Index

Click anywhere in here to sort list alphabetically by restaurant name.
Click anywhere in here to sort list alphabetically by city name.
1.Taco RosaNewport BeachChristian
2.Little OnionSanta AnaChristian
3.Las BrisasLaguna BeachChristian
4.Azteca'sFountain ValleyChristian
5.On the BorderIrvineChristian
6.Jugos AcapulcoCosta MesaChristian
7.El Pollo LocoTustinChristian
8.Rubio'sFountain ValleyChristian
10.Old MexicoAnaheimChristian
12.Los SanchezGarden GroveChristian
13.Taco FactoryIrvineChristian
14.Las BarcasHuntington BeachJames/Christian
15.El FarolitoPlacentiaChristian
17.Taco BellFountain ValleyChristian
20.Baja FreshIrvineChristian
21.Normita'sHuntington BeachChristian
22.Blue AgaveYorba LindaChristian
23.Taco RosaNewport BeachJoy
24.El FortinStantonChristian
27.Playas de SinaloaSanta AnaChristian
28.Taqueria el GranjenalCosta MesaChristian
29.Flamingo'sLaguna HillsChristian
30.Las FajitasIrvineChristian
31.Miguel's Jr.Corona (OOC)James
33.Don CarlosAnaheim HillsJames
38.Ricardo's Don JoseTustinJoy
40.El ConejitoLake ForestChristian
41.Los GallosPlacentiaJames
44.El Gallo GiroSanta AnaVeronica/Christian
45.Taqueria de AndaOrangeChristian
46.Taco MesaLadera RanchChristian
47.Javier'sIrvine SpectrumChristian
52.AcapulcoCosta MesaChristian
53.La Cocina de IsabelCosta MesaChristian
54.La CapillaHuntington BeachChristian
55.Charo ChickenSeal BeachChristian
56.Las Fajitas GrillIrvineChristian
57.El ToritoIrvineChristian
59.Del TacoFountain ValleyChristian
62.Cocina CucamongaAnaheim (DCA)Christian
65.La ProvinciaTustinChristian
66.Carnitas La VillaNewport BeachChristian
67.Baja Fish TacosLaguna HillsChristian
68.Tacos AcapulcoSanta AnaChristian
70.Avila's El RanchitoLake ForestChristian
71.Taco MesaOrangeChristian
72.Durango Mexican GrillBreaChristian
76.El Cholo CantinaIrvineChristian
79.La FogataCorona del MarChristian
80.El Torito GrillIrvineChristian
81.Tortilla Jo'sAnaheim (DD)Christian
83.Fiesta GrillHuntington BeachChristian
85.Super MexHuntington BeachChristian
86.Rose Canyon Cantina & GrillTrabuco CanyonChristian
87.La Sirena GrillLaguna BeachChristian
88.Rancho del ZocaloAnaheim (DP)Christian
91.Lindo Michoacan #2AnaheimChristian
93.Chili PepperOrangeChristian
93.The Chili PepperOrangeChristian
95.Olamendi'sCapistrano BeachJohnny/Christian
96.CancunHuntington BeachChristian
97.Sharkeez (aka Baja Sharkeez)Huntington BeachChristian
99.Azteca'sHuntington BeachChristian
102.Taco MesaCosta MesaChristian
103.Los CabosOrangeChaz
104.El Rincon ChilangoSanta AnaAlex
105.La RanaAliso ViejoChristian
106.Taco SurfSurfsideChristian/Dave
107.ChipotleSanta AnaChristian
108.Rockin' BajaOceanside (OOC)Brekkie Fan
111.El MagueySan Juan CapistranoMatt
112.Mario'sHuntington BeachChristian
114.El Farolito Jr.AnaheimChristian
115.Taco AdobeOrangeChristian
118.El ZocaloSanta AnaChristian
119.Las CotijasTustinElmoMonster
120.Tortilla Jo's TaqueriaAnaheim (DD)Christian
121.La Reyna de MichoacanSanta AnaChristian
122.La Sirena GrillIrvineChristian
123.Molcajete GrillHuntington BeachChristian
124.Mi TierraLaguna NiguelChristian
125.Chronic TacosNewport BeachChristian
126.Cancun Fresh Mexican GrillFountain ValleyChristian
127.Chronic TacosOrangeJohnny
128.Wahoo's Fish TacoCosta MesaChristian
129.Taqueria JanitzioOrangeJohnny
130.Avila's El RanchitoCorona del MarChristian
131.Cafe El CholoLa HabraChristian
133.The Lazy Dog CafeWestminsterChristian
134.Carnitas Los ReyesOrangeJohnny
136.El Moctezuma #3OrangeJohnny
137.Taco RosaIrvineShelly
138.El Molino de OroSan Juan CapistranoChristian
