!Ay, Mi Estomago!

Orange Countys 61 best Latino restaurantes


1. If you're a regular of Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, there's a chance you've driven by Taquería el Granjenal. Primary, of course, are the tacos: hefty with the grilled meat of your choice, wrapped with two full-sized corn tortillas and sluiced with a dark-red salsa that's amongst the hottest condiments offered in the county. Even better is their horchata, enlivened with a dusting of Chocomil, the Mexican version of Nestle Quik. El Granjenal is actually owned by Koreans, and the hundreds of residents from El Granjenal, Michoacán, who dine at this restaurant in honor of their namesake Mexican village, don't care a bit. 899 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-4964.

2. For one pinche buck, you can order a chicharrón taco at Carnitas Los Reyes. One is enough: the chicharrón will nearly suffocate you as it transforms from hardened pork fat to an unctuous, molasses-like liquid within the confines of your mouth. But you will find yourself coming back to choke again and again. 273 S. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 744-9337.

3. Fried chicken is not a culinary tradition in Mexico—we prefer pork rinds, gracias—but the folks over at Pedro's Tacosbreak protocol with their fried chicken burrito. Like the pastrami burrito at Pink's and the peanut-butter-and-jelly burritos many of my elementary school chums enjoyed for lunch, this burrito is proof assimilation is inevitable, enjoyable and comes wrapped in a giant flour tortilla. 550 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 498-5908.

Los Cojita. Photo by John Gilhooley
Los Cojita. Photo by John Gilhooley
Regina's. Photo by John Gilhooley
Regina's. Photo by John Gilhooley

Location Info

Map

Taqueria El Granjenal

899 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Costa Mesa

Carnitas Los Reyes

273 S. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92866

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Orange

Pedro's Tacos

550 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: San Clemente

Tacos Jalisco

480 N. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92867

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Orange

SeÑor Pedro's Tacos

31405 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: San Juan Capistrano

Nory's Restaurant

933 S. Euclid St.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: Anaheim

El Pollo Fino

723 N. Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805

Category: Restaurant > Hot Chicken

Region: Anaheim

Super Pollo

1731 Superior Ave., A
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Hot Chicken

Region: Costa Mesa

Pupuseria San Sivar

1940 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Central American

Region: Costa Mesa

PanaderÍa Y Antojitos Guatemala

1331 E. First St., Ste. A
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Category: Restaurant > Latin American

Region: Santa Ana

El Curtido

300 W. Fifth St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Santa Ana

El Carbonero

803 S. Main St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Category: Restaurant > Central American

Region: Santa Ana

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4. Taquería del Amigo only roasts its barbacoa (barbecued lamb) on weekends, and even then they're out of it by midday. But each teeny-tiny barbacoa taco is worth the seven-day wait—stringy, juicy throughout and embellished Hidalgo-style, meaning the taco men follow the renowned barbacoa tradition of the central Mexican state by roasting their ewe with maguey leaves (the plant from which tequila is distilled), which contribute an intoxicating glow to the lamb's mellow charm. 11915 Euclid, Garden Grove, (714) 537-8740.

5. Immortalized by punk-parody vatos Manic Hispanic in their 2003 magnum opus Mijo Goes to Jr. College, Tacos Jalisco is every Chapman University student's salvation once they grow weary of their school's horrid cafeteria options and seek deliverance in tiny, tasty tacos. 480 N. Tustin, Orange, (714) 771-5819.

6. When tourists finally tire of looking at the old tools and beds that make up the majority of the "historical artifacts" at Mission San Juan Capistrano, they usually cross the street to eat at Señor Pedro's Tacos, a classic taquería with a pseudo-adobe design, no inside seating and small tacos. God truly is Mexican: the carnitas tacos reach the optimal point of pork heaven. 31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 489-7752.

A QUARTET OF POLLO LOCOS

1. My generation of Orange County Mexicans learned as children that a stop at Surfin' Chicken in San Clemente meant we were halfway home from the monthly Saturday Tijuana road trip. We still stop by as young adults, where giant-but-gentle innkeeper José "El Cuatro" Martínez keeps watch over a Soviet-era open-fire grill, where he bathes and dusts butterflied chickens with chile powder and lemon juice until they turn a healthy obsidian on the outside while staying plump. Request a side of pinto beans, pink rice and a bottle of bubbly Jarritos soda. 71 Calle De Industrias, San Clemente, (949) 498-6603.

2. Two Nory's, two different Peruvian experiences. The original Anaheim location whips out all the highlights of the Peruvian diet—amazing ceviches that rely upon yams, marinated fish, crawfish and corn kernels the size of your thumb for their sweet-sour charm; Chinese-inspired dishes like fried rice (chaufas) and chow mein (tallarines) mixed with creamy ají salsa—except for the Andean country's famed rotisserie chicken. The Stanton Nory's includes all of its mother restaurant's menu plus the chicken—a succulent, smoky bird twirled for hours while absorbing the dripping juices of its sisters rotating above. The accompanying French fries are pointless until you dip them into the ají, which is like a spicy cottage cheese. 933 1/2 S. Euclid, Anaheim, (714) 774-9115; also at 6959-63 Cerritos Ave., Stanton, (714) 761-3332.

3. El Pollo Fino's charbroiled chicken is juicy and crispy and has flesh so delicate you can pull the meat off the bones with your pinkie. Pay attention to a different kind of breast if you dine in: three massive portraits of Aztec maidens with their cleavage spilling forth. Chicas calientes, indeed. 723 N. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 533-1160.

4. Super Pollo is a Costa Mesa institution, a bit of quirky comfort wedged between a Kragen Auto Parts and a Tower Records. OC Weekly's premiere issue sang its praises as "five bucks of heaven on a plate," the same combo you can gnaw through for just 50 cents more 10 years later. In addition to the wonderful chicken combos, they still fold one of the tastier non-Anaheim carne asada burritos in the county: beef mixed with creamy guacamole, lard-free refried beans and tangy pico de gallo. 1731 Superior Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-7574.

 

6 BEST CENTRAL AMERICAN RESTAURANTS

1. Every Salvadoran menu lists pupusas, the griddle cake Salvadorans consume from crib to crypt, and Pupusería San Sivarflips out some good ones: grease-free, fluffy and made with rice flour upon request. San Sivar is more than just the pupusas, though. This is also a great place to eat breakfast—the platano frito, a massive fried plantain, bends around refried black beans and a dollop of Salvadoran sour cream, while the nuegados con chilate, corn gruel gussied up with honey-covered fried yucca and plantain chunks, is Quaker Oats with flavor. 1940 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-2952.

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