The only constant of the El Moctezuma family is the quality of food: excellent, the standard Oaxacan feasts of moles, brick-big tamales, ropy quesillo (the milky Oaxacan cheese that's like string cheese on growth hormones) and dishes that have yet to enter the American Mexican lexicon outside of froufrou Rick Bayless acolytes. The easy dish to order is the tlayuda, a gargantuan tortilla crisped, blackened gracias to a vigorous smearing of lard-spiked black-bean paste, and then topped by shredded cabbage, unmelted quesillo and your choice of meat.
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Not all locations in chains are created equal—consider the El Moctezuma empire of Oaxacan restaurants in Orange County. Its original location in Santa Ana is one of the oldest Oaxacan eateries in the county, but it’s not...