120 W. Santa Fe St.
Placentia, CA 92870
Some cities in Orange County are just known for some things. Newport Beach is known for high end restaurants. Garden Grove has lots of great Vietnamese restaurants. Fullerton gets my vote for having the best bar food in our county. Now after going to our second straight great Mexican restaurant in Placentia, I am almost willing to crown Placentia best Mexican food city in Orange County.
Okay, maybe we have just hit a hot streak in picking Mexican restaurants in Placentia. We had recently been to El Farolito, which is right around the corner from El Cantarito. El Farolito was awesome. So when I heard that there was another great Mexican restaurant in the same neighborhood, I was a little skeptical that it could be as good. Not wanting to ruin the surprise for you, but it was very close to being as good.
El Cantarito is a very laid back, local restaurant. This place is not a dive, because it is clean, but not exactly popping with atmosphere and decor. They have about fifteen tables, a jukebox, and two TVs to add to the family feel of this place. The service was subdued but attentive. Let's check out the food.
Of course the first thing you notice about a Mexican restaurant is the chips and salsa. Here we even ordered as a bonus, a side of Guacamole. How could you not, at only $1.99? The chips were obviously made here, and had a good thickness and crunch to them. A touch of smoothness from the oil these chips were fried in still remained on them and added to the flavor of the chip. The salsa was good, not great. A little too mild for me, but still very flavorful. The guacamole was okay as well. My Dad was the first to notice that there was some seasoning missing from it. We should have maybe added a little salt to it, to enhance the flavor. Maybe next time.
Let's start with my Mom's meal here. She went with the 2 Item Combination Plate. She had a Cheese Enchilada and a Soft Carnitas Taco. She was very pleased with this $7 combination plate. The cheese enchilada was filled with lots of cheese, and the sauce was nice and mild. The taco had sour cream added to it, and was called, "great", by my Mom.
After some great deliberation, my Dad wanted to have breakfast for dinner, so he chose the Huevos Rancheros. He felt that this dish was light and flavorful. The highlight of this dish for him were the beans served with this. They were real fresh, and tasted homemade.
Just like my Mom, Katie also had a 2 Item Combo. Katie had a Chile Relleno and Chicken Taco. She called the relleno well made and full of flavor. She liked the fried shell of the chicken taco a lot, and felt that the chicken inside was well seasoned and very tender. She also liked the lightness of the rice. Very good rice here, maybe some of the best we have had in a long while.
Not only did I have my meal that is coming up next, but I also ordered the items above. I did share these with the table though, just to ease my guilt. The thing with most Mexican food is that it does not photograph too well, plus I was real hungry and did not want to take much time to snap pictures. The Taquitos here were very good, without being too greasy. We had the beef, but carnitas and chicken are also available. The Quesadilla was filled with carnitas and toasted perfectly. The meat was very flavorful in this, and got me really excited for my meal.
When I first saw my Carnitas Plate, I was a little disappointed because it looked like I was jipped on the amount of meat I was given. After eating this though, I had made four tacos out of this, and was feeling very full. The carnitas were a little greasy, but that added to the flavor of these. The meat did feature portions of crispness along with tender pieces of pork. A very good combination. The flour tortillas I had here were also superb. Homemade tasting, and they really held up to the tacos I made with the carnitas. The refried beans were silky smooth, but the rice really stood out to me. Well cooked and flavorful, even for me a very tough critic of rice.
When we were leaving El Cantarito we could not help but compare this restaurant to El Farolito. I mean we passed right by it and everything. At the time we could not decide which restaurant we liked better, but after writing this review, and taking some time to think about it, I decided that I liked El Farolito just a tad better. The food here was great and I would not hesitate to return. I just liked the atmosphere a little bit better around the corner. The menu at both places are similar, but the prices are also a little better at El Farolito. So that is why it gets a slight edge over El Cantarito. Very solid restaurant though.
So out of five jugs, (because Cantarito translates to jug), five being best to zero being worst, El Cantarito gets 3.5 jugs.
For more information on El Cantarito, click here: http://www.cantarito.net/index.html