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!Ay, Mi Estomago!

Orange Countys 61 best Latino restaurantes

2. The best Guatemalan meals are those that combine various appetizers, and the best around are at Panadería y Antojitos Guatemala. Start with a chile relleno—not the soggy, cheesy mess so many Mexican restaurants defrost but a stately bell pepper bloated with ground beef and minced carrots. Proceed with any of their tamales, whether it's the chuchitos (midget tamales of red chile and pork) or the wondrous pache, a potato masa tamale about the size of a Big Gulp and housing a chicken leg. Then order a rellenito, fried plantains engorged with refried black beans. And end with a bag of frozen custard. 1331 E. First St., Ste. A, Santa Ana.

3. Though it's next to the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, there is no talk of freedom fighters at El Curtido: the government workers on lunch break fill their spy holes with large pupusas of minced chicken or beef, mashed pinto beans, or the bitter flower-bud loroco. No matter your choice, cover it with the namesake curtido, a Salvadoran condiment that's like a spicy sauerkraut and will do wonders for your regularity. 300 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-0554.

4. The county's first Salvadoran restaurant, El Carbonero's crispy pupusas and cinnamon-strong horchata are legion to county Central Americans. Their grandest entrée, however, is the carne asada spruced up with chimol, a wildly tart salsa made from plum tomatoes, jalapeños and cilantro tossed with red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. El Carbonero #1, 803 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-6653; #2, 9516 Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 520-0771.

Felix's Continental Cafe. Photo by John Gilhooley
Felix's Continental Cafe. Photo by John Gilhooley
Taquería el Granjenal. Photo by Matt Otto
Taquería el Granjenal. Photo by Matt Otto

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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5. Nancy's Pupusería is where to knife through Orange County's best pupusa: plump with ingredients that deviate from the pupusa stuffing regulars of shredded chicken, ground pork or refried beans in favor of spinach or the great zucchini pupusa, where the squash bits somehow remain as crisp within the melted cheese as they would on a salad. 8511 Knott Ave., Buena Park, (714) 995-2086.

6. Westminster's Pura Vida Restaurant closed last month, leaving la naranja with just one Costa Rican restaurant: the appropriately titled Costa Rica Restaurant. While this dimly lighted nightclub specializes mostly in different versions of the national dish gallo pinto (black beans cooked with rice and eggs), stick to the weighty spectacle that is the tamal tico. Wrapped in a canopy-sized banana leaf, this Costa Rican staple requires hiking boots to maneuver through its myriad flavors. Start at the pointy end studded with raisins and dates, then hack through the wet masa toward pork, red peppers, peas and carrots; a sprightly olive demarcates the sweet/spicy divide. 2500 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-2010.

 

4 BEST FANCY-SCHMANCY LATINO RESTAURANTS

1. I put off eating at Taco Adobe as long as I could. I thought its sins were many and cardinal. An Argentine owned it. The Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce designated it the city's premier gourmet taco. It was the favorite spot of the Weekly's advertising department. 'Mano, was I wrong. Taco Adobe is gourmet Mexican as it should be, with substantial but light servings that linger in the senses, not in the gut. Co-owner Patricio Dillón introduces new platters weekly—his chipotle hamburger on sourdough skips across California's coast for its yummy gestalt. Once the gregarious Pilón deems you worthy, he'll trot out the real house salsa, a thick, habañero-laced magma with citrus undertones and an enduring scorch. 1319 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 543-2411.

2. More than a decade after its opening, Habana at the Lab still stands as the pinnacle of Nuevo Latino in Orange County. And yet most people know this place for its extraordinary sangria, a burgundy bliss of fruit, alcohol and love. Their loss—as grand as Habana's sangria is, get the glistening flank steak, por favor. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-0176.

3. A pioneer in providing gabacho eaters with more than just chimichangas and enchiladas, Yucatán Grill moved last year to bigger, better Seal Beach environs. The menu thankfully remains impressive and boasts a couple of specialties from the lush Mexican states. Make sure to dip your toasty chips into the Pepita dip, a salsa derived from toasted pumpkin seeds. 550 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 111, Seal Beach, (562) 430-4422.

4. There is only one good thing about Taléo, the too-pristine, too-expensive Irvine Mexican spot, but what a thing! The flan, a throwaway dessert everywhere else on earth, achieves a sort of sugar nirvana here: a dense, creamy, cylindrical slab of smoky custard topped with a slightly melted caramel layer. 3309 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 553-9002; taleomexicangrill.com.

4 BEST SANDWICHES

1. There are few snacks better rounded nutritionally than the salteñas at Beba's. Within a braided, buttery, hollowed-out bread are rice, ground beef, raisins, peas, carrots, slices of hard-boiled eggs and a broth that soaks up the properties of the above ingredients—a veritable full-course meal. You can feast on salteñas any day of the week, but better to visit on Saturday, when Beba's offers one of the Southland's few full-scale Bolivian menus and videos of traditional dances fill the big screen. 630 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 973-4928.

2. I once took a gabacho to the lunch truck that is Ricas Tortas Ahogadasto try the tortas ahogadas—a tasty, salsa-soaked sandwich native to the Mexican city of Guadalajara that's quite possibly the hottest edible on earth. The French roll maintained a buttery crunchiness even as the salsa seeped in; the fatty carnitas maintained its flavor against the onslaught of salsa. My gabacho's face was as red as a brick when we returned. He was crying. Me? Just wiped my brow. On the corner of Fourth and Mortimer streets, Santa Ana.

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