Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gratifying Grub at Gabbi's

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
141 S. Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866

I am probably the last blogger to visit Gabbi's. It is not like we haven't tried to make it up to this Orange eatery before. A few times we came up here, and the wait was over an hour, so we went to other restaurants. It always seems that whenever we walk by here they always have a lot of people milling around their hostess stand waiting for a table. So, I really had high hopes that this was going to be a great place.

I was meeting my cousin Daryl up here for dinner. He recently graduated from art school, and this is where he picked to eat. After having a few cocktails over at Haven Gastropub, we walked across the street to eat at Gabbi's. At seven o'clock we were told it was going to be a forty-five minute wait, but there were seats open at the bar. I don't even think she finished that sentence before we made a beeline to the bar and found two empty seats.

Gabbi's is a long, narrow restaurant framed by red brick walls. There are some big pieces of art along the walls, to help break up the pattern of the bricks. The lighting is darkened, to lend to the hip vibe of this restaurant. You would never know that this building is over a hundred years old. With all of the activity in the restaurant it really makes the place feel so much younger.

Gabbi's has been in this location since July of 2006. In that time, Gabbi's has really had great buzz associated with it. Most of that is due to Gabriela Patrick-Salazar, and the food that has come out of her kitchen. She has been in the restaurant business for a long while. Helping manage her parents two LA restaurants, earning her culinary degree at UCLA, opening her own successful Costa Mesa catering company, and finally fulfilling her dream of opening Gabbi's, with her husband Ed. I was finally ready to see if this food would match my anticipation for it. Let's find out.

As with most Mexican restaurants, we will show you the Chips and Salsa first. The chips were fresh, and had a decent flavor to them. The salsa really over shadowed the chips here. It had a good kick to it, but I would have liked it to be a little more chunky.

I may have a problem. About two months ago I had my first queso fundido, and now I have to try it whenever I see it on a menu. At Gabbi's it was no different. There version is called the Queso Fundido con Chorizo de Casa ($10). This rich appetizer is a baked cheese dish, with house made chorizo added. Talk about a heavy appetizer, but so addicting. At Gabbi's this is served with guacamole and some great flour tortillas. I knew I had a meal coming, and that the cheese would expand in my stomach, but I had to try to finish this. I paid for it later, but it was so worth it. The lesson I learned this night, order this with more than two people to avoid over stuffing yourself.

When we were ordering Daryl really wanted to have their fish special, but they were all out of it. He told me that he always gets side tracked by the specials, but this time he went with something off of the regular menu, the delicious sounding Tacos Puebla ($15). If this taco does not sound good to you, you might be reading the wrong blog. Grilled skirt steak, applewood smoked bacon, Portuguese sausage, grilled onions, and Oaxaca cheese were involved in the making of these tacos. Why isn't this on more menus? These were delicious. I mean, how could bacon and sausage not be good in a taco. These breakfast meats did overpower the skirt steak to a degree, but this is definitely a must get the next time we are here. This was served with beans and rice, which were okay, nothing that was out of the ordinary.

My dinner was a bit of a mystery to me. A lot of the time when I am eating in a new Mexican restaurant, I usually get a carnitas dish to christen the place. This was the case at Gabbi's with the Carnitas Nortenas ($15). I say this dish was a mystery to me because at times I was not so sold on the pork. It seemed like it could not stand on its own, but it must have been a bad piece, because other pieces I had really turned out well. I really liked combining the beans, rice, and pork in their very good flour tortillas. Decent plate, but there are lots of other options here that will tempt me on my next trip here.

Before I even made it to Gabbi's, I had heard about their churros. They have a chocolate churro, but we went with the Churros con Cajeta ($8). Writing this review I learned that cajeta is a thickened syrup of caramelized milk. This was served as one of the dipping sauces, and the other was a chocolate chile sauce. Our favorite was the cajeta sauce. It really went well with the churro. The chile sauce was fine, but we did not think it went well with the sugary churro. The churros also deserve some recognition. They were warm, had a good crunch, and were soft inside. Probably the best I have had in a restaurant. Do yourself a favor and get these when you come here, you can thank me later.

I am sure after reading this review you can tell that I was very pleased with this meal. This is not your typical Mexican food that you can get just anywhere. This is special occasion Mexican food. Everything was very flavorful, fresh, and made me want to come back here and try other things as well. I am not going to lie to you and tell you this place is a great value, because it is not. I do not think that the prices at Gabbi's match up with the amount of food you get, but the quality of the food almost makes up for that. This Mexican eatery is on par with some of the others of their genre, like Sol Cocina and Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen. Service was great the night we were here. The bartenders really took good care of us on this busy night. One other note, there is no sign for Gabbi's, so just look for all the people waiting on the sidewalk waiting to be seated. Really glad we made it up here finally.

Out of five panthers, (because this is the mascot of nearby Chapman University, and the night we were here their students were staging an undie run to mark the end of finals), five being best to zero being worst, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen gets 3.5 panthers.

For more information about Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen, click here:

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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