Taqueria Rigoberto's Is the Loncheros' Lonchera
Great news, gentle readers: Your favorite paper's food section and KCRW-FM 89.9's Good Food With Evan Kleiman are teaming up to hold our first-ever food event! Join Kleiman (the legendary chef behind Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles), myself and the rest of the Stick a Fork In It gang for happy hour this Thursday, March 10, at the Crosby, 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 543-3543. Event starts at 7 p.m. and goes on until the club kids come in.
I picked the Crosby as the location for the event for two reasons: my love for Santa Ana's food scene and my admiration for Crosby head chef Aron Habiger, a young gun as comfortable creating fusion stunners worthy of Michelin stars as he is scarfing down a late-night tongue burrito—as we did a couple of weeks ago. We met for a strategy session for the happy-hour event (raffles! Giveaways! Food and drink specials!), and I decided to introduce him to Taquería Rigoberto's, a lonchera (really a hut hitched to a Dodge Ram parked outside a food-truck commissary) so delicious its clientele are mostly fellow loncheros who line up after their shift alongside a cross-section of Santa Ana at its finest: laborers still in uniform, families picking up a quick dinner, college students swinging by for a pre-study meal, and the occasional wide-eyed hipster wondering if someone will mug him.
No muggings here, as well as no chairs or even milk cartons to sit on. And nothing other than tacos, tortas and burritos, served with a dozen different types of beef, chicken and pork preparations, from the expected (carne asada, chorizo) to the rarer (adovada, pork marinated in chile, fierce yet smooth) to the icky bits (brain, pickled pork skins, head meat) prepared with the care of a terrine. It's straightforward street food at its most street—grease-drenched corn tortillas, bolillos toasted to crunchy grandeur, meat simmered and cooked to its fullest potential (chorizo nibs as crunchy as pebbles and oozing with spicy funk, chicken cooked to the point of caramelizing), burritos so engorged and soft you half-expect them to slither out of your grasp. On the side are three fresh salsas (green, red, and chile de árbol), and red onions pickled in habanero and more caustic than the fiercest kimchi—but sweet, sour and irresistible.
Taqueria Rigoberto's, corner of First and Mountain View streets, Santa Ana. No phone number.
And Habiger's impression of Taquería Rigoberto's? He devoured his tongue burrito in about three minutes, deeming it the best he has ever had. "Gangster" was all he managed to utter. "Gangster." See you on Thursday!
This column appeared in print as "The Loncheros’ Lonchera."
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.