Thursday, March 14, 2019

Warming up with Some Italian Food

Ristorante Genovese 
214 North Tustin St. 
Orange, CA 92867

Italian food is always a good choice during the colder months. In case you are not reading this in Southern California, for the last month and a half we have been hit by a series of rainstorms that have freaked a lot of people out. We are getting three days of rain pretty much every week and for us Californians, that is a big deal. People are planning their days around the light to moderate rain storms by doing all of their errands on the four days a week it is not raining. We were pretty lucky to dodge the raindrops on a recent restaurant meetup with my parents to a spot I had never heard of before, Ristorante Genovese in Orange.

I must have passed this place hundreds of times since they opened their doors in 1984. Situated right beside the Sky Palm Motel and breakfast favorite Arthur's, Ristorante Genovese is a small, white, green trimmed restaurant with plenty of signage facing busy Tustin Avenue. The Genovese's are a restaurant family. They operated Genovese Steak House in Santa Ana from 1947 to 1984 and then reopened as an Italian restaurant in their present location. Their website lists three generations of family members that have worked here, along with a list of employees that have put in at least 10 plus years at this establishment.

The menu at Genovese's is slanted towards Sicilian style Italian. There's a good assortment of appetizers, pasta dishes, house specialties, Italian seafood offerings, and last but not least, they have their chef's extraordinary specials, which are big-ticket items like Osso Bucco, bone-in ribeye, and a veal dish. These all go for right around $30. Checking out the menu beforehand, I still was undecided when I was driving up for our dinner with my parents.

Ristorante Genovese was packed on the recent Friday evening we were here, but we were lucky to be seated rather quickly in a pretty spacious booth near the back entrance of the restaurant. There's plenty to take in here. There are lots of knickknacks all over the place, plenty of Elvis pictures lining the walls, and a small eight-seat bar in the front of the restaurant. There's also a patio out back, which would be ideal for the warmer months. They also were fully decorated for Valentines Day, with plenty of hearts all over the place. Love was definitely in the air, and I was hoping that was going to carry over with a love for the food. Let's see if that would be the case.

The menu at Ristorante Genovese makes a point of stating that only two servings of Garlic Bread will be served per guest. I guess they had a bunch of deadbeats sitting there all day scarfing down their garlic bread. Can't really blame them, as this was a pretty solid version. This is probably going to sound like a diss, but it's not. This bread really reminded me of the garlic bread my mom used to make when we were growing up. She would spread some of the Lawry's Garlic Spread on some bread and place it under the broiler for a bit. I loved it as a kid, and that's what was conjured up in my mind as we found ourselves each having our allotted quota of bread.

Most dinners come with your choice of soup or salad, and the two of us that had got that option went with the Dinner Salad ($3.95). This basic salad came with some fresh greens, a few shredded carrots, and just enough blue cheese dressing. Nothing earth-shattering about this, but I always enjoy when a dinner salad is included with a meal.

Let's start the entree portion of our meal off with Katie's selection, the Tortellini ($16.25). The fresh tortellini was meat filled and came bathed in one of the better Alfredo sauces we have had. The bite that I tried was good, but I would not have known that there was meat in the tortellini, if it were not stated on the menu. The Alfredo sauce was definitely the star of the show with this entree, as both Katie and I scraped her bowl clean with our allocated garlic bread before her bowl was taken away. 

My mom was torn between the spaghetti and the lasagna. As you can see from the above pic, the Lasagna ($17.25) won out. This came out of the kitchen on fire, with noticeable steam rising from it once it was placed on our table for a good amount of time. My mom liked this at first but then thought it was a little too soupy. It lacked the structure and crisp edges that are some of her favorite parts of other lasagnas. The bite that I had was fine, and I could see what she was talking about with it being soupy. The cheese really took over here and made the noodles and inside guts of this lasagna kind of insignificant. Not awful, but she's had better.

My Dad got the Chicken Piccata ($23.50) for his meal at Ristorante Genovese. The chicken was topped with plenty in the way of mushrooms, capers, garlic, white wine, and some lemon. The big guy made quick work of this, which he thought was pretty good. The chicken was tender and he loved the mushrooms and sauce this came out with. It also was accompanied by a portion of spaghetti with meat sauce and the vegetable of the day, which when we were here was green beans. Both were fine. 

