¡Ask a Comida Critic! A Good Mexican-American Restaurant in Anaheim?

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Someone asked this weeks ago; I just got to this today, too late to help the lady. Sorry, Hiromi :-(

My boss wants to eat at a good Mexican-American restaurant in Anaheim. Any recommendations?

Little-known secret about Anaheim, our county's finest dining town: it's the county's best place for Mexican-American food, better even than SanTana. Whereas SanTana has La Chiquita and Sarinara's Tamale Factory holding down the fort for folks who demand their chile verde, their enchiladas, burritos and crispy tacos, Anaheim can boast of dozens such restaurants--our Chicanos never left, while SanTana's married with wabs that took over the city's dining scene.

The most famous, of course, is Mexi-Casa, the ramshackle hut off Lincoln that Anaheimers have loved since the 1960s. Plates are cheap and filling, but not the best; go only if your boss is afraid of eating alongside actual Mexicans. Casa Gamino is a classic: it must've been a seafood restaurant in a previous life, because a nautical theme pervades the restaurant. It's also the seller of a dish whose name I can't remember but which consisted of a slice of ham on top of a grilled Anaheim chile on top of a slice of carne asada on top of a slice of Monterey Jack--savory flavors to the nth degree. Little Caboose sells okay burritos, Tom's Tacos is one of the last places around to specialize in hard tacos, El Nopal #2 has the same design motif I remember as a four-year-old, and the same chile colorado, and with a name like Ortega's, you half-expect to see the restaurant call itself Spanish.

I visit all of the above, depending on my mood. But if I have to recommend one place, it's La Casa Garcia. Not only are its dishes great, not only do they sell a five-pound burrito, but owner Frank Gracia is an OC legend--while Anaheim White House owner Bruno Serato is rightfully getting national attention for his charitable efforts, his Mexican double is Garcia, who has coordinated a free Thanksgiving dinner through his restaurant for decades, an act so massive it's now located in the parking lot of the Honda Center. There are two locations: the original on Chapman Avenue, just next to Garden Grove, and the Lincoln spot. I recommend the latter: televisions, big booths, music. Take your boss there, and ask for a raise after the fifth potent margarita.

La Casa Garcia, 531 W. Chapman Ave., Anaheim, (714) 740-1108; also at 1201 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 999-0088. www.lacasagarcia.com.

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