Dos Chinos and Their Addictive Fries and Pork Belly
Ah, Dos Chinos. Could there be a luxe lonchera more emblematic of these fair orange acres? A fusion of Mexican, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean flavors, served from a truck that likes to haunt breweries. Gustavo tried them and liked them; even The New York Times weighed in with their typical bungee-reporting style of coverage of Orange County.
The menu is simple: Your choice of meat (there are no vegetarian options) in taco or burrito form. The burrito form is the better choice, especially for lunch on the go, and the best type was the pork belly, alternating strips of crispy skin and soft belly with herbs and a green salsa, wrapped up in the usual burrito tortilla. It's rare that a burrito keeps my attention longer than halfway through; this did. My only suggestion: Make the crispy skin pieces a little smaller; a couple of them were overwhelming.
The carne asada burrito with sweet-and-sour guacamole and red salsa was not quite as successful; the flavors were more muted and the burrito itself had some temperature issues. The Korean-Mexican ("Garden Grove") short-rib taco had an interesting marinade on the beef but felt underdressed.
The fries--the simple ones, potatoes with cotija cheese on top--were excellent and an inspired choice for a stop at a brewery. A huge portion for $4 (but $3 if you buy an entrée), stacked so that the tiny sheen of oil that came off the top portion fell onto the lower portions, keeping them hot longer than expected. The fries were crispy on the outside and tender inside, and the banana sauce (yes, banana sauce--like spicy, banana-y ketchup) was a hit. I'd seek out Dos Chinos just for the fries.
The drink selection is limited to bottles and cans kept in ice outside the window--and ca phe sua da, the Black Hole of Caffeine. Vietnamese iced coffee ($3 alone, $2.50 with a meal) ought to be sold from street-corner stands on hot days, a way for our inland denizens to be refreshed. Since it's not, selling it from a truck is a great idea. It's not as bitter as some Little Saigon brews, and not as tooth-achingly sweet as Lee's coffee--it's a nice middle road. One suggestion to put it over the top: Use crushed ice instead of cubed, which would let the coffee soak in, producing a signature granita for Orange County.
The best thing about Dos Chinos is the price. Whereas the price for lunch at some of these luxe loncheras has climbed into the double digits, that pork belly burrito can be had for $5.50, a price that puts it in excellent competition with the local brick-and-mortar shops.
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