I don't order veal nearly enough. I decided I was going to rectify that situation by getting the Veal Saltin Bocca Alla Romana ($28.50). With this one, medallions of veal are topped with prosciutto, provolone, and mushrooms. I was pretty unimpressed with this dish. The reason you get veal is that you want it to be very tender, and this was not that. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I'd say they made a mistake and had given me chicken instead. The veal in this was lost in the shuffle and was outshined by the mushrooms and cheese. My dish also came with spaghetti with meat sauce and green beans.

Because my meal was a little on the small side, I definitely had room for dessert, and apparently so did everyone else, since we got two. The first was a Gelato Truffle ($5.95). This ball of gelato came out hard as a rock. We had to let it sit a few minutes until it got softer to break into it. It was fine, but not very noteworthy. I did not even write about it in my notes. The Chocolate Fudge Cake was better. It was joined on the plate by some streaks of raspberry and chocolate and three piles of whipped cream. The cake was moist and the icing was not sickeningly sweet. I would have liked this even better with ice cream, which would have made this more like the hot fudge cake at Bob's, one of my childhood favorites.

Our visit to Ristorante Genovese was fine, but not mind-blowing. My meal was a real let down, as it was not what I expect when ordering veal and the serving size and price were all out of whack. I was still hungry after leaving the restaurant and definitely did not feel like I got $30 worth of food. In fact, I thought all of the meals were a little on the puny side. Not one of us took food home for the next day, which is rare when my light eating mom is eating in a restaurant. The garlic bread and Katie's meal were standouts, but that's all I think I'll remember about these meal months from now. Service was pretty good, especially considering how busy they were. Since we probably only have another month before we start heating up in OC,  I do look forward to more Italian food on these frigid high 50 degree evenings.

Out of five palaces, (because the surname Genovese means a person from Genoa, and one of the most popular attractions there is a small street lined with giant palaces, the Via Garibaldi Palaces), five being best to zero being worst, Ristorante Genovese gets 2.5 palaces.

For more information about Ristorante Genovese, head to their website here:

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Stag Pizza Party

Stag Bar + Kitchen
121 Mc Fadden Place
Newport Beach, CA 92663

This is a review a long time in the making. I have been wanting to try the pizzas and other items at the Stag Bar for a long while now. It just seemed that every time we came down to the Newport Beach Pier, they were packed. There was always a big game going on, or a bar crawl was passing through and there was nowhere to sit in the rather small dining section of one of the oldest continuing operating bars in Southern California.

The building that houses the Stag Bar was built in 1908 and became a bar six years later. That puts them at serving the people of Newport Beach beer and cocktails for the last 105 years, minus of course those dark times when prohibition was the law of the land from 1920 to 1933. During that time the Stag Bar survived by serving sarsparilla and the popularity of billiards. Of course, there were rumors of beer being served upstairs, but that's none of my business.

The Stag Bar became an upscale martini bar after prohibition ended, and it was at around that time they installed a 100-foot long bar, which is still the longest in the city. In 2006, Stag Bar was bought by Mario Marovic, of the Lounge Group, and renamed The District Lounge. It stayed The District for eight or so years, and then Mario, who has had a good string of adding impressive restaurant and bars to his portfolio (Malarky's, Blackie's, Playa Mesa, Country Club, and Matador Cantina to name a few), decided to go back to this building's roots and bring The Stag back with a huge makeover to its early 20th-century look and feel.

Back are the antlers, pool tables, and taxidermy above the bar. They darkened things up a bit and decided to specialize in whiskey, of which they feature 75 different kinds, including some specialty small batches. The menu here also got a complete overhaul. They are known for their meatballs and pizzas at The Stag Bar, but there's also hamburgers, salads, and even tacos offered on Tuesdays.

We were lucky enough to find a table near the back door of the long and narrow Stag Bar, right near the kitchen, and a little removed from all the craziness that is the bar area. We still had a good view of the Sunday Funday crowd winding it down before they had to get back home to get ready for work or school. We were here on the last day of Newport Beach Restaurant, Week and The Stag Bar was offering a three-course dinner menu, plus a beer or cocktail for $20. Such a deal, it got us out of the house on a Sunday evening. Let's see if it ended up being worth it.

The first course for us was this Half Antipasto Salad ($5). This was a very generous serving size for it being a half and it included a whole cavalcade of stuff in it; feta, provolone, olives, prosciutto, capicola, pepperoni, pepperoncini, tomato, artichoke hearts, and greens dressed in a red wine shallot vinaigrette. The produce in this was very fresh and I really liked the variety here. I do wish they would have dressed this with a heavier hand, as a lot of the items had little to no dressing included.

