Maybe I don't get down to the sleepy bedroom enclave of Rancho Santa Margarita enough, because I was surprised to see today that quite a few mom-and-pop restaurants have encroached in this land of chain franchisees. Hell, they even let brown people move in.
El Fenix Carnicería opened two years ago (where have I been?) and, to my knowledge, is the only authentic meat-market-and-taquería that serves the Mexican community in RSM. Here, you can pick up your housemade chorizo, your chuleta de res, your aguachile, ceviche and your large sheets of crispy chicharrón.
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The taquería in the back has a steam table filled with a half-dozen stewed meats: pork chile verde and chile rojo, less common tingas of chicken and beef. Chileheads should head straight for the beef en morita, chunks of meat stewed in a salsa made from chile morita, a hotter variety of the smoke-dried chipotle. Best of all, you're encouraged to sample anything you want before you buy it.
That salsa morita is one of eight salsas and guacamoles made fresh daily which you can buy for $3.99 a pound. Other salsas are tomatillo (red/green), fresca, molcajete, avocado, roasted habanero, pico de gallo and guacamole.
The downside? Tacos are $2 each instead of the bargain basement dollar tacos you'll find in the northern half of OC. But they gotta pay RSM rent, and nowhere else in town will you find real deal Mexican food by Mexicans for Mexicans.
El Fenix Carnicería, 29941 Aventura # K, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 858-0491.