Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen
110 W. Birch
Brea, CA 92821
People always ask me how we pick the restaurants that we go to. It is quite simple really. I get a good many tips from people that I know or meet. It seems everyone is passionate about some of their favorite restaurants. I also read a ton of restaurant/food blogs, and find out where the best places are and put them on my list. In rare instances I hear about restaurants from press releases that I receive. This is the case with Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen. I probably get about one press release a week from them. Well their persistence has paid off because we were headed their way.
We already had one failed attempt going to Cha Cha's a few weeks ago. At that time they were not open for lunch. We did find out that they would be opening for lunch in a few weeks, so our first Cha Cha's experience would have to wait. It just so happened that I would be getting another vacation the week after they started lunch service. So my Mom and I were once again headed to downtown Brea.
Cha Cha's is located in refurbished Downtown Brea. This area has seen a rebirth lately, and restaurants are spearheading the comeback of the downtown area. We got to Cha Cha's at noon on a Monday. The weather was great, so we took a seat out on their large patio. The lunch crowd was a little slow in arriving, but there was a steady stream of people eating here during our lunch.
Cha Cha's has been open for close to three years now. They are not a Mexican restaurant. They state on their web site that they are a Latin restaurant. Or to be more precise, they claim to offer a California-Latin menu. I don't care what they call it as long as it tastes good. Let's see how the food turned out for us.
Here are the chips and salsas that were brought to the the table after ordering. They have a green tomatillo salsa that everyone raves about. I thought it was just okay. A little too citrusy taste for me. I was more into the red salsa. Had a decent amount of heat, without being too over the top. The chips tasted very fresh.
For an appetizer we ordered something that we had never had before, the Wood Fired Queso Fundido. This is a baked blend of cheeses cooked in small pot with roasted poblano peppers and potatoes. We decided to add the optional chorizo for a dollar more. Glad we added the chorizo because it really added more flavor. The peppers were not too noticeable here. This is served with three of their house made corn tortillas, so it makes this more of a cheese taco. Their corn tortillas are actually pretty good. I am not too big of a corn tortilla guy, but these were some of the best I have had. Wish we had more than three of the tortillas though. We had plenty of cheese left over that we had to eat with our fork. Very rich start to the meal.
Let's start with my lunch, Wood Fired Carnitas with achiote onions, and served with black beans and rice. When I first saw the portion size of this I was a little disappointed. At $14 I was expecting a bigger plate of food, but it might have been the cheese dip to start, or the serving size of this was a little bigger than I initially thought, but I had a little trouble finishing this lunch. The carnitas were full of flavor. Cooked perfectly, with little bits of crunchiness on the ends and tender pieces of pork attached to them. The onions were marinated well, and the beans and rice were pretty solid also. I had asked for flour tortillas, but corn tortillas came instead. No worries, because they were still pretty good.
Cha Cha's offers three very affordable lunch combinations, including my Mom's choice, the Chicken Flautas and Organic Mixed Greens. The flautas are stuffed with tender chicken, Oaxacan cheese, guajillo chile, and corn, then topped with a refreshing mango salsa. The cheese in these flautas really stood out for me, maybe because it was unexpected. The mixed greens included cherry tomatoes, cotija cheese, tortilla strips, and a sherry vinaigrette dressing. The dressing really overpowered the salad for me. Should have gone with another dressing choice. Not a bad lunch option at only $8 though.
I was pretty happy with the food at Cha Cha's. Everything was pretty fresh and flavorful. Not your typical Mexican restaurant. The menu is not overly large here, and the prices can be steeper than you are used to paying at other Mexican/Latin restaurants. Lunch entrees average about $16, but the lunch combinations are a steal at $8 for a smaller portion size. They do have plenty of specials during the week, and their happy hour is seven days a week, and all day on Sunday through Thursday. Service was pretty good. Our waitress kept things moving at a good clip. We are pretty happy for all the press releases, and that we finally made it to Cha Cha's for lunch.
Out of five yellow scarfs, (because the character Cha Cha Digregonio used this to signal the start of the race at Thunder Road in the movie Grease), five being best to zero being worst, Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen gets 3 yellow scarfs.
For more information on Cha Cha's, click here: http://chachasbrea.com/index.asp