Personal pizzas were the option for course number two. At The Stag Bar, they have 18 kinds of pizza for you to choose from, and I did not see that they had a build your own pizza, but I can not see why they wouldn't do that for you. I definitely always veer towards the pizza that has the most meat on it, which was the appropriately named Meat Coma ($10). This one included prosciutto, pepperoni, sausage, and capicola, along with red sauce and mozzarella cheese. I liked the slightly sweet crust here, which was thicker than I usually enjoy, but it was not too obtrusive. The thick crust held all the contents of the pizza well. The meats were nicely spaced out and delicious, but I could have done without the big slices of prosciutto, which came off all in one bite. Katie and I are definitely opposites when it comes to pizza. She never veers towards pizzas with meat, as was evident with her choice, the White Knight ($8). This pizza uses white sauce and mozzarella as its base and then adds artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and ricotta to it. Katie also liked the crust and felt it had a homemade kind of feel to it.

Not part of the restaurant week menu, but we could not resist trying a Skillet of Meatballs ($8). We had tried their meatballs at various food events we had the privilege of covering and they were good then, but even better on this evening. At Stag Bar it's a three-step process ordering your perfect meatball. First, you pick what kind of meatball you'd like to have, the sauce you desire is next, and lastly, you select the cheese you desire. Our fantastic server Stephanie suggested that we trust her to doctor up the four meatballs the way she likes them. We got the house grind, which is a blend of beef, pork, prosciutto, and mortadella, and then had marinara and provolone cheese blanket each of the four meatballs. This meatball masterpiece was finished off with a good amount of habanero pesto, which definitely gave this a kick. Good call on letting Stephanie pick how we wanted our meatballs. The meatballs were very flavorful and fork tender. The cheese and sauces kind of took over here, but no complaints from me about that. Both the marinara and the pesto were excellent and made these some of the best meatballs we've had in a really long time. Made me wish that they had a meatball sandwich on their menu, instead of just sliders. Maybe I'll just sneak in my own bread next time. 

A sweet ending to our restaurant week adventure was this Beignet and the Jets ($6). These come six to an order, even though the menu states eight, and are more like fried dough than a beignet. They were fine but got a little boring near the end of the three that I had. They needed a little more powdered sugar and the caramel sauce was okay but needed to be a tad thicker. Fine, but not earth-shattering.

I was pretty pleased with our visit to Stag Bar for Newport Beach Restaurant Week. A salad, personal pizza, dessert, and a cocktail for $20 was a pretty solid deal in my opinion. The best item we had was the meatballs, which were fantastic. If you are lucky enough to have Stephanie as your server, definitely trust her suggestion to have the meatballs her favorite way. The pizzas here were better than most, and I look forward to trying others on future visits. I have my eye on the sausage, Mexican, and the breakfast pizzas. Service was pretty solid, especially considering how busy they were. Not only was Stephanie great, but the manager on duty, (sorry I forgot your name) checked on us numerous times, and we had a great conversation about the restaurant business. Glad to see that The Stag Bar has made a return to its glory days, and hopefully it will not be so long before a return visit is warranted.

Out of five antlers, (because large male deers are called stags, and they grow antlers each year), five being best to zero being worst, The Stag Bar gets 3 antlers.

For more information about The Stag Bar + Kitchen, head to their website here:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Taking a Seat at the Mayor's Table

The Mayor's Table Pacific Pub and Kitchen
3300 Newport Blvd. 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Besides the holidays being over, one of my favorite things about the calendar turning to a new year is that it's usually a slower time for restaurants. A lot of people are dieting or watching their money more closely, so they refrain from going out to eat. Not only is it easier to get a table at a reasonable hour, but restaurants are coming up with ways to get people through their doors.

One way to do this is by participating in restaurant weeks, and one of the better ones is Newport Beach Restaurant Week. This year it was held the last two weeks of January. Yes, this seaside paradise does not skimp on the opportunity to experience restaurant week, as it gives diners two weeks to try any of the many restaurants that participate in the city of Newport Beach.

