The Best Taco in Orange County is..
I love all of you, o readers and commentators (especially the commentators), and one of the most loyal is Cesar Madrid. He's always bilingually witty and profane, whether talking about Gunkist historians, the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal, or food. But I pissed off ol' Cheeser last month when I declared Taquería Tapatía the best taquería in Orange County. The guy knows my stuff, because he reminded me I once said Carnitas Los Reyes "just might be the best taquería" in la naranja. Out of respect for Cesar, I revisited the Orange taquería the morning after Thanksgiving and ordered two tacos.
Strike one: whereas last year they still cost a dollar, Carnitas Los Reyes now charge $1.15 for tacos. Granted, the tacos are huge, and three will bloat you, but am I the only person disturbed that most tacos have now crossed the Rubicon that is a dollar?!
Strike two: The red salsa was flat--absolutely flat. You should never ask for Tapatio at a Mexican restaurant--if their house salsa isn't better than the mass-produced stuff, there is a problem. I asked for Tapatío.
And then, I began to eat.
The carne asada taco was delicious but underwhelming, only because of the lack of a good salsa. But the chorizo taco...let's revisit what I said before:
Order the carnitas if you must, but I like my pork as chorizo, and Carnitas Los Reyes sells the best chorizo that isn't prepared by my Tía María. The chorizo is grated until it's as fine as salt, then cooked in oil that looks and feels like transmission fluid but tastes like a thousand spicy hogs. The obsidian-toned meat is gritty, and the flavor subsumes your palate with its thick coat.
Carnitas Los Reyes makes the best taco in Orange County with its chorizo taco. The meat is so flavorful that, even if the house salsa was delicious, I would've eschewed it to ensure my palate didn't stray from the power of the seasoning. I can't even explain what was in the chorizo, but a full peppercorn did make it on the tortilla---mmm, full peppercorn. And the grease was still as industrial-grade delicious as I remember it. Given its size and its relatively cheap price (but still: the Rubicon!!!), it is the best taco by far in Orange County, especially since Taqueria El Granjenal in Costa Mesa jumped the shark years ago once Koreans bought it.
I still wouldn't call Carnitas Los Reyes the best taqueria in Orange County--the salsa is an embarrassment, and the restaurant isn't open 24 hours a day, as any good taqueria should. Nevertheless, foodies must trek hear to worship at the altar of sublime, greasy hog. Wash down with pineapple juice, por favor.
CARNITAS LOS REYES, 273 S. TUSTIN ST., ORANGE, (714) 744-9337