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Ever heard of Querétaro? It has next-to-no name recognition in Orange County, unlike so many of the other Mexican states: no mass migration to these parts à la Zacatecas and Michoacán, no transcendent reputation à la Guanajuato and Oaxaca, not a tourist hub such as Baja or Mexico City. Ask me to name a distinguishing feature about the state, and I'd point to its soccer team, perennial also-rans in Mexico's first-division league.
But it's from Querétaro that one of the best Mexican restaurants to hit la naranja in some time hails: Potzol den Cano, a strangely named chain that recently opened its first American location in a Santa Ana strip mall. This isn't some dive where Spanish is the only language and sonidero blasts from the speakers; there's money invested in this prototype. There's a nice outdoor eating area, and the chairs are individually crafted from iron in the Spanish colonial style. The waitstaff is usually bilingual; the setting, clean. And the menu is an audacious trip through the cuisine of Querétaro, a land at the crossroads of many regional cultures but culinary masters of seemingly all of them.
Potzol den Cano takes its name from pozole, the impossibly rich soup of pork and hominy that nourishes even better than menudo. Instead of just serving red broth, Potzol offers a milky white broth as well, while allowing you to customize the cuts in your soup—some pork head, maybe, or shoulder or leg. It's up to you to decorate it with radishes, salsa, tostadas and lettuce, making a bowl of already-dense bliss even heavier. But sticking to the pozole here, as rich as it may be, neglects an encyclopedic menu chockablock with regional specialities. You'll find burritas—not burritos, but rather a type of quesadilla made of ham, yellow cheese and tomato that you drown in a vinegary jalapeño salsa. Breakfasts riff on a simple eggs/beans/cheese/rice quartet, just as Lalo Guerrero did with his pachuco boogie, never deviating from brilliance while switching around the salsas, the cheese and the style of beans (here are the best pinto beans in Orange County, silky and served with so much broth it nearly qualifies as a soup). Tortas and tostadas offer their own Thomas Guide of options. And while enfrijoladas (tortillas smeared with bean paste) are generally associated with Oaxaca, no Oaxacan restaurant makes them as gloriously as they are here: stuffed with chicken and queso panela, then topped with so much chorizo that the results look like someone ground up an entire pig in front of you.
1003 S. Bristol St.
Santa Ana, CA 92707
Region: Santa Ana
Are there a lot of Querétaran in Orange County? Beats me. But one visit to Potzol will make you a fan of the state forever—so much better than that wretched Jalisco, ¿qué no?
This column appeared in print as "Querétaro Power."
Lighten up Omar, everyone including Gustavo knows Querétaro is a beautiful place. If I thought the people of Querétaro were all as overly sensitive as you, I might not try this new restaurant. But I know how kind and friendly they are.
I know this is only an advertisement article but to read it make me feel a little embarrassed for the author and his poor knowledge and general culture. Please at least make the effort to review the wikipedia and learn something new http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quer%C3%A9taro
@Omar Castrejón Ruiz I think Dave made the point to the readers--non of which have heard of Queretaro--that this was a rare restaurant. It's the only queretano restaurant in the OC, the only one in California, perhaps. No--hell with that--this is it--the only one. It might be the only queretano place in the U.S.
Wikipedia wouldn't be my first choice in picking a place for Dave to learn about Queretaro. Have you been here? Have you been to Qto.? There's nothing to be upset or embarrassed about here. No manches!
And, Dave, most Mexican-Americans here in L.A. couldn't tell you anything about Qto. or its cuisine. Only wealthy Chilangos, Hidrocalidos, etc. frequent the small state to go drinking on the weekends. There are no Queretano places outside of Qto. within Mexico for the most part.
I'm confused. What are you upset about? I only knew Querétaro as a name before. Now I can't wait to go. You will have to accept that most estadounidenses can't name very many states of Mexico and know next to nothing about it. Also, Gustavo is correct. There is not a large Queretaran community here. Zacatecas, yes. Michoacán, Durango, Jalisco, Oaxaca, of course. There are zillions of businesses owned by chilangos and you practically can't drive through central Orange County without seeing a pambazo. Perhaps you could enlighten us instead of being rude and insinuating that this was an advertisement, paid for by the restaurant. You put your name to that accusation. Would you repeat it in person? I bet not.
Gustavo, how does their pozole compare to Las Brisas de Apatzingan's pozole verde which I believe is without compare?