¡Ask a Comida Critic! Where to Eat Near the Courthouse in Downtown Santa Ana?

From Niyaz Pirani of Fat Dude on a Diet:

If you were me, working across from the courthouse in Downtown Santa Ana and needed to eat, but had no cash, just a card, where would you go for lunch? One of the problems is there's so many Mexi joints and only one me. So I don't know how to figure out the good from the not good.

Here's a little, dirty secret, Niyaz: downtown SanTana has terrible Mexican restaurants. Mariscos Tampico has never been good, Taquerias Guadalajara off Fourth Street is just okay, Los Panchos is not much beyond the jukebox, Las Cazuelas is more Salvadoran now than Mexican...and that's pretty much in. Sure, loncheras dot the area--but Ruben's Tacos y Mulitas, El Rincón del Sabor and Chivas Tortas are cash-only and too far from you. What Reconquista? You know the Mexican pickings are bad when the best tacos in downtown are the owns slapped together by the Argies at Chimichurri.

If you're working at the Orange County Superior Court complex, or somewhere in the Civic Center, you're probably walking so need as much convenience as possible. I'd go to Memphis at the Santora, of course, but that might be a bit far for you. The Crosby's no longer open for lunch, and don't bother with the Salvadoran El Curtido-I'll tell you why when we finally get that bowl of menudo. I'd instead go to Mil Jugos, the county's only Venezuelan eatery. Since you're on a diet, you'll appreciate their many licuados--Latino smoothies, made with fresh fruit and milk. I'm partial to the guanábana, but they're all delicious.

As for food? Stay away from their arepas--too small, overpriced. Gorge on their cachapas, a sort of Venezuelan corn omelet, which are as delicious as they sound. They used to only make one variety, but popular demand has forced the owner to make four versions--and one of them has lean pork in it!

Mil Jugos, 318 West 5th St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-4601; www.miljugos.com.

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