Potzol den Cano: A Home Run In a Bowl (And On a Plate)
My in-laws make the best pozole in the world. This is not open for discussion; anyone who has ever had it at any Gutierrez family gathering knows the truth. Come Christmas time, certain houses from here to Lake Los Angeles smell like what my sister-in-law graciously refers to as "feet and butt soup" after the acrid, nasal-passage-clearing scent that characterizes newly boiling pozole. When it stops smelling bad, it's ready to eat. But I digress.
The best pozole in the world is the home-cooked stuff you can only have if you're lucky enough to score an invitation. The second-best pozole in the world comes from a new restaurant on the corner of Bristol and Cubbon streets in Santa Ana, called Potzol den Cano.
Potzol--the word is Nahuatl--is the brainchild of the Cano family. They hail from Querétaro, a central Mexican state that's near the epicenter of pozole creation in Mexico, and the restaurant is named after the small chain of pozole restaurants called Potzol del Cano (with an L--don't ask me what that weird N is doing in there).
Shockingly--I know--the place specializes in pozole. My earlier knock on its larval-stage scent notwithstanding, this is the sleeping giant of Mexican soups. Sure, every man with two functioning testicles eats menudo every weekend, and birria is the best hangover cure since hair of the dog, but pozole is everyone's comfort food. Potzol den Cano sells two kinds: the traditional pork pozole, and a chicken version for people who are afraid of the muted funk of pork soups.
Once the soup comes, look at the hominy--the single largest specimens of nixtamalized field corn I've ever seen, corn kernels that would make a Peruvian's jaw drop in astonishment--and the just-slightly-thicker-than-soup broth. Cubes of pork head and long strings of pork shoulder vie for supremacy at the top of the bowl.
There are other things worth eating. There's a whole roster of tortas and a tostada de pata (cubed, springy, gelatinous pig's trotter) that I mistakenly thought was a tostada de pato (duck), but these are just distractions; the single best thing on the menu, the thing that has made me return more times than I strictly needed to for this review, is the enfrijoladas.
I'm thinking of doing it again tomorrow. It's that addictive. The pozole is that good; the enfrijoladas are even better.
Potzol den Cano, 1003 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana; (714) 664-0558; potzoldencano.com.