For those of you that are unaware of what restaurant week is, it's a chance for restaurants to put their best foot forward by offering prix-fixe meals at varying price levels for lunch and dinner. There are no coupons or anything else to do, other than peruse the online menus, find a place you want to hit up, and then make reservations. I always try to find places that I have wanted to try for a while. One that attracted my eye really quick was The Mayor's Table, which was offering something on their lunch menu that I could not pass up.

I had made the mistake of letting the first half of Newport Beach Restaurant Week sneak by me without going out to eat, but I wasn't going to let that happen again. The Mayor's Table, which is situated at Lido House, a hotel that seemed to have popped up rather quickly at the former site of the City Hall, was offering a $25 dollar three-course lunch menu that featured their much raved about cheeseburger. Even though all of my friends and Katie were at work on this gloriously sunny Thursday, I decided I'd brave dining solo to try this burger.

This cheeseburger has reached almost mythical heights in my mind because it seems like the OC Register's Restaurant Critic, Brad A Johnson has written about it numerous times. Way more than any other restaurant that I can recall. He's named this burger the best thing he's eaten one week, it made his year-end wrap up of the 10 best burgers he consumed in 2018, and the restaurant itself was named one of his top ten of last year. There have also been numerous other features in other publications, so needless to say I was pretty excited to see what all the hype was about.

After parking a couple of streets over, I wasn't going to pay for valet parking, I arrived at the Mayor's Table right at 11am and was met with a totally empty restaurant. At first, I thought they weren't open, but the hostess sat me and assured me that the lunch rush would fill in the tables surrounding me shortly. The dining room here is one of the most comforting I have experienced in a while. Comfy blue upholstered booths, a large patio set far enough back from the street for the warmer months, and a glorious glance at the action going on in the kitchen are all highlights of the dining space.

Speaking of the kitchen, it is helmed by Executive Chef Partner, Riley Huddleston. He got his start in New York and Chicago before making his OC debut here. He has worked every aspect of the restaurant business. He's an accomplished mixologist, pastry chef, and chef. His vision for the menu at the Mayor's Table is precision and playfulness that highlights Newport's refined, yet stylish coastal lifestyle. At least that's how they describe it on their website. I was very excited to give their Newport Beach Restaurant Week lunch a try, so let's see if this burger is as good as everyone says.

The first course of the menu featured three selections to choose from; a beet salad, a Pacific seafood chowder, and what I eventually went with, this Crispy California Avocado ($12). I first thought this was going to be something that you'd see at the fairgrounds in July, but it was way more subdued than anything you could get at the OC Fair. Three slices of avocado are breaded and fried, then served with Caribbean chili mayo and two pieces of puffed corn. The breading was very light and did not get in the way of the smooth and creamy avocado. The chili sauce was fine, but the consistency was a little too thick and not easily incorporated with the avocado. The popped corn was fine but really seemed out of place and unnecessary.  Good avocado though.

Well, now the heralded All Natural Cheeseburger ($18). This burger was close to a half a pound I'd guess, came with a little aioli, and a blanket of cheddar cheese covering the patty. The sesame bun was nice and high and did a great job absorbing the juiciness of the beef blend that they use here. A very simple burger, my first few bites were a little underwhelming due to the fact that they were a little too conservative with the application of the aioli on this. After my server brought out more, it was a much more enjoyable burger for me. Tasted like a backyard burger, if my parents would ever opt for upgraded beef and better cheese than Kraft Singles. That will probably not happen though. The hand cut fries were good and fresh, but I'd like them to be a little crisper.

Dessert was the last of the three course restaurant week lunch, and they had this Lido House Cookies and Milk ($12) or a cheesecake option. Being the cookie fiend that I am, I naturally went with the cookies. Each one was excellent. I had planned on going by Alta Coffee for one of their cookies on the way back to my car, but these cookies negated that plan. They had a great crunch on the outside and a chewier middle, which is the perfect cookie in my opinion. A very tasty end to my solo lunch at the Mayor's Table.

I had almost unrealistic expectations for the burger at The Mayor's Table, and although it was good, I was not blown away. For me, I love a great burger, but I put a lot of emphasis on how the toppings and condiments interact with the beef and bun. This cheeseburger was good and made with excellent ingredients, but it needed a boost with some extra aioli and definitely, some bacon would have made this better for me. What this visit did do, as is the goal when restaurants participate in restaurant weeks, it has piqued my interest for a return visit. I have my eye on the crab doughnuts, truffle risotto, sea bass, and other items on their compact dinner menu. The burger and the Newport Beach Restaurant Week has gotten me in here, now it's up to the rest of the menu to convince me to return more frequently.