139.Mi CasaCosta MesaJohnny
140.Whole FoodsTustin/IrvineChristian
141.El MatadorCosta MesaShelly/Christian
142.Tacos JaliscoOrangeJohnny
143.Wahoo'sIrvine SpectrumChristian
145.Los PrimosLake ForestJohnny
146.La ChiquitaSanta AnaChristian
147.ChipotleIrvine SpectrumChristian
148.La SiestaSan ClementeChristian
151.La FonditaPlacentiaChristian
153.Mollie's Country KitchenLaguna NiguelChristian
154.El Torito GrillBreaChristian
155.El ChinacoCosta MesaShelly
159.Taco FactoryIrvineChristian
163.Tacos EnsenadaLake ForestChristian
164.Green BurritoLa HabraChristian
165.Arsenio'sSanta AnaJohnny
166.Taco Joe'sGarden GroveChristian
168.Super PolloCosta MesaShelly
169.Rodrigo'sHuntington BeachChristian
171.El Maguey ExpressSan Juan CapistranoChristian
172.El FortinFullertonChristian/Johnny
173.Taqueria La PoblanaOrangeJohnny
174.Mariscos Playa AzulAnaheimChristian
176.AlbatrosLake ForestGriffin
177.Yucatan GrillSeal BeachChristian
179.Javier's (Crystal Cove)Newport BeachChristian
180.Tacos & Co.IrvineChristian
181.El Pollo FinoPlacentiaJohnny
182.Taqueria MexicoOrangeGriffin
183.Avila's El RanchitoNewport BeachChristian
184.El PatioAnaheimJohnny
187.Taco LocoLaguna BeachChristian
188.Bobby D'sOrangeJohnny
189.Carrusel PanaderiaAnaheimGriffin
191.AztecaGarden GroveChristian
192.Tacos PepeOrangeJohnny
193.Zack'sHuntington BeachChristian
194.Taqueria el ChilitoTustinGriffin
195.El TarascoFullertonChristian
198.Dave'sSan ClementeJack
201.Alebrije's GrillSanta AnaChristian
202.El Patio CafeCapistrano BeachJack
203.Celinda'sRancho Santa MargaritaJohnny
205.Miguel's To GoFoothill RanchChristian
206.Coyote GrillLaguna BeachChristian
207.El Toro BravoCosta MesaShelly
208.Las Brisas de ApatzinganSanta AnaChristian
210.Cantina LoungeFullertonJohnny/Christian
211.Gammy's CafeSanta AnaChristian
213.Charo ChickenTustinChristian
214.El SuahayoCypressChristian
215.Duke'sHuntington BeachChristian
216.Hacienda FloresOrangeJohnny
217.La Cocina de RicardoLake ForestChristian
218.Señor CamposLa HabraChristian
219.La Casa GarciaAnaheimJohnny
220.Pacific Whey CafeNewport BeachChristian
222.Baja Fish TacosSanta AnaElmoMonster
225.Taco FactoryTustinJudy the Foodie
226.La TerrazaSanta AnaChristian
227.Alexa CateringIrvineChristian
228.Rita's Baja BlendersAnaheim (DCA)Christian
229.Tacos el VaqueroVariousJohnny
232.Casa GaminoAnaheimChristian
233.El Chavito TacosHuntington BeachChristian
234.Alberto'sHuntington BeachChristian
236.El Adobe de CapistranoSan Juan CapistranoChristian
238.El Buen SaborTustinChristian
239.Matador CantinaFullertonChristian
240.Mi CasaOrangeJohnny
241.Olamendi's: Pop's Tacos and SandwichesDana PointChristian
242.Sol CocinaNewport BeachChristian
243.Buns & TortsVisalia (OOC)Eric/Christian
245.Esther's Taco HousePlacentiaChristian
246.Trejo'sHuntington BeachRustan
247.Cafe RioLake ForestChristian
247.Cafe RioCosta MesaChristian
248.Taco DawgCountywideChristian
249.Cha Cha's TacosBreaChristian
250.Cancun JuiceOrangeChristian
251.George's Mexican FoodHuntington BeachChristian
252.El Portal de VeracruzOrangeChristian
253.Tacos JerezHuntington BeachChristian
254.El Mejor TacosIrvineChristian
255.Amorelia Mexican CafeCosta MesaChristian
256.Taqueria TapatiaSanta AnaChristian
257.Sancho's TacosHuntington BeachChristian
258.Tortas SinaloaSanta AnaChristian
259.Ochoa's ChorizoSanta AnaGriffin
261.Taco NazoLa HabraAaron/Christian
262.Pedro's TacosSan ClementeChristian
263.Taqueria ZamoraSanta AnaChristian
265.Taqueria la BambaFullertonChristian
266.Adolfo'sLaguna BeachChristian
268.Tacos el RanchoFountain ValleyChristian

