Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hot Night at the Chili Pepper?

Chili Pepper
167 S. Main
Orange, CA 92868

I admit I was a little nervous coming here. The food had nothing to do with it. We are closing in on our three year anniversary with this blog and I have yet to have a restaurant ask me not to take pictures. In fact, I have never really had a run in with any restaurant. I had done a little research on-line, and more than one reviewer had mentioned that they do not allow pictures to be taken in this restaurant. So I was prepared to have this be the first incident between a restaurant and myself. Fortunately this was not the case. I quickly took pictures of the food on the down low. This explains the blurriness of some of the pictures. At least that's the excuse I am sticking with.

Chili Pepper has been in this location since I was a kid, which of course is a long time ago. My parents swear that this place was owned by the same people that ran the now defunct Juana Maria's over on Katella Avenue. I am not sure about this, but like the great child that I am, I will go with what my parents tell me. Outside the restaurant is a very tiny parking lot, but there is plenty of parking on the street in back.

Once inside you are transported to an old school, over the top Mexican restaurant featuring waiters singing with overly large sombrero's, pinatas hanging from the ceiling, and a dizzying array of colors that one other reviewer described as, "a box of melted crayons". Classic! As if all this was not enough, they also have tons of plants all over the restaurant to transport you to Puerto Vallarta, without the humidity. I kept my camera on the seat, ready for an all clear moment. Let's see how this meal turned out.

After being seated we were given Chips and Salsa. The chips here are very lightly fried. They went well with this pretty mild salsa. I really liked the chunkiness of this salsa. It has seemed that recently every time we go to a Mexican restaurant, they have watery salsa. This was a nice change of pace.

We were in a Mexican restaurant, so of course Katie wanted a side of Guacamole ($4.99). At the Chili Pepper the guacamole is lightly garnished with a few tomatoes and onions. This was a pretty pedestrian guacamole. Fresh, but not overly flavorful, this really needed a little more seasoning. Good sized serving though.

Chris and Adrienne split their version of a dinner salad, the Ensalada Compuesta ($3.49). Translated this means composed salad. See, reading my blog can actually help you learn a new language. I guess I should come clean, I just Googled this to learn what this means. This salad was composed of mixed greens, shredded carrots, tomato, and ranch dressing. Basic salad, but like the guacamole, this was a good size for the price.

Time for the main meals, and starting us off is Katie's selection, the Guanajuanto Burrito ($6.99). This unique sounding burrito was filled with chicken, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and beans, then topped with red sauce and cheese. Katie sounded more like Goldilocks when describing the portion size of this burrito, calling it, "not too big, and not too small, but just right". She was also pleased with the taste of this burrito. She liked the chicken and potato, and felt the red sauce rounded this out very well.

Chris usually always goes for the carnitas fajitas when coming to Chili Pepper, but this night he was feeling the Steak Fajitas ($8.99). He thought these were okay, but would have rather had the pork if given a do over. These are your standard fajitas, with onions, tomatoes, and peppers.

Adrienne loves the food at Chili Pepper, and got this Two Item Combo ($7.99) with a Pork Tamale and a Cheese Enchilada. Adrienne called both of these items, "delicious", and she loves the red sauce that this plate is drenched in. The beans and rice round out this place nicely in her opinion. She also wanted a special shout out for the Margaritas ($4.99) here. She enjoys hers with no salt and on the rocks. I ordered mine the same way. They are not really shy about pouring the tequila in these. After a few of these margaritas, I am sure a lot of people break the awkward glasses these come in.

As many of you loyal readers of this blog know, I usually base my initial visit to a Mexican restaurant on a Carnitas Plate ($9.19), and here was no different. These carnitas really surprised me. Very good flavor, crispy end pieces, and moist. These are the way that carnitas need to be cooked. One of the best I have had in a while. I wished that the portion size of this was a little larger, but this plate was priced under ten dollars. I thought the rice was cooked well, but a little on the plain side. The beans were good, but not enough of them. I will probably ask for double beans next time. Very satisfying meal.

One of the things I remember from my childhood when coming here was the Apple Filled Taquitos given out complimentary at the end of the meal. I used to think it was the coolest thing to be given free food in a restaurant, and it still is kinda cool now. We let these sit for a while, because they came to our table hot. The shell of these are fried lightly and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Inside is an apple mixture that is reminiscent of an apple filled donut. A pleasant end to our meal.

Chili Pepper has been here a long time, and I can see why. This is not going to be the best Mexican food you have ever eaten, but everything was pretty solid. I felt the portion sizes were average here, but with these prices there is little to complain about. They are definitely not gouging anyone. Reading other reviews, I see that service can sometimes be an issue here, but we had no complaints on this night. Our waiter was on top of his game all evening, and kept things moving. After all the fuss about no pictures in the restaurant, I made it out unscathed.

Out of five Scoville units, (because that is the scale for finding out the spiciness of peppers), five being best to zero being worst, Chili Pepper gets 3 Scoville units.

The Chili Pepper does not have a web site, but you can find information about them here:

Chili Pepper on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm not a fan of the thin salsa either (I love Miguel's in Foothill, but don't like their salsa). I have started ordering a dish of pico de gallo with my chips, and that seems to solve the problem. Not as much bite as salsa, but at least you get some chunky stuff!

  2. I used to think that Juana Maria's and the Chilli Pepper were connected, too - but that was based on dining at both a long time ago.

    I've always enjoyed going to the Chilli Pepper, for the "old school" consistency ("Hey, it's 1987, let's hear that Rick Astley song again!"). I don't need to go there very often, but a trip for an occasion is always fun.

  3. Anonymous - That sia great idea about ordering the pico de gallo. Not sure what the trend is towards thin salsa, but it needs to change! Thanks for the comment.

    MikeHu - Glad you can back up my parents theory. It was good to go back, but I am not sure I need to hear, "Never Gonna Give You Up" ever again. Thanks for the Rick Astley reference and the comment!

  4. Juana Maria's and Chili Pepper were owned by the same people at one time. The Chili Pepper employees confirmed that to me when I ate there.

  5. Anonymous - Thanks for the info. I knew there was some sort of connection. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  6. Chili Pepper and Juana Maria were definitely connected and used the same menu.

  7. Anonymous - Thanks for the info and for taking the time to comment on the blog. Much appreciated.