Out of five footballs, (because if you are sitting at a table with the current mayor of Newport Beach, Diane Dixon, she'll probably want to talk about the glory days of USC's football program, since she's an alumnus), five being best to zero being worst, The Mayor's Table Pacific Pub and Kitchen gets 3 footballs.

For more information about The Mayor's Table Pacific Pub and Kitchen, head to their website here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Hoping Our Dinner Will Be Good for Our Seoul

Urban Seoul 2.0
714 Spectrum Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618

It's been a while since Ed has made an appearance in OC. Ed is the friend I have known the longest. We entered kindergarten together when we were five years old, went through the exact same schools for the next 12 years, and even though we took different paths after that, we remained very close. He became a successful economist and moved away, while I've stayed at my current job for the last 31 years, and lived in OC all of my life. Yes, even though we ended up being very different people, he's definitely one of the humans on earth that I'm proud to call my friend. He'd probably be shocked to see that I've written this.

Anyways, so when Ed swings by OC, I try to not only pick a place that we haven't been to yet but a restaurant that has that little something extra. To show Ed that his old stomping grounds has evolved quite a bit from when he moved away two decades ago. Back then Orange County was dominated by chain restaurants and the thought of a fusion spot, like Urban Seoul 2.0 opening up was plenty of years away.

The original Urban Seoul opened its doors six years ago last month at the always packed Diamond Jamboree in Irvine. They grew a very large following with their borderless kitchen, which draws inspiration for their food from Asia and Mexico. With an always packed dining room, local restauranteur Bronnie Lee and Chef Kacy Jun decided to open up another location at the equally busy Spectrum shopping center, just down the road.

Urban Seoul 2.0 is situated near the Barnes and Noble and H and M, and right in between Pieology and Wahoo's Fish Tacos. I have never been to the original Urban Seoul, but comparing the two menus, there are some differences, but what struck me the most was the difference in price between the two sister restaurants. The menu items that are offered at both locations are all $3 more at this Spectrum spot, which is kind of odd to me, especially when you consider that the two restaurants are separated by only 8 miles and both are in the high traffic shopping centers. Maybe the serving sizes are bigger here at the Spectrum.

Anyways, we arrived here on a chilly Saturday evening and the restaurant was pretty busy, but we were seated right away. The setting here is what I'd describe as relaxed and comfortable. The dining room is highlighted on the left-hand side by a small eight-seat bar facing two TVs perched just above the bartenders head. The rest of the dining room is reserved for 15 or so sturdy wooden tables, and in the warmer weather, there's also a nice patio out front which I'm sure gets utilized quite a bit.

The menu is pretty good sized at Urban Seoul 2.0. There's a section devoted to starters/share plates which features 11 different options for you to choose from. Sandwiches, a couple of salads, tacos, and specialty items, which are their bowls and skillets round out your options. Prices are less than ten dollars for the starters and the entrees will set you back on average $13 or so, with only the shrimp skillet going over the $15 threshold.

Since Ed was running a late, as usual, Katie and I started with this Gogi Quesadilla ($7.50). This quesadilla included plenty of their delicious beef gogi and cheese. The corn tortilla was grilled nicely with a little bit of crispy cheese on the outside of the tortilla for an added flavor boost. Not too greasy, with a very good crunch to each bite made this quesadilla a winner. It also came with a kimchi sour cream, which was a little on the thin side to be called sour cream. It was fine though, with a nice subtle kimchi tinge to it.

Even though Ed got here late, I appreciated that he took very little time picking out what he wanted. The Signature Tacos ($10.95) come three to an order, with your choice of meat, and no mixing of the proteins, so Ed went with the gogi beef that we had on the quesadilla above.  The tacos come dressed with plenty; kimchi, some purple cabbage, lettuce, hot sauce, red onions, queso fresco, and drizzled with gochujang aioli, which I learned is made up of a red hot pepper paste. Ed normally doesn't say much about his food, but when I asked him if he liked this, he answered in the affirmative. Thanks for the descriptive prose Ed.

