Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hope I'm Not Alone In My Love for Solita

Solita Tacos and Margaritas
7631 Edinger Ave. Ste. 1508
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

It still always makes me nervous when I am introducing a restaurant that I have raved about to my parents and extended family. This was the case on a recent Saturday night. I had been to Solita for a media event, and came home ranting about it to almost everyone. We were going to be going to roller derby nearby after dinner, and I was left in charge of picking a place to eat. I immediately thought of Solita, but then started second guessing myself. Not that Katie and I wouldn't like it, but my family really enjoys what I consider to be Americanized-Mexican cuisine. I stood by my pick, hoped that Solita would make them all happy.

I should have really been a little more confident in my choice. I mean, my parents went to Solita's sister restaurant, the much higher end Sol Cocina, and really liked it. Solita is their answer to people that want to have a weekly Mexican restaurant, not just a special occasion place. Solita comes to us from the mind of Chef Deborah Schneider, whose travels across Mexico, and in particular, Baja, have inspired her to write six cookbooks and operate three restaurants. Solita is described on their website as, "a Mexican restaurant built around a custom made wood grill". I was excited, nervous, and interested to see what my family would think of Solita.

Solita is located at the Bella Terra shopping center in Huntington Beach, which has all of the sudden welcomed a bunch of new restaurants. Bondi Republic and Eureka will make our list of places to hit up soon. For those visiting Solita, they are located on the Edinger side of the center, near Corner Bakery. We got here just before 4:30, and arrived to a nearly empty restaurant, but the restaurant filled up quickly during the hour we were here.

Solita has a very modern, upscale look, without being too stuffy. The inside of the restaurant is a little on the dark side. Our party of nine was seated on the large patio, which overlooked the fountain and other shops. The patio seemed to be more lively than the inside of the restaurant, but maybe that was because my rambunctious nieces were out there. The menu here is pretty large, and even though I had tried a great many things on it from the media dinner, I still had a tough time choosing what to order. We all made our choices, and then waited for the food to come out.

Of course as with the custom when eating in a Mexican restaurant, we definitely have to show you the Chips and Salsa that are brought to the table first. This is your first clue that this is a different Mexican restaurant. At Sol their "taste of Baja" consists of salt, limes, and hot sauce. At Solita, this three sectioned plate contains chopped onions with a radish garnish, a tomatillo salsa, and what I believe is the same red chili salsa served at Sol. The chips here are different too. These are more traditional than the flat, almost tostada-like chips served at Sol. These chips are fried perfectly, with duros added to the basket. I recently learned that duros are a Mexican snack food made of puffed wheat, that closely resemble chicharrones. I liked the lighter than average chips better than the duros, but I was pretty much out voted in my opinion at this table.

I usually do not get many drinks when I go out, but I was out with my family, so of course I needed one. Just kidding guys. I really got this Horchata Cocktail ($10) because I was pretty impressed with it when I had it before. It did not disappoint this trip either. It's made with their house made horchata, Agavales blanco tequila, 1921 Crema, and some cinnamon. It ends up tasting like a cinnamon milk, which went down real smooth. My dad tried the refreshing Watermelon Margarita ($10). Here again they use Agavales tequila, and add crushed watermelon and lime juice. The big guy seemed pretty pleased with this drink, and sucked it down in record time. My sister is a little more traditional, so she ordered the Solita House Margarita ($8). She's never met a margarita she's never liked, (it's a good thing my family doesn't read this blog), and that held true at Solita. Agavales tequila is used again, with sweet and sour, a splash of orange juice, and triple sec, and is either served on the rocks or blended. She liked the inclusion of the orange juice, which added a touch of sweetness.

The kids menu here has ten entrees, but my three nieces all got the same thing, which helps cut down on the writing for me, or maybe they don't like my writing either. Anyways they all got the 2 Tacos with just Chicken and Cheese ($4). Only two out of three really liked their tacos, but these kids are pretty picky when it comes to food, so I would consider this a thumbs up. What did not get a thumbs up was the Mexican rice that came with this. The rice was pretty overcooked, and left on all three of their plates. My sister was pretty excited that the kids plates were only four dollars though.

Both my dad and sister got taco plates here at Solita. The taco plates come with three street size tacos, two sides, and toppings included inside the tacos. They have 13 different varieties, or for the indecisive, they offer two taco tasters, so you can mix and match different ones. My dad selected the unusual sounding, Chorizo, Bacon, and Sweet Potato Tacos ($10.50). Not something that I would have imagined him getting when we came here, but he had no complaints about these unique tacos. The double dose of pork worked well here, and the sweet potato added good body to this taco. My sister was a little more traditional when it came to choosing her taco plate, as she went with the Wood Grilled Carne Asada ($12.50). She liked these tacos, and was happy with the spice rub used on them. Both of them had the same complaint as my nieces when it came to the rice, it was overcooked. My dad did enjoy the yucatecan styled refried beans, but my sister thought her solita slaw was fresh, but lacked that wow factor. They were both pretty big fans of the tacos though.

I really enjoyed the colorful plating here at Solita, which was definitely on full display with my mom's dinner choice, the Chicken Taquitos ($7.50). These are listed under the appetizer portion of the menu, but perfect for my mom, who's not a big eater. These corn tortillas are stuffed with cilantro and shredded chicken, with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa fresca served on top of the taquitos. She really liked these lighter than usual taquitos. The chicken was tender, and went well with the guacamole. The perfect portion size for my mom.

My brother in law actually got something I was considering getting, the Carnitas Torta ($8.50). This was a pretty good sized sandwich filled with carnitas, cheese, lettuce, and salsa fresca, all on a soft telera roll. He really liked this, the pork had a good flavor, there was plenty of it on the sandwich, and the roll had a good crunch to it, while still staying soft. Like the rest of the family, he was not so enamored with the rice, but was less vocal about it.

Not something you see on a lot of Mexican restaurant menus, this El Panzon ($10) is described as a Mexican calzone. A single flour tortilla is stuffed with your choice of meat, Katie got chicken, and cheese. It is then butter crisped, and topped with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa fresca. Katie was enamored with this. There was plenty of chicken, and just the right amount of cheese, without this becoming crazy rich. Good tortilla on this one too.

One thing I did not get to try during the media event, and something I use to judge Mexican restaurants is carnitas. These House Carnitas ($15.50) were a little spotty. Some bites were very tender, with a great flavor, and a few other pieces were a little tougher, and kind of bland. I did like the inclusion of the avocado hunks here, which added color and moisture. With the carnitas you get to have two side items, so I stayed pretty true to form by getting the rice and refried beans. I actually did like the flavor of the rice, but like the rest of my family, felt it was overdone. The refried beans were very substantial, with great texture and flavor. A very unique version of refried beans.

I guess I should not have been nervous at all about bringing my family to Solita. Although I was not blown away by what I got, the rest of my family all really enjoyed their meals, and bragged to their friends about it when we got to the roller derby right after leaving here. The menu here at Solita is pretty varied, and will take some time to find my absolute favorite on it, but I look forward to the challenge. Our waitress was very nice while she was with us, but was gone for long stretches at a time. She not only had tables on the patio, but also inside, so her attention was split between the two. Even with the minor service issues, my family was pretty impressed with Solita, and look forward to heading back here when the next roller derby match rolls around.

Out of five falcons, (because probably the most famous athlete from Huntington Beach is Tony Gonzalez, a former tight end for the Atlanta Falcons), five being best to zero being worst, Solita Tacos and Margaritas gets 3.5 falcons.

For more information about Solita Tacos and Margaritas, go to their website here:

Solita Tacos & Margaritas on Urbanspoon

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