[Hole in the Wall] Saved By Cemitas at Anaya's Catering in Santa Ana
Saved By Cemitas
Every week, ustedes ask me about wonderful restaurants that no longer exist. Santa Ana’s Nancy Puebla? Is now in Perris. Irie Jamaican in Cypress? No clue. Tlaquepaque in Placentia’s Old Town? Always rumors of an imminent opening, but don’t count on it happening. I’ve also received inquiries about a taco truck I once reviewed, a Santa Ana lonchera that was the only place in Orange County that served the torta-on-steroids called the cemita poblana. That one disappeared years ago; its space on Cubbon and Sycamore streets is now occupied by the chilango-leaning Alebrije’s Grill.
The latter loss is the one I rued the most because Puebla food is nigh-impossible to find in la naranja, and those few restaurants that claim to sell cemitas poblanas serve frauds. But I’m thrilled to announce that the sandwich is back and better than ever at Anaya’s Catering. The truck is impossible to miss: across the street from St. Anne’s Catholic Church, fire-engine red, with “CEMITAS POBLANAS” in large letters on a sign that the owners place over the front windows. Another menu to the side is a relic of the truck’s previous owners; no other special hangs from papers taped to windows like at so many other loncheras. The fresh masa you’ll eye on a counter is proof their tortillas for tacos are freshly made, but ignore them: Order the cemita and nothing else—save for a bottle of Mexican Coke.
Everything about this sandwich is perfect. Two layers of perfectly breaded milanesa, your choice of chicken or beef. (Only milanesa—any other meat is heresy.) A fat, toasted sesame roll, almost as eggy as challah. Dense, creamy slabs of queso panela below the milanesa, and a cobweb of Oaxacan quesillo above that melts just so.
The lady who prepares the sandwich will ask you whether you want your cemita stuffed with chipotle or jalapeño—choose the former. And you’ll have to ask her to place on it pápalo, the refreshing, metallic-tasting herb that lingers in your mouth for hours. Anaya’s cemita is a two-hander, as large as a double Western bacon cheeseburger but so much healthier and better. Already one of Orange County’s must-eats.
Anaya’s has existed for only four months, and they’re just getting started. The lady who runs the truck says they’re getting ready to make tacos árabes, the half-pita, half-al pastor taco that resulted when Lebanese immigrants moved to Puebla in the early 20th Century. I’m still not sure why the original Santa Ana cemita poblana truck shut down, but do me a favor, folks: Per my perpetual grub cry, invade to ensure a new treasure doesn’t disappear.
Anaya’s Catering, on Borchard Avenue between Main and Sycamore streets, Santa Ana. No phone number.
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