I'm always down for a Cheesesteak ($11.50), but Katie picked this before I could get to it. I'd say this was just like a regular cheesesteak, so not a lot of fusion going on with this sandwich. They use gogi on this, which is a very close cousin to the meat they put on a Philly cheesesteak, then add bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, which also commonly go on everyone's favorite sandwich from the city of brotherly love. Katie felt they nailed the cheesesteak vibe they were going for, maybe a little too well. She wanted this cheesesteak to be more of a fusion item, but with the exception of a slight sweetness to the meat, it just tasted like a regular cheesesteak. A good one though.

I could not decide between a few things, so I opted to get two items and eat half of each while saving the other halves for lunch the next day. First up was the Spicy Pork Torta ($11.50). The description of this blew me away when I read it; bacon refried beans, spicy pork, of course, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, queso fresco, jalapenos, and finished off with avocado aioli. This did have quite a bit of heat to it but did not detract from the many flavors of the sandwich. The pork was finely chopped and melded with the beans well. I would have liked a lot more avocado aioli on this, as I'm always partial to a heavy hand when it comes to condiments on sandwiches. The half that I had the next day was better than the one I had at the restaurant. I guess the flavors had more time to meld together. I'm eyeing the chicken katsu sandwich on my next trip here.

I could not come to Urban Seoul 2.0 and not try one of their famous fusion skillets. The Chorizo Kimchi Fried Rice Skillet ($14.95) would be my selection on this evening. Checking out the pictures on Yelp, I'd say this is one of their more popular items, and for good reasons. It uses the holy trinity of pork products, chorizo, bacon, and pork belly, and then they throw in some kimchi, garlic, pickled red onions, fried onion, rice, and green onions, and finish it off with a sunny side up egg. A very comforting dish. I did not really get a lot from the bacon and chorizo in here, but the pork belly was delicious. I also liked the sharpness of the pickled onion, which cut the richness of the pork belly. My one complaint was that the sunny side up egg was overcooked, so the yolk was not runny at all, which I think would have made this even better. A very good bowl for a pretty chilly evening.

Mission accomplished having Ed meet us at Urban Seoul 2.0 on this evening. When Ed and I were growing up in the early '80s, we had no inkling that we'd be eating at a restaurant like this 30 plus years later. Restaurants like Urban Seoul 2.0 show how far the food scene has advanced in OC. No longer are chain spots the places to head when you want to go out to eat. Urban Seoul 2.0 hit the mark on this evening. I would have liked to have seen an even greater cross over between the Mexican and Asian ingredients, but what we had on this evening was all pretty delicious and I look forward to coming back and trying more of their menu soon. Sometimes fusion foods do not really hit the mark, but on this evening they did for us and our good friend Ed.

Out of five kites, (because kite flying is a very popular hobby in Korea), five being best to zero being worst, Urban Seoul 2.0 gets 3 kites.

For more information about Urban Seoul 2,0, check out their website here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rustling up Dinner at the Ranch Enchilada

Ranch Enchilada
4965 Valley View Ave. 
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

The first part of this year has been highlighted by a lot of family time for Katie and me. We went to her sister's house for Superbowl, we went to my niece's high school play, and now we were headed back up to Yorba Linda to watch my other niece cheer at her high school basketball game. We had plenty of time to grab some food with the family, so of course, it was my duty to choose the restaurant. I decided it was time to head to the Ranch Enchilada.

Ranch Enchilada has been around for a long time, just not at this location. Up until 2014, they used to be situated in East Yorba Linda but moved right across from the Veteran's Park Little League fields, right near the intersection of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Valley View. A lot of my really good high school friends worked at the old location back in the day, so it was kind of a hangout for us.

I asked our waiter if it was the same owners from way back then, and he answered in the affirmative. This location is pretty comfortable, with ceiling fans circulating the air from up above, some decorative pieces dotting the walls, and for the warmer months, a patio out back. The menu here is dotted with exactly what you'd expect to see in every Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of starters, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, and combo plates to choose from. What I'd term very safe Mexcian food options. If you are looking for more exotic stuff, you need to move along now. Let's see if Ranch Enchilada is as good as I remember when my friends worked here in the early '90s.

Here's a quick shot of the Chips and Salsa that were given out to each table while ordering at the Ranch Enchilada. Pretty basic stuff here. The chips were fine, the salsa was pedestrian with very little in the way of flavor, but it did add some moisture, so I guess that's a plus.

Since the salsa was a little weak on flavor here, a Side of Guacamole ($3.95) definitely needed to be ordered. Unfortunately, this guacamole also suffered from the same calamity as the salsa, it was bland. It also needed to be mashed up a little better than it was when it came out to us. There were big chunks of avocado that were not incorporated into the rest of this pretty good sized portion.

