Chile de Arbol Salsa at El Camino Real

El Camino Real in Fullerton needs no real introduction to Weekly readers; we've given it much love over the years for its weekend menudo that draws in Mexican mamis too tired to cook and the fact that Kobe Bryant is known to haunt the place. It's probably the best, for lack of a better term, "normal" Mexican restaurant in Orange County--by "normal," I mean a dive that ain't Tex-Mex but specializes in the borderlands cuisine favored by gabachos (tacos, tortas, enchiladas, etc.) and doesn't have regional dishes (even though the owners are from Jalisco and their nice young-adult kids have the white skin to prove it). But El Camino Real does harbor a regional treat available to all: chile de arbol salsa.

I like this salsa even better than habanero because it doesn't blind you, has a smoky flavor chipotle-based concoctions can't match, and is bizarrely hard to find in Orange County Mexican restaurants considering there's so many damn wabs here from Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Michoacán, where the salsa is king. El Camino Real's version is a bit more watery than it should be, but that just means the heat burns you slower than in the thicker, grittier versions I grew up on. Drizzle it on whatever you order, and watch how quickly it disappears from your table once someone realizes El Camino Real offers unlimited batches of their golden fried tortilla chips.

El Camino, Real, 303 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 447-3962.


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