Since nobody could guess the exact name of last week's Guess Where dish, I'll tell you now. It's a quesadilla chilanga from the pink Alebrije's lonchera parked on Cubbon and Main Street in Santa Ana. Some of you guessed almost right, but a quesadilla is not a taco, not a mulita, not a huarache. They're all items that Alebrije's makes, and if they make the distinction, then so will I.
This truck took the number one slot in last year's 100 Favorite Dishes list with another oversized specialty, the taco acorazado. Not to short-shrift the opinions of my esteemed fellow Stick-A-Forkers Gustavo, Dave and Edwin, but I'm not in love with the battleship of tacos. I am in love with his "little" sister, the quesadilla chilanga.
What makes this a chilango (i.e. Mexico City) style dish? I don't know, as the times I've had what's called a quesadilla in DF, it's either been a gordita-like, folded-over disc of raw masa sealing a wad of melty cheese, rajas, some meat and then deep-fried, OR queso fundido accompanying a few fresh tortillas, grilled bulb scallions and meat. Two totally different things called by the same name.
The latter definition is what's served at Alebrije's, only super-sized. Fresh masa is hand-patted into a substantially thick tortilla the diameter of a personal pizza and gridled until it's perfectly cooked. Queso fundido (specifically melted Monterey Jack), sauteed mushroom, minced slices of ham, lettuce and pineapple are folded inside, squirted with cooling, tart crema and showered with a snowdrift of grated cotija cheese.
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The juices of the sauteed mushroom and Jack cheese do their best to soak into the hot tortilla, which admirably fights off the umami-rich onslaught. Together with the sweet, acid pineapple, the salty lactic tang of the cotija and the meatiness of the ham, eating this is a two-handed exercise in directing the juices into your mouth and not onto your clothes. The styrofoam plate isn't so much a platform to set down in your lap as it is a dump truck to tilt all the goodness down your happy maw.
Alebrije's Grill: Cubbon and Main Streets, Santa Ana.
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Click here for our 100 faves from 2010! The list so far this time around:
No. 82: Lobster Roll at Lobsta Truck
No. 83: Nem Nuong Cuon at Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
No. 84: Wild Boar Balinese Sausage at Valhalla Table
No. 85: Comida Corrida at Taquería La Raza
No. 86: Breakfast Burrito at Troy's Drive-In
No. 87: Mandoo at L&M Liquor and Deli
No. 88: Chicago Dog at Chicago Harv's
No. 89: Sweet Potato Tater Tots at Pee Wee's Famous
No. 90: Kaya-Stuffed French Toast at Chomp Chomp
No. 91: Egg Breakfast at Rick's Atomic Kitchen
No. 92: Sticky Rice With Chicken at Quan Hy
No. 93: Beef Koobideh at Hen House Grill
No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss
No. 95: Milanesa Sandwich at Piaggio's Gourmet on Wheels
No. 96: Samurai Burrito at Wafu of Japan
No. 97: Carnitas Gordita at Bodega R Ranch Market
No. 98: Spam Musubi at k'ya Street Fare
No. 99: Tortilla Andorra at Anepalco's
No. 100: Lemongrass Chicken, Extra Spicy at Vietnam's Pearl