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Tortilla Tuesday: El Campeón

el_campeon_san_juan_capistrano.jpg
Cool logo, though...

Geographic isolation has the unfortunate tendency of making people over-estimate the worth of their restaurants, and nowhere is this more true than South County and its Mexican food scene. Oh, there's Mexi restaurants a'plenty, mostly Cal-Mex dining (and Dana Point's own curious scene, which I'll examine at a future time) and the occasional wab shop. But between Albatros in Lake Forest and The Surfin' Chicken in San Clemente, it's a vast wasteland for Mexican food.

Nowhere is this more true than El Campeón, a San Juan Capistrano institution that wouldn't rank as the eight-best tortilleria in SanTana but is lionized by South County types as more Mexican than the Templo Mayor. As if! The food is fine, if not particularly memorable. Their masa, as Dave can attest, ain't much. And their tortillas? A grand disappointment.

Dave brought me a pack last week, and I used them for my usual test: the quesadilla. But from the moment I opened the pack, disappointment set in. The tortillas were clammy and easily tore; they were thin, and too pale. On the comal, the tortilla didn't heat thoroughly and quickly curled up. Once cooked, the taste was bland, with next-to-no nixtamal tang. They didn't roll up properly, and they were worse once made into tacos for lunch.

Grade: C-. Four stars on Yelp? Shows how much those crazy Yelp kids in South County know about Mexican food. The only thing that saves El Campeón from a D is that they're local and independent. But if they're the best Mexican restaurant in South County, then I'm Javier's biggest fan.

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