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Friday, August 31, 2007

El Molino de Oro - Review #1

Date of Visit: August 25, 2007
El Molino de Oro
31886 Plaza Dr #D3
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 489-9230

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El Molino de Oro - Exterior

Following up on a recommendation made to me back in what seems like ancient times I finally went to check out El Molino de Oro in San Juan Capistrano last Saturday for a late lunch. The fact that it was solidly in between lunch and dinner didn't stop a steady stream of customers from coming to enjoy this authentic Mexican food.

El Molino de Oro - Warming Trays

The food is served cafeteria-style from warming trays but the food moved so fast they were always replenished with fresh supplies. There is nothing too surprising about the menu here: it might be described as "Mexican comfort food." I ordered a combo platter with two beef enchiladas and a carnitas chile relleno which they topped off with lettuce, tomato, salsa verde, and a drizzle of sour cream. I helped myself to a radish from a nearby bowl to add some potassium content to my meal:

El Molino de Oro - Combo Platter

They also have five flavors of aguas frescas on hand. When I was ready to pay for my food the girl ringing up my order asked if I wanted anything to drink. Paralyzed by the variety of choices but feeling the pressure of hungry people in line behind me I uninformatively blurted out, "Agua fresca." Having to guess what flavor I might be referring to the señorita asked, "Jamaíca?" (pronounced "huh-MY-kuh," not like the name of the country with the same spelling). I readily went with her suggestion and enjoyed the refreshing hibiscus-flavored "fresh water."

El Molino de Oro - Exterior

As an adjunct to the tortilleria they have a bakery next door that reminds me of the kind I learned of when little when mi padre took the family on culinary adventures in Los Angeles. There's all kinds of breads and pastries here. You can grab a pair of tongs and grab some goodies and load them on to a cafeteria-style tray and take them up to the register to have them rung up.

El Molino de Oro - Exterior

I went for one of my favorite treats from years past: a custard-filled "horn" pastry, a miniature dessert cornucopia which smoothly capped off my spicy meal:

El Molino de Oro - Horn Pastry

Even though I had never been there before my trip to El Molino de Oro felt like a visit to an old friend, one you always feel comfortable with, thereby earning a 4.25 Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales
Here's some additional photos:

El Molino de Oro - Bakery Exterior

El Molino de Oro - Exterior

El Molino de Oro - Exterior

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Taco Rosa - Review #11

Taco Rosa #2
On the Irvine side of
The Tustin Marketplace
13792 Jamboree Rd, Suite 42
Irvine, CA 92602
(714) 505-6080

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I didn't even realize she was going to do it, but Shelly B. did a writeup on the Taco Rosa meetup I mentioned recently. Here's what she had to say:

I’'m a fellow foodie who loves Mexican food, so I was thrilled when Christian invited me to join him, Cynthia Furey, who writes a blog for the Orange County Register, and two other food lovers to dine at Taco Rosa in Irvine. I met all at the restaurant on a Wednesday night. When I arrived, I was surprised to see that it was packed. I had never been there. The décor and clientele was pretty hip. It reminded me of a few restaurants I had previously visited in L.A. While waiting for a table, I reviewed the Specials Board and noted it offered a Tamarindo Margarita. I had never seen that before so I knew I had to try it and did. It was truly unique. It had somewhat of a tart tamarind flavor that went well with the homemade sweet and sour mix. I highly recommend it.

It was difficult to choose from all the exciting dishes on their menu, but I ultimately decided to order the Chili Relleno en Caldillo and a Portobello Mushroom Taco. Their Chili Relleno was the largest one I had ever experienced. The chili size was very generous and the cheese was creamy. I would have to say that it was one of the best I had ever tasted. I was also very impressed with the selection of tacos. There are ten different ones to choose from. I found them reasonably priced and diverse. I look forward to going back to try more of them.

For dessert Christian ordered a Dessert Platter that we all shared. It included freshly prepared warm Churros. Wow. They were rich, especially dipped in chocolate. I was truly impressed with the Flan de Queso. It was different than any flan I had tasted — it had the consistency of cheesecake. I loved it and would definitely order it again.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the entire experience. It was fun to dine with fellow food lovers. We tried each other’'s dishes and had a great time. Thanks for inviting me, Christian. I hope to dine with all of you again at another fabulous Mexican restaurant in Orange County. Your blog is useful and informative.

