You need balls to take on Northgate Gonzalez, the mighty Mexican supermarket chain that employs my papi as a truck driver. Scratch that—you need ovaries, which is what Aurora’s Chorizo proudly wields. It stands right across the street from Northgate #15, occupying a tiny spot smack-dab in the middle of two barrios, in a former hamburger stand with just three parking spots compared to Northgate’s parking lot. It has only two deli cases, a couple of racks and shelves of snacks—in total, Aurora’s offerings maybe make up one Northgate aisle.
Yet Aurora’s thrives, confident in its niche. The shop traces its heritage to Aurora Ochoa, the chorizo queen of Orange County who famously sold fresh sausages from her SanTana home for decades before her family convinced la doña to open Ochoa’s Chorizo. A daughter (also named Aurora) went on to open Aurora’s Chorizo in 2015, and the crowds have never stopped coming. You’ve never had the Mexican sausage the way the Ochoas make it, and I’m not just talking about the famous green chorizo or the one made from chicken. All links are prepared fresh—you can see the cooks grind out the pork right behind the counter. All the choices have immaculate snap, not too much fat and taste exactly as advertised. The mild chorizo is perfect for even the most gabacho gabacho, the spicy option scalds, and the chicken version surprises with its savoriness.
There are no actual dishes sold here, so instead buy the makings of your next meal. Get some fresh cheese, some crema fresca, flour tortillas from the chingón Ruben’s Tortillería, another SanTana treasure. Not feeling chorizo? Aurora’s also sells fine cecina, dried beef. And beware the salsa perrona (which translates directly to “big dog” but is usually understood as “badass”), for which you’ll need plastic gloves. The oil salsa sticks on everything it touches, from your lips to your clothes to even the plastic bag the workers wrap it around, knowing the heat to come. Sprinkle just a little bit, and watch out: The stuff is like a happy dirty bomb, so gradual and ruthless and delicious its fire is.
Aurora’s Chorizo, 1001 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 800-3157.