I grew up with Taquería de Anda. I remember it when it was a tiny wooden shack in Fullerton's rough Tokers Town barrio, and the lines went out the door every weekend morning, drawing from the many churches in North County that had just let out Mass. I remember seeing it evolve into a 24-hour restaurant next door to the original shack, the place Dad would take us after returning from a wedding in Los Angeles. I remember how it became the place for any Latino high schooler to go after a football game, a prom, any social event. We were all drawn to the same pleasures: small-but-cheap tacos featuring virtually any kind of meat, prepared with Fordian efficiency, gargantuan burritos, and a drink.
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I was excited when Taquería de Anda began expanding to other cities--Orange, Santa Ana, Placentia, and others to the point it's now has seven locations and seems to add on another place every year. I especially loved the story behind Taquería de Anda--its owner, Juan José de Anda, came from the town of Arandas, Jalisco, home of Cazadores tequila and about a thousand Anaheim residents. It was further proof Mexicans can and do succeed, and I tried to write about it almost the minute I began freelancing for the Weekly. I even went so far as to anoint Taquería de Anda "the Carl's Jr. of Mexican food in Orange County.
I take all of that praise back.
Unlike, say, In-n-Out or El Fortin, Taquería de Anda has seen a precipitous drop in quality the past couple of years. I've visited various locations these past two months, just to make sure it wasn't one location that was suffering, and I've now come to the sad conclusion I'll never return. First off, the tacos remain as small as ever but now go for a ridiculous buck and small change, the going rate for tacos countywide--but those tacos are usually twice as big. Worse, the meat is now frequently soggy, with little flavor other than the kinds you try to avoid. Carnitas are too fatty, carne asada taste like the ashes of newspaper, and don't even try to go with the brains or tongue. Even the once-glorious burritos are mere hollow imitators of Taquería de Anda's original version.
Simply put, there is no reason to visit Taquería de Anda anymore, so I'm doing something I've rarely done--removing it from our Dining Guide. I can't in good conscience recommend this place anymore. Even its novelty of 24-hour tacos is no longer unique--I recommend Taquería Tapatía (with a spiffier building!) on Bristol Street near the corner of First in SanTana. Goodbye, Taquería de Anda--you wuz a contendah. Now? A tomato can.