Thanks, Shelly! Here's the dessert platter that we all shared that Shelly mentioned:

Taco Rosa - Dessert Platter

Follow the 'taco rosa' label for all our extensive coverage and dozens of photos from both locations:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rasta Taco Tasting #2

Redemption Song

If you missed the last Rasta Taco Tasting a couple weeks ago you can assuage your guilt by participating in their second free taste test this Wednesday:

Back again by popular demand...Come on down to Salt Creek Beach Wednesday, August 29th, for a free RASTA TACO TASTING. We'll be cooking up Jamaican-style Chicken, Caribbean Carne Asada and other favorites just like we do at our Rasta Taco parties. Enjoy the California sunset with a taste of the Caribbean. It's BYOB. The reggae music will be on tap. Our Event Coordinator, Lovalee, will be there to reserve your private Rasta Taco party date.

Grillin' and jammin' from 5 til 8 on August 29th.
We'll be down at the picnic benches and basketball courts near the waterfront. Look for the signature cart!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Moving Javier's Off the Map

Went to Javier's at the Irvine Spectrum yesterday for lunch and found a flyer there advertising a Javier's Getaway to the Cabo Azul Resort & Spa in Los Cabos, Mexico, with a third Javier's location opening there next month. So here we have an example of a Mexican restaurant that began in Orange County opening a location in Mexico itself. What are we to make of that?

Also found out while at the Irvine location that the pending Crystal Cove location now has a projected opening for November this year. Still don't know if it's a replacement of their original Laguna Beach spot or just the fourth Javier's.

Click on the "javier's" label below to get up-to-date information on all Javier's locations:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Putting OC Mex Food on the Map

Thanks to the guys at Foodieview this blog here now has its own Google Map, complete with thumbtacks pointing out the restaurants we've reviewed so far.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Roundup #13

If this is the first time you've been to this blog don't be thrown off by this entry. We still have over a hundred reviews of Mexican restaurants in Orange County but every once in a while I do a "roundup" entry where I mention things that don't fit neatly into an official restaurant review.

Mexican restaurants I've reviewed before and have visited since the last roundup entry for non-review purposes include: Azteca's, Fiesta Grill, El Pollo Loco, Taco Rosa, Taleo, Taco Bell, Las Barcas, Baja Fish Tacos (where I went for lunch on an incredibly impromptu blind date), Del Taco, Kantina (who seemed to have recently swapped their eclectic menu out for a more traditional one), Las Fajitas, Molcajete Grill, and La Salsa (who have a new "Chipotle Citrus Salsa" added to their salsa bar and have also recently brought back their Chipotle Shrimp Salad).

Molcajete Grill - Chile Relleno & Tamale Platter
Molcajete Grill Chile Relleno & Tamale Platter

Molcajete Grill - Carnitas Tacos
Molcajete Grill Carnitas Tacos

I also visited Wahoo's once for non-review purposes and then the long lasting Wahoo's Non-review Curse was finally broken with this review . . . and then I went back again for another non-review visit.

Also, the Salad Wars entry has been updated with reviews of at least two more fast food Mexican-inspired salads.

Met up several nights with Cynthia Furey of The Orange County Register, new guest reviewer Johnny (we have a fourth review of his coming soon) and his wife, and new reader Shelly (who found out about this blog from the Register article), at Taco Rosa in Irvine where we enjoyed some great food as well as conversation that never slowed down. I believe Cynthia will be mentioning this visit on her blog. For now, here are a few pictures from our meetup:

Taco Rosa -

Taco Rosa - Camarones Rancheros
Taco Rosa's Camarones Rancheros

Taco Rosa - Dessert Platter
Taco Rosa's Dessert Platter

Non-Mexican restaurants I've visited since the last roundup entry include, but are not limited to: Kabuki, Funashin, Aloha Mixed Plate, Royal Ocean Terrace, Ferraro's at the Four Seasons Maui, Longhi's, The Wok Experience, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Market Broiler, King's Hawaiian (both locations), Ebisu, Gong's Chinese, La Brea Bakery, Claim Jumper, TK Burger, Daphne's Greek Cafe, Johnny Rockets, Kabuki (again - and they had some new menu items this time - and free edamame for every table now), Jackson Barne Classic Grill, Mandarin Restaurant, and Pat & Oscar's (gotta love those breadsticks).

