Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hoping El Camino Does Chilaquiles the Right Way


El Camino Cafe
195 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

Mexican breakfast is one of my favorites, and one of my favorite Mexican breakfast items is chilaquiles. So when one of my favorite food writers in OC, and probably the most knowledgeable person on Mexican cuisine in Orange County, Gustavo Arellano wrote a top 10 list of the best chilaquiles in our great county, I quickly added about seven of his picks to our restaurant wish list. After you are done reading this review, you should definitely read his article here.

For those of you that are unaware, chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish, which has a lot of variations, but the base of this dish is some cut up tortillas, which are lightly fried, then they are topped with the salsa of your choice, and garnished almost any way that you like. Most common garnishes are crema, and avocado, but eggs, chicken, beef, and cheese are commonly added to enhance this dish. Even looking at the pictures in Gustavo's article, you can see that every restaurant has a different spin on this diverse breakfast item.

El Camino Cafe was ranked number four on his list, but the picture made me want to try this place out first. Katie and I have been trying to find time to go on two mile walks, and I noticed that Peter's Canyon Trail was near Tustin, so after our walk we headed to the Old Town area of Tustin. This sleepy little area was pretty quiet, except for the people eating outside, and waiting for their food at El Camino Cafe.

Open for two years now, this cafe is only operating between the hours of 8 til 2:30 in the afternoon, and they are closed on Mondays. Pretty small inside, we arrived here at close to noon on a recent Sunday, and were relegated to sitting along the window bar, which overlooked the other patrons sitting outside underneath the canopy. Ordering is done at the counter, you are given a number, and then the food is brought out to you. After our two mile hike, I was ready for my first El Camino experience. Let's see if this chilaquiles makes my top ten list, like it did Gustavo's.



Before we get to the main event, I wanted to give these Cinnamon and Sugar Besos ($4) a try. While eating breakfast, I always like to balance my first meal of the day with sweet and savory items, and these and flan were my only two options to do this here. These besos were good, but not great. As I've learned with almost every other cultures food, most desserts are not as sweet as their American counterparts. These were freshly made, a little dry on the inside, but you get plenty for four dollars. The sugar and cinnamon added just enough sweetness to help me balance the savoriness of my upcoming meal.




My order got completely screwed up here, as I had wanted the red chilaquiles with carne asada added, but this green version came out with no meat, but I was so hungry I ate this anyways, and it was still great. This version of Chilaquiles "Hector" Verdes ($9) was topped with a slightly spicy green salsa, queso fresco, onion, cilantro, and a sunny side up egg. What made this for me was that the chips were not soggy, They stayed crisp, even though there was plenty of salsa used here. The green salsa was good, with a slight sourness to it, which was counteracted by the very good refried beans and rice. A stellar plate, and I do look forward to coming back and having my red chilaquiles with meat next time.




When Katie's plate came out, I thought it really popped with color. Her choice was the Huevos Rancheros ($8). Two tostadas with two over easy eggs, and bathed in a red salsa. I've never really been a big fan of this dish, but she seems to get this every time it is offered on a breakfast menu. She proclaimed that this would be her go to breakfast item every time she returns here. She loved the freshness of the salsa and other ingredients. She thought the salsa had a good flavor, which did not overpower the eggs, but rather complimented them. She left El Camino Cafe very satisfied.

Even with the snafu with my meal, I could totally see why El Camino Cafe was on Gustavo's list of top chilaquiles in OC. The food here was very clean, not heavy, and really seemed like you were eating in someones home, instead of a busy restaurant. This restaurant gets a lot of praise for their breakfast items, but they do offer tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and other Mexican specialties, but again, get here before they close at 2:30. We also noticed a lot of people coming here expressly for coffee drinks. Service was pretty good, as the lady that dropped off our food made sure everything was all right for us, and they were very quick to clear plates, to assure that the never ending line of people coming in had a place to sit once their food was ready. With breakfast this good, the lines are not going to get any shorter, anytime soon.

Out of five butterflies, (because this flying insect is the mascot of this restaurant, as it adorns the menus, signs, and merchandise), five being best to zero being worst, El Camino Cafe gets 3.5 butterflies.

For more information about El Camino Cafe, go to their website here: http://elcaminocafe.com/#!/HOME

El Camino Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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