Search by City

Click any of the following city links to read our complete coverage so far of Mexican restaurants in that city:

Aliso ViejoAnaheim (includes Anaheim Hills)BreaCapistrano BeachCorona del MarCosta MesaDana PointDisneylandFountain ValleyFullertonGarden GroveHuntington BeachIrvineLa HabraLadera RanchLaguna BeachLaguna HillsLaguna NiguelLake ForestMission ViejoNewport BeachOrange (includes Orange Park Acres)PlacentiaRancho Santa MargaritaSan ClementeSan Juan CapistranoSanta AnaSeal BeachStantonSunset Beach/SurfsideTrabuco CanyonTustinWestminsterYorba Linda

Search Tips

  1. Make sure you know the name of the place you are looking for. If you are looking for "Sharkeez" in Huntington Beach and you sort the table alphabetically by restaurant name and you look under 'S' you won't find it and you will leave thinking we don't have the information you need (yes, people have done this). But if you sort the table alphabetically by city name and look under 'Huntington Beach' you will see that it is correctly listed as "Baja Sharkeez."
  2. Make sure you know the city the restaurant you are looking for is in. If you are trying to find information on Gabbi's (and we have plenty of information on Gabbi's) and you think it is in Tustin and you sort the table alphabetically by city name and look under 'Tustin' then you won't find it and you will leave thinking we don't have the information you need (yes, people have done this). But if you sort the table alphabetically by restaurant name and look under 'G' you will find Gabbi's and see that it is in the city of Orange.
  3. We have reviewed ~250 Mexican restaurants so far in Orange County so there is a very good chance we have information on almost any Mexican restaurant you are trying to find out more about. If you simply haven't yet been able to find a review here on a particular restaurant please e-mail and usually we will be able to respond quickly with the information you need. On the slim chance that we haven't yet covered a restaurant you are inquiring about it then we will add it to our "Go To" list and try to cover it as soon as possible.

Non-Mexican Restaurants

9.California Fish GrillIrvineChristian
19.KnowlwoodOld Town IrvineChristian
116.The Veggie GrillIrvineChristian
144.Rainforest CafeAnaheim (DD)Christian
150.Market BroilerHuntington BeachChristian
170.Dave & Buster'sIrvineChristian
190.Cafe MaizMission ViejoChristian
212.Mosaic BarLaguna BeachChristian
235.Storyteller's CafeAnaheim (DCA)Christian
237.Eat ChowCosta MesaChristian
260.Native Foods CafeTustinChristian
264.Sammy's BurgersHuntington BeachChristian

Restaurants we have reviewed that have since closed down:


