Monday, April 23, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
Sometimes we want regional Mexican food--corundas and pozole from Las Brisas de Apatzingán or thick, rich moles from El Moctezuma--and sometimes we just want the familiar old combination plate with its orangey rice and its goopy beans and its two enchiladas where the sauce runs into the other parts of the plate, or the thin flour tortillas that envelop carne asada with sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pulpy tomato salsa.
Mexican-American food is still Mexican. That does not mean, however, that you need to sell your soul to the corporate sameness of Acapulco's or Chevy's; there are good Mex-Am combo plates and bad ones. Here are ten of the best.
As always, discussions and bashing in the comments section are welcome.
10. Avila's El Ranchito
Avila's El Ranchito website
Yes, it's a chain, but it's a home-grown chain. Avila's has spread from South County all the way to the hallowed Orange Circle; the menu is full of all the usual Mexican-American specialties, but the secret is that they have the best caldo de pollo of any of the places on this list. Ask for an extra elote in yours.
9. La Casa Garcia
While La Casa Garcia is close to Disneyland, it's just far enough off Harbor that most tourists never see it; inside, it's a trip back in time. Order the flautas, and revel in the fact that you're sitting in one of OC's oldest Mexican restaurants, whose founding family give out hundreds of meals at Thanksgiving.
As the name implies, it doesn't really matter what you get here, just put lots of their excellent salsa--especially the green one--on it. The menu is similar to Alberto's, but just different enough to warrant its own spot on the list. The kicker? It's open 24x7--so you can get your fatty burrito on at 3 a.m. after you stumble out of the bars in downtown Fullerton.