Since we were up this way to watch my niece Kaylie cheer at the basketball game, we appreciated how quickly the food came out for all of us. It seemed like it was way less than ten minutes after ordering that we were digging in. My mom got this Beef Enchilada ($9.75) as her meal on this evening This was the perfect sized meal for my mom, as she ate all of her enchilada and almost all of the rice and beans on her plate. The beef enchilada was covered with Colorado sauce and plenty of melted cheese. I did not try any of this, but my mom seemed to like it plenty.

Katie had a threesome on this evening when she ordered this Pepe's Trio ($9.95). This consisted of three mini crispy tostada shells which were topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, a scoop of guacamole, and fajita chicken. Red and green sauce was served on the side. She felt this was a pretty solid meal. The tostadas were a little messy to eat, but the chicken was moist and she was pleased with both the red and green sauces. She'd get this again.

When I was growing up, if we went to a Mexican restaurant I would always get a hamburger. Some of the worst burgers I have ever had, but I did not like Mexcian food before I was ten. I guess my niece Lillie inherited this quirk from me, or she just wanted to be different. Whatever the case, she had these Chicken Strips ($6.55) from the kid's side of the menu. The three pieces of chicken looked pretty boring from across the table, but they seemed to do the trick as she ate two out of three, which is a pretty good night for her. Maybe if they had some barbecue sauce to go along with these she might have finished them all. Sorry, that's an inside joke between me and her.

It's always a crap shoot as to what my dad will order, and on this evening he went with the unusual choice of the San Felipe Omlete ($13.95). This breakfast for dinner option featured a two egg omelet filled with crab, shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms, and green onions.  It was then finished off with the red Colorado sauce and melted cheese. My dad really enjoyed this dish and would not hesitate to get it again. As is his usual, he did not offer me a bite of this. Very selfish.

Our little cheerleader Kaylie did not want something really heavy before she was going to be doing some flips, handstands and whatever else cheerleaders do, so she kept it very light with these Chicken Soft Tacos ($7.00). These soft tacos came simply dressed with lettuce, cheese, and chicken per Kaylie's request. She had no problem finishing these up, and they must have given her some luck as the basketball team won their game with a last-second basket. Way to go Aztecs.

An interesting plate for my sister Kristin on this evening. She had the menu item known as Guanajuato ($11.50). I'm not sure if that's the state in Mexico where the flauta was invented, but that's what the people at Ranch Enchilada call this plate. The flautas are rolled with chicken and fried, then have a green sauce poured on top of them with melted cheese.  My sister was pretty happy with this, and even more happy that they allowed her to have french fries with this instead of beans and rice. Are we even related?

I seem to remember really enjoying the Panchos Favorites ($11.95) when I used to come here decades ago. It's basically a wet chimichanga cut into pieces. This comes with refried beans inside and your choice of either beef or chicken, I went the beef route. It was pretty average. The Spanish sauce covering this lacked any kind of excitement, the beef was not very flavorful, and the highlight of this for me was the plentiful amount of cheese that they used on this. Maybe my food preferences have evolved a bit since the early '90s.

No dessert for us, as we were off to the basketball game, but these Cinamon Crisps came with our check. They were fine, but the sugar and cinnamon did not stay on the tortilla chips very long. Still, a nice touch getting these as a thank you for coming in.

Even though everyone else on this evening seemed to like their food, I was not so sure that the food at the Ranch Enchilada hasn't passed me by. I felt that my meal was very drab, and lacked any real pop of flavor. Everyone else's plates kind of looked boring to me as well. I'd term this very humdrum Mexican food. It's adequate, but nothing that I'd drive out of the way for. I don't even think my parents, who live just over three miles away, will come out of their way to return. The positives? I thought the prices were more than fair and the service we had on this evening was great. Our server, sorry I did not get his name was on top of our every need and kept things moving so we could get Kaylie to her basketball game way before tip-off. Even though the Ranch Enchilada failed to impress it was still a great night of family time.

Out of five headstones, (because the city of Yorba Linda is home to the second oldest private cemetery in OC, the Yorba Cemetery, which offers tours one day each month), five being best to zero being worst, the Ranch Enchilada gets 2.5 headstones.

The Ranch Enchilada does not have a website, but you can find more information about them on their Yelp page here: