Photo by Jeanne RiceHaving lived for the better part of the past year in Cleveland, I got to see how the other half eats. This I have learned: corned beef can be served with every meal, there's more than one way to cook a Buffalo wing (I stopped counting at seven), and nothing is more spiritual and weird than the hallowed devotion some old Slavs render the lowly piroghi (think Polish dim sum with a whole lot less finesse).
Generally, if it's made from meat and comes from Europe, it's good eating in Cleveland. Latin American and Asian food are another matter. For a native Southern Californian like me, the somewhat less-than-outstanding Mexican food produced no fewer than 10 what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-in-this-frozen-hell? epiphanies.
So after moving back to the motherland this summer, one of my first official acts was to dine on the massive Mexican food I so dearly missed. Which meant I went to Super Antojitos.
There are a few Super Antojitos orbiting around the chain's Santa Ana hub; I prefer the one in Costa Mesa, mostly because of its cool architecture. The site used to be a '50s diner, a fact that hasn't changed with its Mexican metamorphosis. For a little of the ethnic flavor, a few red, green and white piatas hang from the ceiling. It's the best place I know to nosh on some chips and salsa, drain some cerveza and watch Mexican league soccer—er, ftbol—on one of the TV sets overhead.
I'm not here to tell you Super Antojitos serves the best Mexican food in Orange County. Everybody has a favorite place; this one is mine. I say that knowing that not everything Super Antojitos serves is high-quality chow. In fact, some of it—such as the enchiladas suizas—sucks.
But Super Antojitos also has a chile verde sauce that blasts my tongue into orbit. Best served over cubed pork in the chile verde plate (with the standard rice, beans and warm tortillas), this sauce tempts with its sweet and teases with its spice.
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Yes, there're other tasty things on the menu—I like the way they cook the carnitas until the tips are crisp. Or that you can dabble with goat and beef tongue, the stuff you eat in Mexico that you don't find here very often. I like how they serve Pepsi and Coke bottled south of the border.
But most of all, I like how ungringo this place is. Start with the name. Not exactly El Torito, eh? And check out the jukebox—see any Britney Spears? Thought not. Super Antojitos makes Mexican food for Mexican people; whether it satisfies your appetite for the piquant is another question. But you'll appreciate Super Antojitos as the kind of dependable neighborhood Mexican place that's part of living and eating well in Orange County.
And you'll never realize how much you miss it until you order a ground beef burrito in a place called Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Super Antojitos, located at 2949 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, is open daily, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (714) 437-1824. Full bar. Dinner for two, $20, food only. Discover, MC and Visa accepted.