I've been doing it all wrong. Or perhaps more to the point, the fast-food joints where I've been ordering taquitos up to now have been doing it all wrong. Why do I think this? Because I believe I've found a place where taquitos are done right: The new satellite location of El Toro Bravo in Tustin, and by association, the original in Costa Mesa.
Like most people of non-Mexican ancestry, I've been used to being offered one kind of taquito: whatever was already pre-rolled, frozen, and ready to be deep-fried. At El Toro Bravo, when I ordered four and the counterman asked me what kind of meat, I was kind of dumbfounded. "What? I can choose?"
In front of me was a chafing tray array of meats that I thought was just for the tacos and burritos, and now all of them became filling possibilities for my taquitos, including al pastor, rotisserie chicken, and carne asada.
When I said chicken, he took a wad of chicken meat from the tray, chopped it up to bits with his cleaver, deposited them into a bowl, added a flurry of cheese and then mixed it up with his fingers. Then on it went onto discs of fresh corn tortillas before he rolled it up into fat cigars fastened shut by a toothpick. After that it was plop, plop, plop, plop into a deep fryer. Five minutes later, they were done–the best taquitos I've ever had.
Crunchy. Hot. Fresh. Bursting with meat. Best part: the errant strands of crispy burnt chicken meat that had turned to concentrated flavor morsels on the edges. Worth every cent of the buck each they charge.