Jugos Acapulco

Photo by Joy Weber Zzzzip. Whirrrr. Zzzzip. Whirrrr. Zzzzip. Whirrrr. The contrapuntal hums of juice extractors and blenders clash like a Stravinsky suite at Jugos Acapulco, a three-store chain specializing in jugos (fresh fruit or vegetable juices) and licuados (chilled fruit- or vegetable-derived milkshakes). Each Jugos Acapulco location generates its own vibe—the Costa Mesa location has the grimy charm of a Tijuana cantina, while the two Santa Ana spots are as immaculate as the Sports Club/Irvine juice bar. Regardless of ambiance, the motorized din is a constant at all three—that and the whining accordions of norteño music that blast over the speakers. Between those three fugues, you can barely hear yourself sip.

Jugos Acapulco makes tacos, tortas, even enchiladas. But the jugos and licuados here are so filling and nourishing that to order an actual entrée would be pure gluttony. The 19 different jugos span every one of nature's candies, from such standards as horchata, tamarind and grapefruit to more obscure choices (pulpy guanávana, sour alfalfa and beet juice). The beet jugo is exceedingly bitter and burgundy, but it mysteriously ranks as one of Jugos Acapulco's top sellers—Latinos disregard the root's acrid taste for its iron-packed wallop, apparently.

Licuado options are similarly varied but come blended with a couple of egg yolks along with whole milk and a Ross Shelf of ice. While the one-fruit selections are refreshing, even better are mixed-fruit licuados that sport ridiculous names. The Cariñoso (Loving) contains seemingly half the Central Valley in it—I lost count of the fruits it features after a dozen—but I'm not sure how it's supposed to make you nicer. Likewise, Sexy, as delicious as the licuado may be, doesn't possess any discernable aphrodisiacal qualities unless you get off on carrot strands stuck between your teeth. The only licuado that fulfills its billing is the Conga, a pineapple/orange/papaya concoction that boogaloos around your mouth like a pre-Castro Cuban soiree. When your licuado is ready, the Jugos Acapulco folks place the blender on your table; it's your call to either drink the frothy, frosty delight straight from the blender or pour it into a Styrofoam cup.

The only meals at Jugos Acapulco that do justice to the jugos and licuados are the fruit salads. Bananas or strawberries in cream are straightforward but impressive. Like those goofily named licuados, the Hawaiiana has nothing to do with the islands but is nevertheless a little mound of paradise: chopped strawberries, papaya, pineapple, banana and apple mixed with cottage cheese and a flaking of granola. The escamocha is the same fruits mashed into the world's best oatmeal, the cottage cheese replaced with thick, honey-laced condensed milk, coconut shavings and walnuts. Combine these salads with a licuado, and you're liable to sprout seedlings.

JUGOS ACAPULCO, 307 E. FIRST ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 836-1965; ALSO AT 2003 W. FIRST ST., STE. A, SANTA ANA, (714) 558-1414; 745 W 19TH ST., STE. A-B, COSTA MESA, (949) 722-8513.

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