Here’s our guide to the best the county has to offer when making your own tacos.
Where to find the tastiest, most pliable, toothsome, nixtamal-flavored tortillas with which to cradle succulent meats.
Flor de Mexicali: Buy a pound of tortillas, then taste the thick, earthy wonderfully yellow masa with the vibrancy of life. 1212 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 751-4132.
Nuño Brothers Market: Nuño Brothers Market in SanTana, a sprawling shopping plaza in Nuño Brothers Plaza, offers a couple of varieties of corn tortillas, including a king-sized one. 1214 S. Standard Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 972-0488.
Northgate González Market: Made fresh at every store from masa (none of that Maseca), then either sold fresh on the spot or packaged for the shelves, where they disappear quickly. Various locations, www.northgatemarket.com.
Jimenez Ranch Market: The mega-pack sold at Jimenez Ranch Market holds 90 tortillas. It also offers salsa Guacatillo, a delicious combination of guacamole and tomatillo (you’ll want to buy a tub). 1303 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-6270.
La Reina Markets: Purchase tortillas hot off the press, tostadas and masa in-store daily. 508 N. East St., Anaheim, (714) 772-0582; also at 909 N. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 997-9525; www.lareinamarkets.com.
El Campeon: This store sells masa, so you can make your own tortillas or buy them premade—don’t forget the chips! 31921 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 489-4078.
Many meat markets sell carne asada preparada: pre-marinated and ready to throw on the grill, then char until tender. But you can also marinate a cut of beef on your own.
El Toro Carniceria: Get ready to stand in line—it’s worth it. Not only will you find wonderful pre-marinated meats, but the market also offers the moistest carnitas around. ¿Y las tortillas? Yep, those, too! 1340 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-1393.
El Gaucho Meat Market: Buy the flap meat to marinate in El Gaucho’s house-made chimichurri (sold in bottles). You’ll thank us later. 847 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 776-6400.
La Bodega Market: This mom-and-pop carnicería is small, but it has everything you need, even the charcoal. 259 S. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 633-7978.
Marina Ranch Market: This is the spot for fresh produce, ready-to-grill carne asada and crisp chips. 34146 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-4669.
Tula Market: Buy your meat already cooked or pick out your cut from the deli case to grill yourself. Tula also sells freshly made tortillas, salsa and produce for a one-stop shopping trip. 24418 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 581-5150.
Here’s the basics on how to make them or where to get them. (Note: most carnicerías sell freshly made options at varying spice levels.)
Pico de Gallo: A good pico de gallo combines chopped, deseeded tomatoes; cilantro; white onions; serrano chiles; lime juice; and salt to taste. Nothing more.
Alta Baja Market: Owner Delilah Snell’s house-made jams, preserves and spreads sell out fast—and extends to her salsas (which rotate seasonally). Get ’em while they’re hot! 201 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 783-2252; altabajamarket.com.
Guacatillo: Roast five tomatillos (their husks removed) until softened and charred, then combine them with four (or more, if you want it caliente) serrano chiles and two tablespoons chopped cilantro in a blender until smooth. Add one-quarter ripe avocado (peeled and pitted) continue blending until it’s fully integrated; repeat with the other quarters. Season with salt, then keep processing until you reach your desired texture (we prefer it smooth). Buen provecho!
La Pradera Carniceria: Stop here for fresh guacamole, tomatillo salsa and some freshly made chips. 3047 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 662-1234.