Thursday, September 23, 2010

Decent Dining at Don Jose?

Don Jose
23972 Avenida de la Carlota
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

This is my 99th post on this blog, and it surprises me that I have not reviewed Don Jose before. I probably eat at Don Jose at least three or four times a year. That is a lot for me. It seems that since I have started this blog, I am always trying new places. So if I frequent a place more than twice, it must be among one of my favorites. I am always a little embarrassed to admit that I like Don Jose. I know that there are more authentic Mexican places around, but I always leave Don Jose feeling like I had a good solid meal there.

Don Jose has been around since 1972. They have nine locations, spread out through three counties. I usually go to the Laguna Hills location, and they always seem to have a steady stream of customers. They are very liberal with their coupons, (one arriving in my mail box at least once a week), and they also send out coupons for your birthdays and anniversaries. Hopefully the food will live up to the celebration.

The first thing people notice about a Mexican restaurant are the chips and salsa. Both of these are passable at Don Jose. The salsa here is a little watery, but they score points for the big hunks of onion and cilantro in it. The salsa is not spicy, but has a nice mild flavor to it. The chips are okay, but not too memorable

On this trip Katie got the Fajita Quesadilla. This quesadilla is stuffed with cheese, chicken, green chile's, tomatoes, and green onions. I had half of this quesadilla, and it tasted fine. Not too greasy, but not big on flavor. The chicken was good, but a little over cooked, (what I have come to expect from Don Jose chicken items). Katie liked the quesadilla, because it was not over-stuffed with cheese. She also felt that she could not go wrong ordering this again.

My old standby at Don Jose is the Ultimate Chimichanga. This behemoth of a chimi is filled with carnitas, beef, chicken, cheese and beans. I always ask for no chicken to avoid dry pieces. The chimi is then topped with red sauce and more cheese. The picture above really does not do this dish justice. The carnitas are cooked well, and the beef goes so good with the red sauce. This is really more a brick of food, and it will fill you up. The only gripe I have about this, is the amount of guacamole they include with this plate. For a chimichanga this size you really should be provided more.

Going back through my pictures I had taken on a previous trip to Don Jose, I found these next two dishes. This was Katie's choice, the Mini Tostada and Enchilada. Really more of a taco salad, than a tostada, the tostada included pieces of chicken, beans, greens, cheese, and their tostada sauce. The enchilada that came with this was cheese. Katie liked the salad, and thought that the chicken was moist. The enchilada she was not so excited about. She felt the red sauce was off. I liked the red sauce here, so I guess we will have to chalk that up to a difference of opinion.

My combination plate on this night was the Taco and Cheese Enchilada. I felt that the shredded beef taco was okay, but needed more meat on it. The cheese enchilada was really good, but again they could have added more cheese. I almost forgot to mention that the beans and rice here are pretty good.

For dessert we ordered the Deep Fried Ice Cream. Ice cream coated with crunchy bits, and then topped with whipped cream. The coating here is kind of like a cornflake deep fried. It contrasts with the smoothness of the ice cream to form a kind of yin and yang effect. Pretty good.

After writing this review, I came to a realization that Don Jose should not be in southern California, but maybe the Midwest, or somewhere that they do not have an over-flow of great Mexican restaurants. Do not get me wrong, I like Don Jose, and the above statement is not meant as a put down, but we are spoiled here with some really great Mexican places. A place like Don Jose could clean up in the Midwest, where there are not too many places serving up even half as good of plates as Don Jose.

In the OC, Don Jose kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but they have been around for 38 years, so they must be doing something right. And that something is, that they never change. You are always guaranteed to have a solid meal there. When you find something on the menu that you like, you can stick with it, because it will taste the same next week, next month and in the years to follow. The service is always really good too. The food arrives quick and hot. In these times of change, Don Jose is as reliable as you can get.

Out of five Carmen's, (because Don Jose was a character in the opera Carmen, and you all know how I love operas), five being best to zero being worst, Don Jose's gets 2.5 Carmen's

For more information on Don Jose, click here:

Don Jose's Mexican on Urbanspoon

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