13129 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
I almost had to do a double take. I kind of felt that I let this place slip through the cracks. Whenever we are going out of town I automatically check for restaurants that have been featured on TV. I guess I had not checked to see what places around our county had been featured on one of the numerous restaurant focused TV shows airing almost 24 hours a day. After checking out one of my favorite websites, TV Food Maps, I found out that I had overlooked Sabroso in Garden Grove.
This restaurant got the star treatment in July of 2014 when Guy Fieri and his crew came to their restaurant to film an episode of Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dives. On that particular day, Guy sampled the pork tamales and the Chamorro plate. Of course, we did not try either of these, as I asked our waitress for her suggestions, and she steered me a different way, which you will see in a bit.
Sabroso opened up in 2012 and is run by the Munoz family. After losing his job at Claim Jumper a few years ago, the patriarch, Tito Munoz and the rest of his family decided to pool their money together and achieve their lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant. Using their grandmother's recipes, the Munoz family have created a menu that is made up of fresh, quality ingredients. Nothing here is served from a can. Customers have taken note, as a lot of nights, there is a wait for a table.
We must have hit Sabroso at the right time, as we only had to wait a couple of minutes while they cleared a table for us on a recent Saturday night. Even with the tables pretty close together, and a very active restaurant with lots of servers, bussers, and management on the floor making sure their guests every need is met, this was a comfortable, unpretentious restaurant. The menu features tacos, burritos, and tortas, but there are also some intriguing house specialties like quail in a red sauce, an Italian inspired lemon chicken that comes with parmesan bread, and seven seafood options. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see what our experience would be at Sabroso.
As is usual in most Mexican restaurants, you are presented with Chips and Salsa to nosh on before your meal comes out. Unlike other Mexican restaurants though, the salsas here were full of flavor, with the green salsa offering a lot in the way of spice. The red was a favorite of Katie, as it was a bit milder, but offered a depth of flavor that made it one of the better salsas that we have had in a restaurant. The chips were a good vessel for the salsa, but on their own, they were kind of off to me. A little boring, as I like a greasier tortilla chip.
As is her custom, Katie always orders a Guacamole Appetizer ($7.95) when we are having Mexican food. The guacamole here was one of the better ones I've had. A lot of that had to do with the chili flakes that studded the mashed avocado, which provided an excellent burst of heat in each bite. Sabroso also got the consistency right, as it was still a bit chunky, but able to be scooped with a tortilla chip.
Katie will start us off with the entree portion of our evening at Sabroso, with her selection, the Chicken Tamale Combo ($11.95). They offer pork or chicken tamales, and Katie went with the chicken. These tamales were leaf-wrapped and filled with plenty of moist and flavorful chicken, then topped with sour cream and queso fresco. My biggest pet peeve with tamales is that there's never enough meat inside of them, but that was not the case with these, as I got a bite of chicken in each forkful. The masa was not dried out either, which helped create one of the better tamale experiences we have had.
Not the most beautiful plate I've had set in front of me but after my first bite of this Chili Verde ($14.95), I felt like I was eating a masterpiece. These large, tender pork chunks were covered in a wonderful green tomatillo sauce, which I could not get enough of. I mixed it with the pork, I mixed it with the rice, and I did the same with the beans. I could not get enough. When I was taking the rest of my plate to go for the next day, I made sure to scrape my plate clean, as not to waste a drop of the sauce. The rice was nice and light, but the beans were where it was at. Not your normal refried beans, these were Peruano beans. Peruano beans are like the more common pinto, but provide a creamier texture when cooked. After a few bites, I wish the Peruanos would become a lot more common. They were excellent.
As excited as I was for the chili verde, the Carne Asada Taco ($3.50) I ordered was kind of uninspiring. The beef really did not pop with flavor like the chicken or the pork, and the overabundance of iceberg lettuce did not really help things out here. The best part of this taco was the handmade corn tortilla, which was soft and pliable, but kept everything together structurally. I'd get a taco again here, but probably just get one with pork, onion, and cilantro next time.
With the exception of the taco, I was over the moon excited with our visit to Sabroso. It's definitely in the upper echelon of Mexican restaurants we have tried during the 8 year run of our restaurant blog. Of course, this is just after one visit, so more trips to Sabroso are in order to try their carne asada fries, carnitas, tortas, and others. It's a tough job, but someones got to do it. Service was family friendly, and Lizet, our server, made a great call on the chili verde. I'm really glad we finally made it to Sabroso, but now I feel like we have to make up for lost time and eat here again very soon, and many times over.
Out of five chocolate dipped ice cream cones, (because sabroso means tasty in Spanish, and whenever I hear that word it reminds me of the Tastee Freez by my house when I was a kid and my favorite frozen treat at that time), five being best to zero being worst, Sabroso gets 4 chocolate dipped ice cream cones.
For more information about Sabroso, head to their website here: http://sabrosomexgrill.com/