And here's a reminder of the coupon we're offering (yes, it's legitimate) good for a free appetizer or dessert item at Taleo Mexican Grill:

Before heading to Taleo be sure to check out our complete coverage of them giving an extensive rundown of their menu and environment.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chevys - Review #1

Date of Visit: August 11, 2007
Chevys Fresh Mex
8200 E Santa Ana Canyon Rd
Anaheim, CA 92808
(714) 974-6703

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Appetizer: Chips and Salsa
Entree: Tequila-Lime Shrimp Fajitas
Drink: Watermelon Lemonade
Dessert: Chiquita Sundae

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

Chevys -  Exterior

Time for a Chevys review, the restaurant that I thought went out of existence when its Fountain Valley location shut down a few years back. I'd made many visits to the FV location where they always pointed out "El Machino," the tortilla-making machine in the front that mass-manufactured tortillas that seemed like they were made by hand. The last time I remember going there for sure was probably 2001/2002 and it's now a Stonefire Grill restaurant. When it shut down I mistakenly assumed the whole chain had gone out of business.

Chevys - Specials Sign
The saggy sign didn't stop customers from coming

Recently though I realized there was one in Anaheim so I went last week with Anaheim friends James and Lori to get reacquainted with Chevys. If you've never experienced Chevys before just think El Torito with a little more color and a slight Tex-Mex spin and you'll have a pretty accurate idea of what Chevys is like. They were promoting some special summer dishes, much of which seemed to be focused on watermelon. I started out with a watermelon lemonade which was extra refreshing and much less acidic than normal lemonade. Could I possibly convince Chevys to add this as a regular item?

Chevys - Chips and Salsa

Each of us ordered a different fajita dish with Lori ordering the mixed grill ("Baby back ribs, tender grilled chicken breast, marinated skirt steak, fuego-seasoned shrimp and sauteed San Antonio veggies."), James ordering the chicken fajitas (" A skinless, fresh chicken breast marinated in our own Agua Negra served with sautéed San Antonio veggies."), and me ordering their special Tequila-Lime Shrimp Fajitas.

Chevys - Mixed Grill

Chevys - Chicken Fajitas

If I could convince Chevys to also add the Tequila-Lime Shrimp Fajitas to their regular menu I'd do that too. The sauce was so flavorful and robust that I was trying to scoop up as much of it as I could with my shrimp before stuffing them into the tortillas from El Machino and making three sublime shrimp tacos.

Chevys - Tequila-Lime Shrimp Fajitas

For dessert I ordered their Chiquita Sundae - "Rich vanilla ice cream afloat a sweet cinnamon 'boat' topped with our freshly–made cajeta and homemade chocolate sauces and whipped cream." When James and Lori saw what I got they ordered one too.

Chevys - Chiquita Sundae

Chevys earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fast Food Maven Blog Goes Live

Readers of this blog got a sneak peek about a week ago at Nancy Luna's blog (Fast Food Maven) but today it officially became part of the Register's website. If you get a chance catch Nancy talking about her blog on "The Real Orange" on KOCE at 11pm tonight where she gives an overview of her blog's coverage and happens to mention a "local foodie who loves Mexican food."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Carnitas Los Reyes - Review #1

Carnitas Los Reyes
273 S Tustin St
Orange, CA 92866
(714) 744-9337

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Carnitas Los Reyes - Exterior

Here's Johnny, our roving reporter on the streets of San Francisco, ehr, I mean the streets of Orange, checking in with his third guest review, this time of Carnitas Los Reyes:

I arrived at Carnitas Los Reyes around 12:45pm and the place was jumping. The first thing that struck me was the ridiculously low prices for the food. Tacos are $1, Tortas and burritos are $3.50. I stood and took in the menu for a few minutes and took in the whole scene. The fillings are all right there in front of you behind the glass partition. So is one of the 5 or 6 people working in the kitchen which is also right out there in front of you. One of the assembly stations is right up front and you can see everything being put together.

After deciding to try an assortment of tacos I went to the side counter where you order. I ordered 4 tacos - one each of carnitas, al pastor, lengua and chorizo. They ask if you want them with everything on them, which I did. You can also get carne asada, pollo and buche for fillings. As I mentioned it was very busy so I had several orders in front of me. I made my order to go. So I just stood near the front counter and watched as orders were put together. The burritos are huge and filled with meat. They look like a great deal. Same goes for the tortas which have the same fillings available. The entire time I waited I was the only "guero" in the place.

