Dueling Dishes: Battle Tacos Dorados de Papa!

Return of Smut and Locusts from eric alba on Vimeo.

Excuse the frame of my god-awful mug, but the above video was one of my favorite OC food moments: me teaching Deep End Dining's (and OC boy) Eddie Lin that there was nothing to fear about eating chapulines and huitlacoche. We ate the latter at SanTana's El Rincón Chilango, the county's oldest Mexico City-style restaurant. It's made my very short list of restaurants I frequent, not just because of the many chilango specialties, but also for the potato tacos, classified as tacos de canasta here because they come in a basket, also known as tacos dorados (because Mexis like their potato tacos fried) or just tacos de papa (although please note that the only place I've encountered potato tacos served in soft tortillas are in Texas or Gabacho-Mex restaurants).

El Rincón Chilango's tacos dorados de papa (let's just use all the terms, shall we?) epitomize why I always loved it when my mother made them: crunchy, greasy shell; a thin layer of mashed potatoes; with repollo on top. Homemade salsa on the side. It's a simple dish that few can match--and then I discovered the potato tacos at Avanti Cafe.
avantitacos.JPG
Avanti continues to get a lot of grief in my circles for its vegan tamale pie, a ridiculous reason to hate on Avanti--the tamale pie was a gabacho creation to begin with, so I've never quite understood how chef/owners Mark Cleveland and Tanya Fuqua could corrupt something that was already corrupted. The above potato tacos are also vegan, but the chefs' modifications actually improve the taco dorado. It's a bigger shell, one that straddles the line between the shimmering outside of a taco dorado and the tortilla-looking remains of a preformed shell. They spike the repollo with a sesame-seed-esque salad dressing and add raw red onions. But what makes Avanti's version so damn addicting is the salsas--green, red and orange, in ascending order of fury (that last one has habaneros, of course).

I think my past 10 visits to Avanti have resulted in me ordering the potato tacos, even though I probably enjoy the pizzas more. Behold the best hard-shell taco ever created by gabachos. El Rincón Chilango's tacos deserve a bite, but it's Avanti's version that deserves the win this week.

El Rincón Chilango, 1133 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 836-5096. Avanti Cafe, 259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2224; www.avantinatural.com
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LT
LT

Regarding the conversation between Diamond Dog and Christian: Do all those places you are talking about have potato tacos or just fried tacos? I'm always on the search for potato tacos and am excited to see this article. I usually get mine from Jalepeno's or Tacos Jalisco in Orange, but now I get to try these other spots. :)

Christian Z.
Christian Z.

Try the other spots mentioned. Just had a deep fried chicken taco from Las Barcas recently.

Diamond Dog
Diamond Dog

Ok, I must be a retard. I can't get this right. I went here tonight because I am always on the search for Fresh Fried Tacos or Tacos Dorados, as I have been told, and I was excited to read Gustavo's article. . I expected to see something like the picture in this write up. Instead I got something that looked like taquitos with a bunch of lettuce, tomato, cheese and on top of it. This has happened to me before. Although it wasn't bad, I was sad. I really was hoping they would be a taco with the lettuce and cheese and "stuff" inside the taco. When I picked them up, all the topping falls off them. I am a retard. We got 2 plates with rice and beans as 2 of us ate this.

Maybe the fresh fried taco is an Americanized thing (like Mi Casa's in Costa Mesa)? And Tacos Dorados is always taquito like?

We also ordered the grilled chicken plate. It was a pounded thin chicken breast and just cooked off on a griddle. No flavor. It was very plain and I think just seasoned with salt and pepper.

The 4th person had the Super Torta. I forgot what they called it, but it was the first one on the menu. It had a breaded steak, ham, head cheese, turkey. It seemed to be made from cheap cold cuts you can buy at the Mexi Grocery store. Kinda heavy on the Mayo.

The salsa they serve with the chips is awesome, Very unique flavor. Slight smokiness, but not all crazy smokey that so many places try to do.

It wasn't horrible food, and I probably ordered all the wrong things and the wrong way. It takes a while for them to make all the food so be prepared to wait a bit.

Here is what got me though. Tacos are pretty cheap. 3 Taquitos shouldnt be that much. A sandwich shouldn't be that much. A pounded chicken breast with rice and beans. Only 3 people had soft drinks. The place is not in a fancy high rent district and its barely a step above a taquaria IMHO. It ain't no Gabby's. $52.00 with tip!!!!!!!!!

I found this strange because when you are outside all the signs are up and it says "taco Plate with rice and beans $5.25, Torta Plate $5,95 or so. When you sit down the menus didnt have prices.

looked at the Mexican version of the menu we were given and there were prices, but considerably more than the signs outside.

Christian
Christian

How do we know what constitutes Americanized? BTW, I thought I sent you an e-mail recently about some more places to find fresh fried tacos.

Diamond Dog
Diamond Dog

Oh Christian, count on you to bring up the Americanized thing! What kind of Mexican name is Christian BTW? Its not very "Mexican Authentic"

I suspect the stuff as it pertains to fried tacos that I have been eating and like is 'Americanized" because #1 I am an American. #2 I probably do not have as much knowledge about true Mexican Cuisine as Mexican Foodie and every time I order what I think I should get I get something different. It's most likely my fault for lack of understanding. I don't consider myself the end all be all for Mexican Food Knowledge

As far as your recommendations, Huntington Beach is too far for me. Gabbi's does have great ones, but that is a dining "destination", not some place you just go into to eat a couple of tacos. Mi Casa in Costa Mesa is still my favorite, but its far and its a sit down dinner place.I tried Dave's Chronic Tacos (potato only) and they were pretty good and you can't beat the price. But they were not stellar. Dan Garion sent me to fresh Taco Grill on Grand in Santa Ana, but the shells were pre fried and not fresh fried and I didn't feel that they had much flavor (the meat). Javiers also has good ones, but I don't feel like putting on man jewelry, 7 Diamonds Shirts with the cuffs that are a different pattern than the shirt of course, 42 mm watches, and drowning myself in 10 pounds of cologne to go get tacos all the time ....Just sometime.

So here is what I am looking for:

Fresh fried (meaning they fry it after you order it)Taco shape (not taquito shape)All the fillings are inside the tacoNot at a fine dining restaurantcheap!

DanGarion
DanGarion

Never got the review, sorry that it seems to have been lost on the internets... :(

Diamond Dog
Diamond Dog

Dan,

I wrote a very long review of my experience about a week or 2 ago and thanked you and sent it via your powered by Dan blog. Did you not get it?

DanGarion
DanGarion

Did you ever try Fresh Grill Tacos on Grand in Santa Ana?

Christian
Christian

Amorelia Mexican Cafe (which will be working more Morelian items into their menu) has excellent potato tacos.

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