Taco Adobe #2. Photo by Jonathan Ho.
Taco Adobe #2. Photo by Jonathan Ho.

This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

It's always great to see a good restaurant become so successful that it opens a second location, and that's what recently happened with Taco Adobe. Its Santa Ana location is almost untenable now, thanks to the lunchtime crowds that spill into the early afternoon, all enjoying great, cheap gourmet Mexican food. To mollify those hordes, Adobe owner Patricio Dillon just opened a second location on the outskirts of Old Towne Orange. I'm still a bit peeved at Dillon, though, because Taco Adobe #2 bought out a delicious Argentine restaurant that made its own pastas and parrilladas. These treats are no longer on the menu, even though Dillon is an Argie himself.

But disappointment vanishes once Adobe #2 chef Marcos Zepeda comes to your table, smiling, with your order. Zepeda was in charge of the kitchen in Santa Ana, but now lords over the second spot, taking with him the recipes that made opening the locale necessary in the first place. The new Adobe is twice as small as the original, but (to quote Moe the Bartender when he first tried the Flaming Homer) it's not without its charms. There's an open kitchen, and the décor is Latin American bright, with a large flat-screen television inevitably tuned into soccer. More important, however, the Adobe way is alive at this cubbyhole. Taco Adobe does feature a couple of regional specialties—seafood studded with capers and olives in the style of Veracruz, or a fine salmon yucateco that's equal parts spicy and sweet thanks to sautéed chiles and pineapples—but its emphasis is on burritos, tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican-American favorites, albeit prepared with fresh ingredients. A culinary cliché, to be sure, but you can actually taste the distinctive components in each meal. Consider the shrimp burritos—drizzled with sour cream and stuffed with cabbage, each shrimp plump as a ripe fruit. Even better are the beer-battered fish tacos, made with corn tortillas and fried until its thin crust assumes an almost panko sweetness. Only the tortas fail to impress—nothing compares to Q's Tortas in Placentia—but Adobe #2's version are still pretty tasty.

The best Adobe meals, however, aren't on the menu. Both locations offer daily specials that sometimes take weeks to return. Their Angus burger is as fulfilling as any local joint's, and Zepeda's soups are spectacular, alternately creamy, spicy and sour. Ask for the enchiladas Sonoritas; made with equal amounts of shrimp and a dense, oily chorizo, they're surf 'n' turf in a tortilla. And Dillon does allow his roots to show once in a while: He'll trot out the occasional pasta on any given day just to show he can. Their quality? Wonderful, of course.

TACO ADOBE #2, 121 N. LEMON ST., ORANGE, (714) 628-0633.


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