I watched them make my order and as I expected "everything" meant a little onions and cilantro and salsa on the tacos. Soon I was handed a bag that seemed too big for just the tacos. Sure enough it had a bag of chips, salsa and some escabeche (pickled carrots and jalapeños). All of this came to $4.31 with tax. You can see from the photo that it is a lot of food. Normally I wouldn't order 4 tacos but I wanted to try an assortment. Next time I think I'll get one burrito or torta. Anyway, it's a tough job but somebody had to do it.

Looking at and smelling all the food while waiting gave me a hint of what a treat I was in for. All four types were just excellent. The flavors of each filling were so flavorful. The lengua (beef tongue) was obviously slowly cooked bringing out the rich beef flavor. If you haven't had lengua give it a try. When prepared right, it is like the best pot roast you ever had but lots juicier than a pot roast. They make it right here. The pork al pastor was rich and heady with a strong spicy barbeque flavor. The chorizo was spicy and meaty and less greasy than most. It seemed to have a touch of the spice mace or some similar spice. Really good and intriguing. I'm still tasting it. Finally the namesake carnitas were just great. Once again, deep flavors that were obviously the result of long, slow cooking with some nice crispy edges. The salsa was a nice light, fresh spicy concoction that went well with the chips. The carrots in the escabeche were a little soft for my taste but this is a minor quibble.

For beverages they carry the usual sodas along with fresh Jamaica (fruit punch) and Horchata along with Tamarindo (but I didn't see that fresh).

This has to be one of the greatest $4 meals I have ever had. Truly, truly great version of down home taqueria cooking. I cannot imagine anyplace that could make it better. For anyone who loves this style of Mexican food let me add my name to the chorus of voices praising this place. Leaving room for fancier takes on Mexican I rate this 4 and 1/4 Speedy Gonzales if only to give Taco Mesa a quarter point more for their great lobster bisque and nicer atmosphere.

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rasta Taco Tasting

No More "Waiting In Vain"

Received word from Rasta Taco that they are holding a free taste test party tomorrow night:

Come on down to Dana Point Harbor this Wednesday, August 8th, for a free Rasta Taco Tasting. We'll be cooking up Jamaican-style Chicken, Caribbean Carne Asada and other favorites just like we do at our Rasta Taco parties. It's BYOB and we'll have the reggae music on tap.

We'll be at the north area of Dana Island, over by the Richard Henry Dan statue. Our Sales Manager, Lovalee, will be there to book your next party. Grillin' and jammin' at 7:00PM.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it or not but if anybody goes please try to report on it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lazy Dog Cafe

The Lazy Dog Cafe
16310 Beach Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 848-4300

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Lazy Dog Cafe - Exterior

Here's my first review in a long time of a place that is not a Mexican restaurant but still has some Mexican items on their menu. The Lazy Dog Cafe is a new chain serving American comfort food in a rustic yet contemporary setting. It has a handful of locations in Orange County with more on the way. The location I have visited twice now is in Westminster, but it's a chunk of Westminster that used to be part of Huntington Beach.

On my first visit I tried the Tex-Mex Salad, made up of, "Romaine lettuce, chicken breast, avocado, corn, tomato, cornbread croutons, BBQ sauce, ranch, cheddar and jack cheese served on a black bean tostada." I ordered the small size and it still filled me up. All the ingredients were very fresh. Perfect lunch for a summer afternoon.

Lazy Dog Cafe - Tex-Mex Salad

On my second visit I tried the "Inside-Out" Quesadilla, which is basically a regular quesadilla that not only has cheese inside but outside as well. The cheese on the outside is fried to a crisp (I have heard that this cooks all the fat away) while the cheese inside is the typical melted, gooey, stick-to-your-ribs phenomenon. Served with guacamole, sour cream, and fresh salsa and you can add chicken or beef for $2.75 or blackened shrimp for $3.95.

Lazy Dog Cafe - Inside-Out Quesadilla

Service was excellent during each visit and I had the Pomegranate Punch each time. I think The Lazy Dog Cafe is going to get a lot of repeat business based on their hospitality alone and double that based on the quality of their food. As I go back and try the couple other Mexican-based menu items I'll add the photos to this entry.