32082 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
One of my favorite people just left where I work recently, and he'd be pretty shocked that I would write this statement. My friend Josh has taken some good natured, and some not so good natured ribbing from me over the last eight or so years. No matter what came out of my mouth, Josh would respond with his trademark laugh. I wanted to congratulate him on getting out of where we work, and doing something that he's really passionate about, nursing. So we decided to meet up for a celebratory dinner at Ricardo's in San Juan Capistrano.
Ricardo's Place is the sister restaurant of one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in South OC, Cocina de Ricardo, which is in Lake Forest. That restaurant is run by Ricardo's brother, Mario, and this San Juan outpost is run by Ricardo himself. Opened since 2003, Ricardo's Place uses the recipes of his Mamacita Alicia and Grandma Juana. Ricardo is a local guy, who graduated from San Clemente High School, and wanted to share his family's passion for good Mexican food with the people of his community.
San Juan has quite a good number of Mexican restaurants within its borders, and to have stayed in business for over ten years, speaks well in this highly competitive market. We arrived here on a recent Thursday evening around 6pm, and were seated while waiting for our guest of honor, Josh to arrive. This restaurant appears bigger than Cocina de Ricardo, and the place was filled with lots of people throughout our stay. Josh finally arrived, and we made our choices from the rather large menu of the usual Mexican favorites we have come to expect from a Mexican restaurant in this neck of the woods. Let's see if we can add this spot to our list of favorites in San Juan Capistrano.
Since we had to wait for Josh to arrive, we had plenty of time to have some Chips and Salsa. I really enjoyed this salsa, with its bright red glow about it, and plenty of chunk to it. Yes, it could have been a little more spicy for my taste, but it was a great vessel for the well made chips. We were well into our second basket of chips when Josh sauntered in. Hope he's going to be more punctual at his new job.
Since the chips were pretty good, and they did not hesitate refilling them as Josh had more than his fair share, we decided to try the Guacamole ($8.95) at Ricardo's. Again, the texture of this was right on point. It had some decent sized chunks to it, but was still easy to get a chip through. It was not overly seasoned, which allowed the natural flavor of the avocado to come through. I would have liked the inclusion of maybe some red onion or sliced jalapenos to spice this up a bit though.
The entrees made their way out pretty quickly, which was nice so at least Josh would be quiet while he was eating, and we could have a little peace during our meal. Let's start with Katie's meal first. She had the Two Item Combination ($11.50). There were a good number of choices for her to choose from to form her ultimate combo, and she went with her standard, a chicken hard shelled taco and cheese enchilada. She called this meal, "solid, good old fashioned stick to your ribs Mexican food."
I had the Three Item Combo ($14.50) as my meal. I usually try carnitas when I'm eating in a Mexican restaurant for the first time, but I was in a combo kind of mood on this night. I had a shredded beef taco, cheese enchilada, and a carnitas burrito. I really enjoyed the carnitas burrito. The pork was fried crisp, just the way I like it, and the burrito was filled pretty full of the swine. The beef taco was filled with a good amount of beef as well, and topped with plenty of cheese. Ricardo's gets a lot of praise for their enchiladas, and I thought they were just okay. The red sauce here just didn't do it for me. I also would have liked there to be a little more cheese in them. The beans and rice were pretty good. The beans were definitely my favorite of the two, and tasted freshly made. A very solid combo meal, just like the ones I've had up the freeway at their sister restaurant, Cocina de Ricardo.
Josh is never one to pass up a free meal, and I was a little surprised when he only ordered this Shredded Chicken Burrito ($8.95). I thought he was going to order a few plates of food, and then take the leftovers home to feed his family. Anyways, this was a very simple burrito, filled with shredded chicken and beans. It was about double the size of my carnitas burrito that I had with my combo, and filled him up nicely. He said the chicken was moist and tender, but he'd probably try something else on his next visit here.
I entered Ricardo's Place knowing exactly what I was going to be experiencing food wise. The food here is exactly just like what we have every time we eat at Cocina de Ricardo. We live right in the middle of both of these fine Mexican restaurants, so depending on which side of the 5 Freeway has heavier traffic will dictate which one we drive to. The service on this evening was pretty good, with minimal, to no wait times for food, refills, or the check. Be aware that for some reason Ricardo's Place is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays, but you can head to Cocina de Ricardo on those days. I'm glad we could take Josh out to celebrate his new job, and add another pretty solid Mexican restaurant to our rotation in San Juan.
Out of five islands, (because when I hear the name Ricardo, I always revert to my childhood of watching Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island), five being best to zero being worst, Ricardo's Place gets 3 islands.
For more information about Ricardo's Place, head to their website here: http://ricardosplace.net/