10 Essential Santa Ana Restaurants
SanTana is home to OC's densest and greatest mix of Mexican cuisine and some of the most cutting-edge of OC's restaurants. It's also here that you'll find one of the most authentic bowls of mi nam vang in the county. Here is a list of this food writer's essential Santa Ana restaurants, some of which aren't actual restaurants. Don't see your favorite on there? Share them in the comments.
1. Alebrije's Grill
Long before food trucking got all tied up with Twitter and Facebook, before it became fashionable, old-school food trucks such as Alebrije's Grill scratched out a living, going from to industrial park to industrial park, filling a simple but noble demand: to feed those who only have a precious 30 minutes for lunch. But even as it serviced these day toilers, it was called every name in the book, the tamest of them being "roach coach." You must wonder what it thinks of Kogi and the rest of its new-school kin. Alebrije's must regard the whole thing as silly. For one, Alebrije's doesn't even drive around, trying to find customers. Parked from morning to night at a secured spot in front of a Mexican grocery store, it might as well be a permanent part of the landscape. Discerning connoisseurs of chilango cuisine (that's Mexico City food) will find the tacos acorazados revelatory. This drop-everything amalgamation of Spanish rice, a hand-pressed rustic tortilla, grilled cactus, carrots, pickles and crumbled cheese all herald sliced rectangles of the greatest chicken-fried steak this continent has ever seen. It's called the milanesa, and it needs no Twitter.
2. Chapter One: The Modern Local
Former Haven Gastropub partner Jeff Hall throws down the gauntlet with Chapter One, a challenge to not only his former colleagues, but also his neighbors at Santa Ana's burgeoning restaurant scene. The bar pours old-man drinks with equal jiggers of expertise and knowledge of the mixological arts. It's also up-to-date on the local beers. The original chef, a culinary raconteur in a city full of them, brought humor and lightness to dishes that were as fun to eat as they were to order. Now a new chef nicknamed "Chicken Wang" continues what he started. He's put a Filipino accent to things, too, like the sisig fries--pork jowl, pig ears and pulled pork on crisp fried potatoes, with pickled red onions and a fried egg.