16.Tia Juana'sIrvineChristian
32.Javier'sLaguna BeachChristian
34.El Torito GrillMission ViejoChristian
42.Taleo Mexican GrillIrvine (Park Place)Christian/Joy
43.Agave Mexican GrillRancho Santa MargaritaChristian
48.Nancy PueblaSanta AnaChristian/Omar
58.El ConejoIrvineChristian
61.KantinaNewport BeachJonathon/Joy
69.Fresca's Mexican GrillLake ForestChristian
73.La SalsaFashion IslandChristian
74.Mario's Fiesta MayaHuntington BeachChristian
78.Pedro's TacosSan Juan CapistranoChristian
84.Chronic CantinaCosta MesaChristian
98.El Torito GrillAnaheimChristian
100.Taqueria TiscarenoOrangeChristian
113.El Torito GrillFashion IslandChristian
117.Tortilla FlatsMission ViejoChristian
149.Taco SurfCosta MesaShelly
152.Lucia's Tacos y MulitasHuntington BeachChubbyPanda
156.Fresca'sFoothill RanchJohnny
158.Taco AdobeSanta AnaJohnny
167.ZorritoLaguna HillsChristian
185.Rasta TacoCapistrano BeachChristian
186.El Torito GrillRancho Santa MargaritaChristian
197.Nacho Taco/Mi TierraGarden GroveChristian
200.Frio DivinoSanta AnaChristian
204.Peña'sSanta AnaChristian
230.BlancaNewport BeachJudy the Foodie
264.Jose McCoy'sHuntington BeachChristian
267.Pablo's CantinaTustinChristian

Moreno's Mexican Restaurant - Review #1

Appetizer: Fresh made tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
Entree: Chile Colorado Plate (#22)
Drink: Diet Pepsi
Dessert: Flan

Moreno's Exterior

Phil Pico, who was the photographer for the first review of Las Barcas and was present for the first review of Normita's Surf City Tacos has submitted his own review for Moreno's Restaurant in Orange:

Well, in celebration of several family birthdays today my family got together to celebrate at a long time favorite of my fathers, Moreno's in Orange. At first glance the place gives you the impression of old Los Angeles. There is ample parking and it's pretty easy to locate off of Chapman Ave. After parking a clue to finding the main entrance is to cut through the front patio.

Once inside there are several rooms available, so wait to be seated. The staff are very friendly and helpful. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Nana and Tata's house when a family function is about to begin. After being seated we had fresh-made tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole and ordered our drinks. Also on the table are a couple bowls of vegetables for those of you wanting to spice things up (muy caliente!). We placed our orders promptly, I chose the Chile Colorado (#22 on the menu), my nephew's fiancé chose vegetable-beef soup, and my niece's fiancé chose the Carnitas (see below). All combinations come with tortillas and your choice of soup or salad; I had the Albondigas soup and it was hot and quite tasty! For those of you who like Spirits my mom and dad had margaritas (fish bowl sized) and my sister had the sangria (topped with fruit).

Our food arrived before the first basket of chips was gone. The Chile Colorado was real good! The portions were large and I had to get a take-away box because I couldn't finish it all. My nephew and his fiancé were very impressed with the Vegetable-beef soup and I didn't hear my soon-to-be-nephew (Rob) complain once about the Carnitas. After the plates were cleared the staff arrived and adorned us with sombreros (the birthday people). They sang us a special birthday song and presented each birthday person with a complimentary birthday flan. We had a great time. My parents often go there for the morning brunch and rave about how good it is. The only drawback that I had about the whole experience was the Salsa. I asked a waiter for some salsa fresca and he replied they didn't have any (what?!). We stayed long after our food was gone and continued to socialize. We arrived at 4:00pm and were on our way out by 6:00pm.

Out of a possible five speedy G's I give Moreno's a four (salsa cost 'em a Speedy, sorry!)

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UPDATE: Here's a slideshow of pictures from our other reviews on Moreno's. You can see our complete Moreno's coverage by clicking on the "moreno's" label below:

Saturday, March 18, 2006

El Pollo Loco Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

El Pollo Loco Chicken Tortilla Soup

The Orange County Register recently printed a recipe for a clone of El Pollo Loco's Chicken Tortilla Soup. I don't know how long the article will be accessible online so here's the recipe:


Yield: 6-8 servings
  • ½ cup instant rice
  • 4 cups water and 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies with liquid
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans with liquid
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1½ cups frozen corn kernels
  • Toppings: blend of shredded Mexican-style cheeses (found in sealed bags in most supermarkets), roughly crumbled tortilla chips, chopped green onion, sour cream
  1. Place all ingredients (except toppings) in 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20-30 minutes. Ladle into bowls and add toppings as desired.

