Few restaurant spots have underachieved more than the building on the southeast corner of Main Street and St. Andrew Place in Santa Ana. I mean, this is SanTana, for chrissakes: Every goddamn Mexican restaurant in the city should be paragons of sabroso. But over the past decade, the low-slung spot has hosted a parade of crappy taquerías. Each one would slouch along for a couple of years, never get any traction, then close.
May the same fate not befall La Reyna, the latest eatery to occupy the place. It has an uphill battle, and not just because of its location. It's taking a risk by focusing on Yucateco food, one of Mexico's more underappreciated regional cuisines but a foodways that has little representation in SanTana, let alone OC. To hedge its bets, La Reyna offers combo plates, burritos, tacos, quesadillas and even sopes to entice the pochos and paisas that'll make up the core clientele. As we enter winter, with El Niño looming on the horizon, I can see people easily ignoring La Reyna because of its outdoors-only seating.
But wear a pinche coat and carry an umbrella, for here is amazing, rare food. The panuchos, the Yucatan's fried version of a sope, are crunchy perfection. That's the only real Yucateco dish on the menu, but saving the day is the focus on pork: prepared as poc chuc (marinated in citrus and cooked on a grill; it's juicy, smokey and perfect) or cochinita pibil, the legendary roasted take on pig that makes carnitas seem as lean as water and will leave any mouths that eat it with an orange, oily, delicious tint. There's even turkey—not the Thanksgiving shit you just threw away, but prepared in a way that'll make it a year-round must for anyone willing to try it.
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La Reyna has only been open for a couple of weeks—indeed, the marquee of the last business is still in the back, waiting for a dumpster. Expect other Yucateco specialties to make it onto the menu, especially as word of its excellence spreads. Do your mitzvah, gentle cabrones, and let's help La Reyna break its location's curse!