Eat This Now: Teriyaki Tacos at Main Charbroiled Burger
Long before Dos Chinos, way before Kogi, Japanese and Mexicans in Southern California freely intermingled in the realm of teriyaki. It wasn't just geographic proximity that got chinitos and wabs playing around with each others' food; it was also the shared love for thinly cut strips of beef, of sweet marinades, of pairing the creation with rice or stuffing them in tortillas. Oki Dog was the first famous mestizaje of Jap-Mex (can you even say that? We can!), but far more beloved in Orange County is the Mexicanized teriyaki bowl of Mos 2 fame.
Far rarer, though, is the honest-to-goodness teriyaki taco: no fancy sauces or sous-vide nuttiness, but just teriyaki in the confines of an unadulterated taco. In fact, the only place in Orange County I know that sells the relic is Main Charbroiled Burger in big, bad SanTana.
Main Charbroiled is one of those diners that originally opened as hamburger stands but has evolved over the decades to match its neighborhood, the type of place that still refers to the Asian offerings as "Oriental" and is now patronized almost exclusively by Mexicans. Their Mexican tacos are fine, but their teriyaki tacos are perfect: sweetened beef in a double-ply taco made of big tortillas, spruced up with radishes, cilantro, and then doused not in salsa but Sriracha. Want to know how old-school this dish is? The accompanying chile de mordida (a chile to bite on for heat) isn't a serrano but a yellow pepper--OLD SKOOL. Its saltiness surprisingly goes well with the mound, cutting the sweetness of the taco.
This dive has been around for years and still draws a steady crowd, but visit fast: as I've written before, SanTana's restaurant gentrification is slowly creeping south on Main. Buy the tacos fast before some hipster kids new to town try to class them up, sell them at three time the current going rate, and claim they're "street." Sigh...
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