If anybody tries this recipe before I do let us know how close it really is to El Pollo Loco's version. UPDATE: I should add that a lot of people keep searching the Internet for "El Pollo Loco Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe" so it must be popular.

UPDATE (February 26, 2009):

A commenter named Dawn just informed us that this very in-demand recipe is on El Pollo Loco's website. If it's been there for a while then I guess it was hidden in plain sight. CLICK HERE then scroll down to almost the bottom of the page for the South of the Border Chicken Soup. I'm guessing this is the same recipe even though it doesn't mention tortilla strips.

El Torito Grill - Review #1

El Torito Grill
27741 Crown Valley Pkwy Suite 601
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Listing on Yahoo! Local

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Official Site

Appetizer: Handmade tortillas with two types of salsa and honey butter
Entree: Quesadilla de Filete al Mesquite
Drink: agua
Dessert: Flan

El Torito Grill Exterior

UPDATE: This location has closed.

Fancier than El Torito (expansive fifty year old chain), not as fancy as Las Brisas (which is a lone restaurant under the El Torito umbrella), El Torito Grill, according to themselves, is "dedicated to bringing you the sensory experience that is a fusion of the contemporary and native foods of Mexico." El Torito Grill has four locations in Orange County. I've been to at least three other locations before including the now extinct Costa Mesa location. Many of the basic items on their menu overlap with the menu for the standard El Torito restaurants.

My brother and I stumbled on this location after we went looking for the Ladera Ranch location of Taco Mesa for breakfast and couldn't find it. The address for Taco Mesa is 27702 Crown Valley Parkway and we found two gas stations next to each other on Crown Valley, one of which was 27682 and the other one was 27742 but with no Taco Mesa in between them. Does anybody have any information on this? Anyways, we ended up going to El Torito Grill for an early lunch. It is on the 3rd level of the Kaleidoscope shopping center right where Crown Valley Parkway and the 5 freeway meet.

El Torito Grill
Guacamole made tableside

Instead of chips and salsa El Torito Grill brings you warm handmade tortillas with honey butter to spread on them and a mild and a spicy salsa. They also tend to bring you refills on the tortillas without you even having to ask. One of their featured appetizers is guacamole made tableside prepared with two big fresh avocados and to your desired degree of spiciness. I've had it on a previous visit but had to snap it being made at another party's table this time. If you want guacamole any fresher than that make it yourself and eat it while you're making it.

El Torito Grill
Two Cheese Enchilada Plate

El Torito Grill
Quesadilla de Filete al Mesquite

Seeing as how I was really hoping for breakfast I didn't go for a full entree but instead ordered an appetizer from their specials menu (their website indicates their specials menu changes daily so you will pretty much get a surprise every time you go). My item was a Quesadilla de Filete al Mesquite described on the menu as: "Grilled filet mignon, Jack cheese, shallots, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in a smoked chipotle tortilla. Served with fresh avocado relish." Turned out to be the fanciest quesadilla I've ever had (not the fanciest quesadilla I've heard of though, which was a Brie and Grape Quesadilla served with sweet pea guacamole I saw on the menu at the Hali'imaile General Store when I was on the island of Maui last June and which I might actually order when I go back). It was more like a big taquito, quartered with each segment lying in a bed of guacamole and facing up, all topped with a mop of shallots. If I ever see it on their menu again and somebody in my party wanted to share it as an appetizer I'd definitely order it again.

El Torito Grill
El Torito Grill's Flan

For dessert I ordered their flan. My brother came really close to ordering the peanut tostada then flaked out. The flan is presented in a more artsy way than most places but less artsy than Taco Rosa's. It came with whipped cream and strawberry slices, a sprig of mint, and powdered sugar dusted all around the oversized bowl.

Overall, El Torito Grill earns a four and a half Speedy Gonzales rating. I would maybe even kick them up to a five Speedy rating except that they don't have anything creative in the way of non-alcoholic beverages. Still, every visit to El Torito Grill is a positive adventure.

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Other El Torito Grill entries:

Or click on the "el torito grill" label below to read our full El Torito Grill coverage: