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Friday, February 23, 2007

Taqueria Tiscareno - Review #1

Date of Visit: February 10, 2007
Taqueria Tiscareno
1639 W Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 937-5917

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Taqueria Tiscareno - Exterior

UPDATE: This location has closed down.

Having not been to any hole-in-the-wall (that term has no negative connotation for me) restaurants recently I realized it was time to get back to some. I would've never found out about Tiscareno's if I wasn't invited since they don't have an official website (although they are working on one), there's almost no mention of them yet on the web, and their storefront is so small you could probably be in their shopping center and hardly even realize they are there. That's where people such as myself who have idiosyncratic, myopic blogs that focus on nothing but Mexican restaurants in only one county step in, uncovering and pointing out many hidden gems along the way.

When you approach Tiscareño's you find that their front door is not actually facing their shopping center's parking lot but is just around the corner facing a nice little breezy courtyard.

Taqueria Tiscareno - Salsa Bar

A TV and a jukebox are at your command:

Taqueria Tiscareno - Jukebox

Tiscareño's serves tortillas that are made fresh daily at their West Anaheim location then shipped to their location in Orange. They also provide catering services.

Taqueria Tiscareno - Menu Board

My lunch consisted of a bowl of pozole soup (pork, hominy, shredded cabbage, and sliced radishes) and an al pastor taco, made of pulled barbecued pork with lots of onions and cilantro. A whole plate full of chips topped with beans and cheese came on the side. This was all washed down with a big cup of horchata. I should have learned by now that at many restaurants a bowl of pozole soup is a meal in and of itself. I ate the taco and about a third of the hearty, tangy soup, supping up all of its down home goodness, before having to take the rest back with me when I got too full to proceed any further.

Taqueria Tiscareno - Taco and Pozole

About nine months ago I posed the question on my blog: What makes Mexican food authentic or inauthentic? Nobody seemed to know the answer. It always seems to be based on a gut feeling and those who have the most experience with Mexican food have the most weight put on their opinions. Anyways, my gut feeling says that Tiscareño's is high on the authenticity scale.

According to my fairly arbitrary, almost (but not totally) meaningless, rating system Taqueria Tiscareno earns a 3¾ Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Friday, February 16, 2007

Azteca's - Review #4

Date of Visit: February 3, 2007
Azteca's Fine Mexican Food
17491 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
(714) 847-2054

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Azteca's - Exterior

Any longtime reader of this blog will know that Azteca's Mexican Food in FV (CLICK HERE for our coverage of all three Azteca's locations) holds a special place in my heart (and stomach) as the mom and pop place near my mom and pop's place. It's the default Mexican food establishment for my family to patronize, having eaten in and ordered take-out many times, but on a couple occasions we've broke from the mold and gone to the other Azteca's in Huntington Beach. Occupying the spot formerly occupied by a KFC, this second Azteca's location (a third one recently opened in Anaheim) has a walkup counter for takeout orders and plenty of tables for sitdown orders . . . but no fried chicken . . . or mashed potatos . . . or cole slaw. Their walkup counter also has a nice big color menu with big pictures of many of their dishes. This is good for people like me who like to see what they are about to eat before they order it.

They also provide catering services courtesy of their cool VW van:

Azteca's - Catering Van

And the interior here is even more festive than that of their Fountain Valley location:

Azteca's - Interior

Still disappointed about the discontinuance of combo #44 and wanting to try something I haven't had there before, the waitress suggested their new steak and shrimp platter:

Azteca's - Steak and Shrimp

Their deep-fried ice cream is a very close runner-up to Avila's El Ranchito's which is my favorite so far. Azteca's uses chocolate chip ice cream (good choice), corn flakes, cinnamon crisps and a strawberry sauce:

Azteca's - Deep-fried Ice Cream

Azteca's retains its four Speedy Gonzales rating and also gets one Panchito for their excellent deep-fried ice cream:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rubio's for Lunch

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill

Went to Rubio's yesterday for lunch and tried their new Chipotle-Lime Grilled Salmon Taco. You can also get the salmon in a burrito or in a salad but it's only for a limited time (probably a month). When I ordered mine I was told it would take six to nine minutes to prepare so it's not exactly the fastest fast food but at least you know it's not sitting under a heat lamp and if you like salmon and you like Mexican food you might want to give it a try.

Rubio's - Chipotle-Lime Grilled Salmon Taco

And, yes, they still have Vanilla Coca-Cola, the flavor not available in stores anymore, so, once again, I made my own peculiar Vanilla Lime Coke concoction.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gabbi's Quicker Stop/Ciudad

Went on Saturday to a small Mexican restaurant for lunch (review coming in about a week) and on the way back I was driving by Gabbi's so I stopped for dessert. Tried their new version of flan that comes with caramelized pineapple chunks and guava sauce and toasted coconut (I had to have it sans coconut):

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen - Flan

I was recently contacted by Oscar from Ciudad magazine to offer my opinion on what places in OC have the best guacamole and the best margaritas. Since I don't drink alcohol I asked for a virgin strawberry margarita at Gabbi's. When Gabbi herself found out why I had ordered it she said, "We also have really good guacamole here," and I realized that in my dozen or so visits there I don't think I ever tried their guacamole, at least not as a separate item for judging purposes. Oh well, I'll be back there again for sure.

Anyways, if any readers have opinions to offer on good guacamole and margaritas in the county please leave a comment.

Friday, February 09, 2007

El Torito Grill - Review #3

Date of Visit: January 27, 2007
El Torito Grill
1801 Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92805

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UPDATE: This location has closed.

Appetizer: Fresh-made tortillas with honey butter and two salsas
Appetizer #2: Tableside Guacamole w/ tri-color chips
Entree: Grilled Chicken Breast
Drink: Agua
Dessert: Peanut Tostada

El Torito Grill - Parking Sign

Occupying a spot that used to be part of the regular El Torito chain, this brand new El Torito Grill is part of the Stadium Lofts structure in the new up and coming Platinum Triangle area of Anaheim near Angels Stadium.

El Torito Grill - Daytime Exterior

As with my visit to El Torito Grill's Irvine location I went this time on a Saturday afternoon with friends Chris and Kristanna.

El Torito Grill - Daytime Exterior #2

We started out with complementary hand-made tortillas prepared fresh on the premises with sides of honey butter and two types of salsa:

El Torito Grill - Tortillas and Salsa

El Torito Grill - Interior

El Torito Grill - Interior #2

The guacamole was prepared tableside and was some of the best guacamole I've had in a long time. Fresh avocados mashed (but not too much) right in front of us with diced red onion added to it, fresh squeezed lime juice, brought to a medium degree of spiciness (as voted on by the dining party), and topped with a sprinkling of cotija cheese. I like my guacamole chunky and this was definitely chunky.

El Torito Grill - Guacamole

Kristanna ordered her entree from the appetizer menu, the Mexican platter comprised of "Chicken and shrimp taquitos, steak nachos, cheese quesadilla, tamarind barbecue ribs, tomatillo-avocado sauce and red pepper dip:"

El Torito Grill - Mexican Platter
Mexican Platter

When our entrees arrived Kristanna and I promptly dug into our respective dishes then noticed a few moments later that Chris was just sitting there looking at his food, El Torito Grill's signature Santa Fe Torte. Kristanna asked him what the deal was and he said, "It looks so nice I feel guilty eating it." Well, he did eventually eat it and found the eating to be as pleasurable as the looking.

El Torito Grill - Santa Fe Torte
Santa Fe Torte

I ordered the Grilled Breast of Chicken, "Tender, grilled breast of chicken served over grilled vegetables with orange-achiote sauce, chef's potatoes, crispy plantains, and sweet corn cake:"

El Torito Grill - Grilled Breast of Chicken

Chris and Kristanna shared the Creme Brulee Cheesecake from the specials menu:

El Torito Grill - Creme Brulee Cheesecake
Creme Brulee Cheesecake

I ordered the Peanut Tostada with dulce de leche ice cream in place of the cappucino ice cream:

El Torito Grill - Peanut Tostada
Peanut Tostada

The service during this visit was excellent with every employee willing to help with any of our needs and to answer any questions we had. All of my experiences at El Torito Grill have been of a consistently high quality. Their version of upscale Mexican dining at prices that don't make you choke on your creme brulee cheesecake earns them a solid four and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Other El Torito Grill entries:

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

Roundup #9

This is going to be a quicker roundup entry than normal.

Mexican restaurants I have already reviewed that I've visited for non-review purposes since the last roundup include: Azteca's (FV and HB locations; a review of another visit of mine to their HB location is coming soon), Taco Rosa, Taleo (follow the link for a coupon and a deluxe review), Rubio's, Rancho del Zocalo, Javier's at the Irvine Spectrum (I was told that their Crystal Cove location is set to open in the summer or the fall of this year, but more likely the fall), Kantina (exceptional service this time), Baja Fish Tacos (the Irvine location), La Capilla, and Taco Bell (tried their new Steak Grilled Taquitos).

