Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chilling Out at Chelas

Chelas Mexican Grill
29975 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Orange County has an embarrassment of great Mexican restaurants. The competition among these places is pretty cut throat. Almost every neighborhood has their, "go to",  place for great food. These places can range from a hole in the wall spot to fancy restaurants where a single taco can cost $11, (the delicious El Jefe taco at Sol Cocina). With all this competition it must be a little daunting for a new Mexican restaurant to try to distinguish itself. That is what the new Chelas in Laguna Niguel is trying to do, distinguish itself from other Mexican restaurants.

Chelas opened within the last couple months. It is owned by the Vasquez family, who have taken their recipe's from their mother, and brought them into the fold here at Chelas. We entered Chelas at about seven on a Wednesday night. Ordering here is done at the counter, and then the food is brought out to you. The menu is basic Mexican food, consisting of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, etc. Let's see how everything turned out.

Pictured above was one of Katie's choices, the La Gringa Taco. This taco comes with your choice of chicken or beef, she had chicken, and it also comes with guacamole, onion, cilantro, cabbage, sour cream, and Monterrey jack cheese. Katie liked the addition of cilantro, but was not wowed by this taco, calling it, "nothing too special".

This Crispy Chicken Taco was deemed much better by Katie. She was not overly impressed by the chicken here, but liked the Colby jack cheese.

It is probably difficult to tell from the picture, and the cheese on top of this, but these are the Taquitos. I would sum these taquitos up by calling them average. They were a little on the greasy side, but the grease did not translate into big flavor. I was also a little disappointed with the amount of guacamole served with this. Not even enough for one and a half taquitos, even though this order consisted of three.

The Chelas Burrito was the last portion of my main meal. This burrito was stuffed with carnitas, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, cabbage, onion, and cilantro. This burrito did nothing for me. The flavor of this was bland, and it really had temperature issues. One bite would be warm and the next would be cold. I am sure it is from the produce used in it, but it was off putting. The burrito was good sized, but it was way over stuffed with lettuce, and I am still not sure there was even cheese in this.

At Chelas they pride themselves on making their, "secret recipe", Carrot Cake. It was actually pretty good. The icing was not over the top sweet, which is a good thing. The cake was moist, but could have used a touch more cinnamon or another spice to enhance the cake. The portion size of the cake was very generous.

Chelas did not knock my socks off. I felt that the food was on the bland side. It really reminded me of Chipotle. They do use lots of fresh ingredients. The produce was fresh, but they might have used too much of it in everything. The meats should have been the star of the show here, but it was hard to get past all the produce. The prices were okay. My burrito was a little on the high side at $8, and the Gringa Taco was $3.49. On this trip to Chelas, they did little to set themselves apart in the crowded Mexican food market of OC.

Out of five fish, (because a chela is a small, minnow type fish), five being best to zero being worst, Chelas Mexican Grill gets 2 fish.

For more information on Chelas, click here:

Chelas Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. It's more likely that the restaurant was named after someone named Graciela, for which Chela is a nickname. It's also a slang term for a cold beer ("├ęchame 'na chela, compa" means "slide me a cold one, buddy").

    I'm absolutely horrified by the strips of Colby Jack. Crossing this off my list...

  2. Unlike the comment above, the cheese pictured would entice me to try the place... certainly Mike's write-up helps too, although once in a while I think he's a little stingy with his 'stars' or in this case, 'fish'. Real cheese and not the processed stuff served in most Mexican restaurants is a plus, probably worthy of a 'star' or 'fish' of and by itself.


  3. Dave - You are probably right about the name of this place. I remember reading that the grandmother's name was Graciela. The colby cheese is not the worst part of this place, it could be the produce in the burrito. No bueno. Thanks for the comment!

    Dad - The cheese here was no good. It lloked good in the pictures, but did not translate to adding flavor. Thanks for the comment.