Eat Here, Not There: Chimichanga

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I've never truly understood the appeal of chimichangas, the fried burrito of the Arizona-Sonora region that made their way to Southern California in the 1930s. They're not bad, but I'm the type of guy that likes to grab his burrito, not slice it with a knife (exceptions, of course, for the smothered burrito--not the wet variety, that bastard child of sogginess--Denver's Mexican hamburger, and the Hollenbeck burrito). And if I wanted a Mexican fried meal, I'd stick with chicharrones or supremely done carnitas--and I really don't like fried food to much.

Fast-food chimichangas are universally terrible, even more so than hard-shell tacos, so county eaters have long succumbed to their chimichanga desires at one of the county's few Sonora-style restaurants: Los Sanchez in Garden Grove. I recommended this place a couple of months ago specifically for the chimichanga, and I still do--but there's a better one out there.
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Freakin iPhone camera decided to focus on the tray instead of the chimichanga--my apologies...
El Camino Real is the classic Mexican-American restaurant with an emphasis on the Mexican ahead of the American--in other words, combo plates but with queso fresco instead of processed, tacos and burritos but with cabeza and lengua as meat options, weekdays filled with gabachos and weekends of wabs. No Mexican who lives in north Orange County would ever order a chimichanga, mostly because most of us are from central Mexico, where even the burrito remains a newfangled phenomenon.

But El Camino Real's chimichanga is perfect--not too fried, but still crunchy. You can still tell from my blurry shot that it was lightly fried, so a light golden-brown instead of pure lard. Even though it's covered in crema fresca, you can still pick it up and not burn your fingers. You can still taste an actual tortilla, instead of the flour version of chicharrones. And, best of all, you can subsume this chimichanga in rivers of their salsa de chile de árbol, the manna of God if He ever decides to go to the fiery side and retain His magnanimity and all.

El Camino Real, 303 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 447-3962.



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