While I'm the worst Catholic ever and left the denomination to pursue my religious pursuits elsewhere, I do still observe the fasts before Easter, if for no other reason than it gives me an excuse to get out of the beef-chicken-pork world, and I'd like to spend the next six Fridays telling you where do to that.
It could be useful, because the U.S. Conference of Bishops is considering re-instituting the fish-on-Fridays rule for all Fridays, not just Lenten Fridays.
Besides, this county is chock-a-block with great food that adheres to the peculiarly Roman Catholic idea of abstinence from meat... and no, we won't be featuring any nutria.
Santa Ana just south of First Street is one long buffet of loncheras
--the real kind, not the fancy Twitter-enabled gabacho
kind--and it can be hard to choose. I ended up at Tacos La Piedad, run by two friendly michoacanos
who specialize in homemade head cheese, because I mis-timed when Ruben's excellent DF-style truck was going to be there.
I'm glad I did, because over the last several months I've found myself craving their torta de queso blanco even when it's not a Lenten Friday. It's a simple thing, built as all tortas are, on a telera roll with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. The queso blanco, though, a salty, springy fresh cheese that reminds me of Greek manouri, is grilled on the flat top and wedged into the bread. Make sure to ask for chiles en vinagre, which turn what could be a boring sandwich into one of the best-hidden treats in Santa Ana. Ugly, yes, but salty, spicy, rich... and vegetarian.
Don't fret about the price, either; a huge sandwich will set you back just $5 and, unlike almost every other lonchera in the city, they carry non-carbonated drinks, like iced teas.
Tacos La Piedad parks on Walnut and Cypress Streets, one block east of Main Street and one block south of First Street, behind Pep Boys. They are there weekdays during the day; at night, Tacos RubĂŠn takes their space.