10 Great Tacos in Orange County
The numbers don't lie, people: despite the protestations of some commenters to the contrary, ustedes LOVE lists! Ustedes LOVE Best Of-related stuff! So, to increase the love, we're combining the two! A list of Best Ofs! YEAHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Here's the comprende, Mendez: every Friday now, from here until kingdom come (aka, until we start the 100 favorite dishes for 2012 list, which we Forkers actually do love to do), we'll gather a list of great meals that weren't able to win our Best Of designation this year but are perennial contenders. Most of the writing will be rehashes of previous valentines we've written on the subject, mostly because it's okay to plagiarize yourself. Eventually, you'll be able to get these on our Best Of app for your smartphone--take THAT, Yelp!
First up this week: 10 great tacos in la naranja. Now excuse us as we sacrifice another baby to the social-media Ba'als that rule modern-day journalism...enjoy!
10. Al Pastor Taco, Taqueria Tapatia
The tacos are similarly spartan, dressed up only with onions and cilantro, and one of the last places remaining in Orange County where they cost less than a dollar (though just barely, and the price has increased this year...). In both, the al pastor is tender, vaguely possessing pineapple and citrus flavors, and partners well with beans and rice--or, if you want it, shines on its own.
Taquería Tapatía, 202 S. Bristol, SanTana, (714) 972-9115; also at 1118 W. First St., SanTana,
Photo by the Elmo Monster
The chorizo is grated until it's as fine as salt, then cooked in oil that looks and feels like transmission fluid but tastes like a thousand spicy hogs. The obsidian-toned meat is gritty, and the flavor subsumes your palate with its thick coat.
Photo by Professor Salt
Pig-snout tacos!!! More soon...
165 E. Pomona, SanTana
7. Tripas Tacos from Alebrije's
Take it, Shuji!
Like most everything at Alebrije's, your order will come with strips of grilled nopales, grilled onions, and a grilled jalapeno. How meta: nibble on some sweet, vegetal roughage to help out your own intestines while you eat some crisp-grilled chitlins.
Address at the end of this post!
6. Hard-Shelled Taco at Avanti Cafe
They start by forming shells upon order, meaning it's not a hard, crunchy, bland thing you bite into but soft, still keeping a masa flavor, immediately redeeming the taco shell after decades of Taco Bell and Old El Paso insults. This is a vegetarian restaurant, after all, so potatoes go inside along with lettuce dressed in a sesame-seed dressing. In go red onions and a trio of hot sauces: mango-habanero salsa, zhug, and some other red thing that tastes of chipotle and has one of Avanti's strange-ass product names. Avanti has many great meals, but I always find myself ordering these when I visit, only because they're so extraordinary--a great, gabacho-made hard-shelled taco? We Mexicans might as well finally cede that throne to Americans ...
259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2224; www.avantinatural.com.
5. Tacos de Rajas con Queso at Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
Head Chef Gabbi Patrick in her element...
It is a deceptively simple taco--pasilla instead of jalapeños, milky Oaxacan quesillo instead of Monterey Jack, with a sprinkle of cotija thrown in. The rajas melt into a glorious goop, held together by a thick corn tortilla patted out only minutes before. Gabbi's sells other tacos, but this is the only one that warrants the hefty price, because they're huge, delicious, and so much better than most carne asada chingaderas in the world.
Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen, 141 S. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 633-3038; www.gabbipatrick.com.
4. Big-Ass Taco from Taqueria Zamora
Taquería Zamora produces perhaps the largest taco in the free world--wrapped in a wonderfully misshapen, freshly patted corn tortilla larger than your average flour version, thick and slightly crispy, and tasting of fresh masa. Atop it lie giant chunks of your choice of meat that have been nicely grilled yet are juicy. With tacos like this, who needs burritos?
3121 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 557-0907.
3. Two Tacos for a Buck and Free Pineapple Juice (Until It's Gone) at Tacos El Chavito
The title says it all. If you need more love, read this.
Tacos El Chavito parks on Morgan Lane half a block south of Slater Avenue in Huntington Beach from Monday to Friday, and on Queens Lane one block north of Slater Avenue. on Saturdays and Sundays.
2. Any Soho Taco Taco
Photo by Meg Strouse
We named them our fifth-favorite dish in Orange County this year for a reason. Read about it here!
Follow Soho Taco on Twitter @sohotaco
1. Taco Acorazado from Alebrije's
Photo by Meg Strouse
Can we ever stop talking about the taco acorazado, the legendary battleship taco from Cuernavaca forged from milanesa, nopales, onions, rice, and a handmade tortilla? NEVER. If you haven't eaten this taco, you're no better than a 909er.
On Cubbon Street between Main and Sycamore streets, SanTana
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.