Ten Great Mexican-American Combo Plates In Orange County

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Flickr user sohum
Sometimes we want regional Mexican food--corundas and pozole from Las Brisas de Apatzingán or thick, rich moles from El Moctezuma--and sometimes we just want the familiar old combination plate with its orangey rice and its goopy beans and its two enchiladas where the sauce runs into the other parts of the plate, or the thin flour tortillas that envelop carne asada with sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pulpy tomato salsa.

Mexican-American food is still Mexican. That does not mean, however, that you need to sell your soul to the corporate sameness of Acapulco's or Chevy's; there are good Mex-Am combo plates and bad ones. Here are ten of the best.

As always, discussions and bashing in the comments section are welcome.

10. Avila's El Ranchito
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Avila's El Ranchito website

Yes, it's a chain, but it's a home-grown chain. Avila's has spread from South County all the way to the hallowed Orange Circle; the menu is full of all the usual Mexican-American specialties, but the secret is that they have the best caldo de pollo of any of the places on this list. Ask for an extra elote in yours.

9. La Casa Garcia
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Matt Coker

While La Casa Garcia is close to Disneyland, it's just far enough off Harbor that most tourists never see it; inside, it's a trip back in time. Order the flautas, and revel in the fact that you're sitting in one of OC's oldest Mexican restaurants, whose founding family give out hundreds of meals at Thanksgiving.

8. Molcasalsa

As the name implies, it doesn't really matter what you get here, just put lots of their excellent salsa--especially the green one--on it. The menu is similar to Alberto's, but just different enough to warrant its own spot on the list. The kicker? It's open 24x7--so you can get your fatty burrito on at 3 a.m. after you stumble out of the bars in downtown Fullerton.


Location Info

Venue

Map

Avila's El Ranchito

24406 Muirlands Blvd., Lake Forest, CA

Category: General

Avila's El Ranchito

27941 La Paz Road, Laguna Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito Restaurant

318 Main St., Huntington Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant

2800 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant

2101 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito

1305 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito

182 S. Orange St., Orange, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito

2201 E. 1st St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito

204 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA

Category: Restaurant

Avila's El Ranchito

2515 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

La Casa Garcia

1201 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, CA

Category: Restaurant

Molcasalsa

580 S. Beach Blvd., La Habra, CA

Category: Restaurant

Mexi-Casa Mexican Food

1778 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, CA

Category: Restaurant

Taiko Japanese Restaurant

14775 Jeffrey Road, Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

Little Onion Mexican

110 W. MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Sarinana Tamale Factory

2218 W. 5th St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

El Farolito

201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia, CA

Category: Restaurant

Albertaco's Mexican Food

28171 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo, CA

Category: Restaurant

Super Antojitos

1702 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

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21 comments
Zsircher
Zsircher

Nice I love mexican food.  El Farolito is really good I eat here alot.  Little Onion good. Qtortas should be on here ahead of many others.  Aviles El Ranchito is no good might as well list Don Ricardo or Jose- please.  Also Regretos serious maybe after dark.  Might as well includeTaqueria Guadalapana or the new Taco Jr.   If you like mexi food try Lindo Michocoan in Anaheim.

fluffatu
fluffatu

There are a few Molcasalsa locations in La Habra- one is on Imperial and Harbor and another on Whittier Blvd west of Beach. It's a late night institution for us North County folks.

And for the record, I think Los Sanches is overrated. It is fine, but not great, at least the several times I have been there.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Finally some love for the little onion! 

Pm3663
Pm3663

Great choices Dave! Just wanted to add...I don't consider Avila's El Ranchito a chain....why you ask? :)  Because each location is owned and operated by a different family member which in some locations like the Orange Circle is 3rd generation. They all put a different spin on a few additional menu items while all do serve the combos you mentioned and Mama Avila's famous Chicken soup! 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Well, run by separate family members, yes, but same signage, same guest experience, similar menus... I call it a chain. But I don't aim my usual chain vitriol at it very often.

Oceater
Oceater

 is Super Antojitos a Chain too, there's one in Costa Mesa and Tustin as well?

Christian Z.
Christian Z.

Mario's Fiesta Maya is a more seafood-oriented, lesser-known spinoff of Mario's (with two non-"Fiesta Maya" spots).

How do we establish when a Mexican restaurant is more correctly labeled "Mexican-American"? Is it simply the focus on rice/beans/your-choice-of-two-items combo plates? Plus the toning down of regional identity?

david
david

Tacos Jalisco in Orange has some good plates as well.  Potato tacos and carne en su jugo are tasty plus shrimp quesidillas that I have not found anywhere else. 

Don't give into everyone else....Los Sanchez is not good. 

J Gergen
J Gergen

Los Sanchez in Garden Grove Has the Best mexican food, great prices and Generous servings..

DanGarion
DanGarion

Taiko Japanese Restaurant

Is listed in the Location Info instead of Mario's.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

I'm surprised that Republican National HQ, aka, Moreno's didn't make your list.  Oh wait, no I'm not. 

909Jeff
909Jeff

HA! Whats wrong with Morenos's I dig that pace? (Of course I would right) 

Angelique Stevens
Angelique Stevens

My parents' first date was at Mexi Casa and we continued to eat there for years.  Every time i go back to Cali to visit, we hit up Mexi Casa with my parents. 

Zzyzxblvd
Zzyzxblvd

InfoFAIL. Where the fuck are all these places? I know where most are, but not all. You don't even name which cities these are in in some cases. Don't send your readers running to Google. And links would help.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

You obviously missed the huge chunk of addresses on our Google maps at the bottom of the post...

Zzyzxblvd
Zzyzxblvd

Oh. OK, now I figured it out. But really, links in the body would be more helpful ...

Eatingmywaythroughoc
Eatingmywaythroughoc

Dave, Great list, and you gave me some places we have not been yet! El Cantarito is right down the street from El Farolito, and is almost as good, and not as crowded. Thanks again for the list! 

Rayann Castro
Rayann Castro

El Farolito is definitely a family fave of ours...damn, now I'm even hungrier.

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