I've also been to Wahoo's twice and even though Wahoo's hasn't been reviewed here (yet) neither of those visits were for review purposes.

Non-Mexican restaurants I've eaten at since the last roundup entry include but are not limited to: Buca di Beppo, Funashin, Market Broiler, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express, The Old Spaghetti Factory, Elephant Bar, and the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store.

Food Blogger Meetup

Also participated in a food blogger meetup at Vien Dong in Garden Grove with Wandering Chopsticks, Rasa Malaysia, Chubby Panda, and ElmoMonster. Here's some of the Northern Vietnamese food we were served there:

Vien Dong

Taco Rosa - Grape Expectations

Date of Visit: February 8, 2007
Taco Rosa
2632 San Miguel Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 720-0980

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Taco Rosa - Tamales de Pollo a la Canasta

After hearing approximately eighteen months ago how good the grape aguas frescas at Taco Rosa is and hoping I would catch it there on one of my many visits (they offer two freshly made flavors every day and you never know what kind they might have until you arrive) my quest was finally fulfilled yesterday. Grape is one of my favorite fruit flavors (even artificial grape) and I can ingest Welch's grape popsicles like breathing in air so it was no surprise that I found this beverage extra refreshing. I was surprised, however, to see that it was more like grapefruit juice in color than the purple I was expecting. If the drink itself wasn't good enough I topped off my lunch with one of their two specials of the day, the Tamales de Pollo a la Canasta.

Read our extensive coverage of Taco Rosa, with plenty of accompanying photos, by clicking on the following label:

Thursday, February 08, 2007


For all you Latin lovers out there who want a fine Mexican dining experience for Valentine's Day I currently know of two Mexican restaurants in the county offering special dining options for the holiday:

Avila's El Ranchito

Avila's El Ranchito in Lake Forest is offering the following great deal:

Valentine's Day at Avila's

Read our two prior reviews of Avila's El Ranchito (be sure to join their e-mail club to receive other special announcements) by clicking on their label at the end of this entry.

Tortilla Jo's

Was at Downtown Disney earlier tonight and saw that Tortilla Jo's is also offering a special Valentine's Day dining option made up of items that are mostly not on their regular menu.

Tortilla Jo's Valentine's Menu

Please leave a comment or write to if you know of any other such deals at other Mexican restaurants in Orange County.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Baja Sharkeez - Review #1

Date of Visit: January 20, 2007
Baja Sharkeez
211 Main St
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 960-5282

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Sharkeez - Exterior

Mesquite-Mex Coastal Cantina

Sharkeez - Sign

Nestled next to the historic Sugar Shack on Huntington Beach's Main St. and steps away from the beach, Baja Sharkeez (not to be confused with the Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill fast food chain; CLICK HERE for info on that chain) caters to the surf crowd at almost any time of day. Sharkeez is known for being a bar but I was invited by the owners to come and try some food from their very extensive menu of Mexican food. After viewing their menu online I was especially looking forward to trying out their breakfast.

Sharkeez - Towering Huevos Rancheros
Towering Huevos Rancheros

My Towering Huevos Rancheros lived up to their name. Made up of "Grilled corn tortillas layered with tri-tip chili, shredded cheese, ranch beans, and 3 fried eggs, topped w/ avocado, salsa and sour cream," topped with Gringo Bandito and with my eggs cooked to order (I don't like eggs in my huevos rancheros to be too runny) this breakfast filled me up without weighing me down.

My brother ordered the Smoked Bacon & Egg Burrito, with ranch beans and salsa verde on the side:

Sharkeez - Breakfast Burrito

This was when I realized that most burritos look exactly the same from the outside, especially when they're wrapped in foil.

Their breakfast menu also has somewhat of a tropical/Hawaiian side to it, featuring entrees such as Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes and Hawaiian Bread French Toast. All breakfast entrees are served with your choice of jalapeño cheddar potatoes or ranch beans and corn tortillas or King's Hawaiian brand sweet rolls.

Sharkeez also has 50 TV screens set up throughout their place, inside and out, so you can catch every sporting event going on at any given moment around the world:

Sharkeez - Interior Shot #1

Extreme closeup reveals Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce on the table. It might be there when you go too:

Sharkeez - Gringo Bandito

Baja Sharkeez earns a 3¾ Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Here's some more shots of the interior:

Sharkeez - Interior Shot #2

Sharkeez - Interior Shot #3

Sharkeez - Interior Shot #4

And some more of their food:

Chicken Tacos

Shrimp Tacos

Macho Combo Grande