Dueling Dishes: Battle Tacos Dorados de Papa!

Return of Smut and Locusts from eric alba on Vimeo.

Excuse the frame of my god-awful mug, but the above video was one of my favorite OC food moments:

me teaching Deep End Dining's

(and OC boy) Eddie Lin that there was nothing to fear about eating chapulines and huitlacoche. We ate the latter at SanTana's

El Rincón Chilango

, the county's oldest Mexico City-style restaurant. It's made my very short list of restaurants I frequent, not just because of the many


specialties, but also for the potato tacos, classified as tacos de canasta here because they come in a basket, also known as tacos dorados (because Mexis like their potato tacos fried) or just tacos de papa (although please note that the only place I've encountered potato tacos served in soft tortillas are in Texas or


-Mex restaurants).

El Rincón Chilango's tacos dorados de papa (let's just use all the terms, shall we?) epitomize why I always loved it when my mother made them: crunchy, greasy shell; a thin layer of mashed potatoes; with repollo on top. Homemade salsa on the side. It's a simple dish that few can match--and then I discovered the potato tacos at Avanti Cafe.

Dueling Dishes: Battle Tacos Dorados de Papa!
Avanti continues to get a lot of grief in my circles for its vegan tamale pie, a ridiculous reason to hate on Avanti--the tamale pie was a gabacho creation to begin with, so I've never quite understood how chef/owners Mark Cleveland and Tanya Fuqua could corrupt something that was already corrupted. The above potato tacos are also vegan, but the chefs' modifications actually improve the taco dorado. It's a bigger shell, one that straddles the line between the shimmering outside of a taco dorado and the tortilla-looking remains of a preformed shell. They spike the repollo with a sesame-seed-esque salad dressing and add raw red onions. But what makes Avanti's version so damn addicting is the salsas--green, red and orange, in ascending order of fury (that last one has habaneros, of course).

I think my past 10 visits to Avanti have resulted in me ordering the potato tacos, even though I probably enjoy the pizzas more. Behold the best hard-shell taco ever created by gabachos. El Rincón Chilango's tacos deserve a bite, but it's Avanti's version that deserves the win this week.

El Rincón Chilango, 1133 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-5096. Avanti Cafe, 259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2224; www.avantinatural.com


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