Soho Is Where the Taco Is
There I was a couple of weeks ago, rumbling down McFadden in deepest, brownest Santa Ana in a rusted VW Bus. I was lost, searching for a mythical lonchera, supposedly another chilango addition to the county's Mexican-food scene—but it wasn't anywhere. Pinche inconsistent loncheras.
The Kombi needed gas, so I pulled into the parking lot of Reyna Market to remember which Arco in the city was the cheapest. There, my taco deliverance lifted crates: the Soho Taco guys. The members of the Zambrano familia have been quite the celebrities in Orange County's dining world over the past year, bridging the gap between luxe loncheras and taquerías via catering events featuring everything from perfectly cooked carne asada to pico de gallo created from heirloom tomatoes. Absolutely amazing food—we called them the second-best meal in la naranja last year. But what their legions of Twitter followers probably don't know is their home base is Reyna Market, an unassuming neighborhood carnicería where rancheras echo down the aisles and consumers buy anything from bread for tortas to the latest Mexican graphic novels. Gabriel, Andres and Rico help their elders run the market, from mopping the floors to frying chicharrones and making meat deliveries to other taquerías. And, of course, manning the stove.
It's a seemingly simple menu: tacos, burritos, tortas, a buffet and breakfast meals ranging from chilaquiles to huevos rancheros. But look around at what the market offers, and get creative. Want some Zacatecan-style queso añejo grilled up in slices as a side to your breakfast? The Zambrano will do it. A heaping burrito of moronga, a blood-sausage dish kept boiling until it tastes like eating an animal's soul? Sure. Tacos of nopales and tortas de camarón, the classic Lenten dish? A torta of cecina, Mexico's take on beef jerky? Behind the counter, Gabriel or Andres will make virtually any taco or burrito you can dream up with the items available, always using made-that-morning tortillas and providing fried-that-morning chips. And if they're not there, the tacos still impress: tripas fried until they're more decadent than bacon, salsa that sears, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Sure, the only seating is outside and affords you scenes of moms pushing strollers—but you're in a carnicería in the barrio, not Javier's.
The Soho Taco gig is the dream project for the younger Zambranos, so don't miss them if they have a public grilling session. But the true mark of a Mexican chef is if he can impress what Mexicans call raza—the unwashed Mexican masses. And that Soho/Reyna can cater to hipster and raza alike marks them as best taqueros in OC right now—tweet that, cabrones!
This column appeared in print as "Soho Is Where the Taco Is."
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