Best Mexican Restaurant – Orange County Register
1. El Ranchito d’Avila
Several locations; avilaselranchito.com
Salvador Avila, who came from Mexico to the United States, opened his first restaurant 55 years ago in Huntington Park with five picnic tables. Today it has evolved into 13 restaurants in Orange and Los Angeles counties, run by the children of Avila.
Maribel Avila Ley, co-owner of three establishments, says that consistency of food is guaranteed in each of them. âCustomers come back time and time again because they know our staff and are treated like family.
âMy grandmother taught her children, who taught usâ¦ to stick to the simplicity of good food and really good service. Never cut round corners; treat people with respect. Mama Avila (my grandmother) understood this.
Recipes from the Mexican matriarch stretching back generations fill menu items ranging from soups and carnitas to fajitas, enchiladas and more. Of course, there are also Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday specials.
Since last year, restaurants have improved their take-out and outdoor dining activities. âWe had a great time getting creative with take out margaritas,â says Avila Ley. “Our very popular party and family packs are always a hit, but now you can add margaritas.”
New specials are posted regularly on location Instagram pages. The Mercado Margarita in Huntington Beach available Tuesday nights is “made with ingredients from the Surf City Farmers Market right outside.” It’s a great way to support the locals.
2. El Farolito
201 S. Bradford Ave, Placentia; 714-993-7880; elfarolitomex.com
Another family business, El Farolito was started in 1974 by the Sandoval family and serves good old-fashioned Mexican food, like combo plates, at reasonable prices.
In the past, food critic Brad A. Johnson has praised the restaurant’s tampiqueÃ±o steak with grilled jalapeÃ±os and caramelized onions and carne asada nachos. All kinds of eggs are on the breakfast menu. There are lunch specials, big burritos, tostada salads and more.
Yelp reviewer Sandra L. of Orange County said the food is “so tasty here.” I don’t even like refried beans, but El Farolito makes them so good that I am now a fan of refried beans. The portions here are generous. My husband and I shared a Jr’s plate and chose the chili relleno (extra $ 0.75) as the sole item and it comes with rice and beans. We also ordered a cup of Menudo (available on weekends only). We liked it all. Each item was freshly made, well seasoned and at a good price.
3. El Torito
Several locations; eltorito.com
Larry J. Cano founded this Mexican restaurant in 1954 as an outgrowth of an Encino Tiki bar. The first OC location opened in Newport Beach in 1973.
Randy Sharpe, CEO and President of El Torito, says âIt’s a celebration of family, food and community and that’s why so many guests feel at home when they dine at El Torito. The fresh, cuisine made from scratch and the warm hospitality of the staff make your dinner something to enjoy and come back to. â
Regulars tend to rave about the table preparations, the made-to-order guacamole, the flame-grilled fajitas, taco Tuesdays, the Saturday breakfast menu with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. Then there’s the ever-popular Happy Hour on drinks and food at $ 4, $ 6, and $ 8.
âEl Torito continues to innovate and present seasonal specials throughout the year,â notes Sharpe. “Our newer Cheese and JalapeÃ±o Vampiros Tacos, grilled directly on the tortilla before filling with marinated and grilled steak, have been very popular.”