Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trying to Settle the Taco Debate in Yorba Linda

Esther's Taco House
2001 E. Orangethorpe Ave.
Placentia, CA 92870

A few reviews ago, I wrote about a war between restaurants brewing in my hometown of Yorba Linda. On one side of the fence, or should I say one part of town, you have the supporters of Blue Agave. On the other side of town you have the fans of Esther's Taco House. Now I know that these restaurants probably do not have any ill will towards each other. I mean, Yorba Linda has a population of 65,000, so there is definitely room for the two of these restaurants to survive here. They have done so for almost twenty years apiece. They do not even serve the same kind of food. Blue Agave serves a southwestern style menu, while Esther's is more of what some would call traditional style Mexican food. Okay maybe this war between the two restaurants really is just in my own mind, but I have wanted to try Esther's for a long time now, so I enlisted my Mom into going with me to the Esther's Taco House.

I always like hearing the history of restaurants. Esther's actually has a very long history. In a nutshell, the restaurant was opened in 1957, by Esther Santana in Downey. This incarnation of the restaurant was just a take out joint at first, but after a shoe store went out of business next door, they opened up a dining room. Then in 1972, the family opened another location in Long Beach. Esther passed away in 1994, but her legacy has now passed to her daughter Linda, and her son Brian. Wanting to open closer to where they live, they closed both the Downey location and Long Beach restaurant and opened in Placentia. A Yorba Linda location would follow, and that brings us to present day.

After we had made a trip to the Yorba Linda restaurant and discovered that they are closed on Mondays, (how about including your hours on your website?), we took the ten minute drive to their original OC location in Placentia. They are located in the same shopping center as The Pizza Store, Jack in the Box, and Kimmie's Coffee Cup. This restaurant is on the large size, with plenty of tables for the bustling lunch scene. Based on the banter between the staff and customers, there seemed to be a lot of regulars here. The menu was very traditional, with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas dominating the menu. They also had a fairly large amount of lunch specials going on here, so we ordered our food, and this is what hit the table.

Of course, as with almost any Mexican restaurant, the Chips and Salsa hit the table before the meal. I was very impressed with the chips and salsa at Esther's, and I do not even think it was because I was hungry. The chips here are thicker than most, with a very nice crunch. They seemed like they were recently fried, with just a touch of greasiness that made them addictive. The salsa had a great consistency to it. The tomatoes were the right size, there were enough onions for flavor, and the liquid to chunk ratio was right on. Good flavor with this salsa, but it could have been a little hotter for my taste. The Hot Sauce would satisfy my heat needs. This was some real hot sauce. It went very well with the chips, and really made the food come alive at Esther's. I can think of only a few hot sauces that I have liked better in restaurants.

My Mom is not a big eater, so it was no surprise to me that she would get a one item lunch special. She went with the One Carnitas Taco with Rice and Beans ($6.89). We were both surprised by them adding lettuce to a carnitas taco, but it was easily discarded. My Mom ordered this taco soft, and it came with a decent amount of pork in it. The meat was tender, with a nice flavor. The beans were a tad overdone, but still had a smooth taste to them. The rice here was pretty bad. On the dry side, and really lacked any sort of taste. My Mom would get this plate again, but maybe just ask for double beans.

One thing that no one will ever call me, is a small eater. When I am in a restaurant I want to try as many things as possible, and a combination plate is the best way to do this. I decided on the Three Item Combo ($13.59). For this combo I came up with the combination of a Beef Taquito, Cheese Enchilada, and a Hard Shelled Chicken Taco. Let's break this plate down item by item. The taquito was one of the better ones I have had. It was not as greasy as I had expected, and it had plenty of meat inside, along with plenty of guacamole served on the side. The cheese enchilada had lots of cheese, with a very mild red sauce. Predictably the cheese did overpower this portion of the meal, but if you love cheese, this is the item to get at Esther's. I was probably most excited to try their chicken tacos here. I had heard good things about them, and they lived up to the hype. The fried tortilla reminded me of my Mom's tacos, the chicken inside was very tender, and they put more than enough cheese on here. A very well made basic taco that I would definitely get again. I will echo my mom's sentiments about the beans and rice. The beans were good, but overdone a little, and the rice was not good at all. Put me down for double beans next time I am here as well.

I really enjoyed Esther's Taco House. The food was all good, and it was very safe and comforting. Very basic Mexican food is served here. I did have a couple of gripes with Esther's though. The prices are a tad on the high side for the amount of food that you get. I did not think that my three item combo was actually worth the almost $14 I paid for it. For dinner, one taco and beans and rice comes out to $7.50. That is a little steep for this restaurant. We had spotty service while we were here. They seemed to only have twos servers on staff, and a full restaurant during the lunch rush. The ordering process and food came out quickly, but then everything came to a standstill when we had finished our meal. Our empty plates stayed in front of us for a long while, and the check did not come for almost fifteen minutes. Even with these minor hiccups, we will be back to Esther's. As far as the war in my mind over the better restaurant between Blue Agave and Esther's, I will cop out and say that they are both good, and too different for me to say which one I like better.

Out of five stars, (because the name Esther is derived from the Persian word which means star), five being best to zero being worst, Esther's Taco House gets 3 stars.

For more information about Esther's Taco House, go to their website here:

Esther's Taco House on Urbanspoon

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