Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rollin' to Restaurant Mary for Some Chilaquiles

Restaurant Mary
1819 South Main St. 
Santa Ana, CA 92707

My boss must have made a mistake. For some unexplained reason, he gave me New Years Day off. This is a guy that is not really too fond of me for some reason. I know that seems crazy since I come across as so lovable writing this blog, but I definitely get that sense from him. Since he has arrived on the scene a year and a half ago, my schedule has changed from early mornings to a mid shift, and my beloved Sundays off have been replaced with a boring Wednesday off.

Okay, enough venting from me, you didn't come here for that, you came here for a restaurant review, and that's what I'm going to do for you. It was the morning of New Years Day, and after a night where I fell asleep by 9:30, I had awoken to a pang of hunger for one of my favorite breakfast dishes, Chilaquiles. I quickly checked my restaurant wishlist and found near the top was a place in Santa Ana, Restaurant Mary.

Restaurant Mary landed on my list due to the fact that the OC Weekly had written about them numerous times. The former Editor in Chief, Gustavo Arellano has called this one of the most underappreciated restaurants in OC, has praised their soups, and more importantly to me, included them on his best chilaquiles list. High praise from someone that definitely knows great Mexcian food.

We arrived at Restaurant Mary with our good friends and Santa Ana residents Angel and Rebekah for a late morning breakfast right around 11am. They have passed by here plenty of times but had never visited until now. If you blinked when you'd pass Restaurant Mary, you'd totally miss it. It's a very unassuming place, situated between Edinger and Warner on Main Street, with just a single sign above the door. It really blends into the neighborhood.

Once inside the door though, the vibrant orange walls, heavy wooden tables, the decorative hand painted chairs, and pictures and knickknacks adorning the walls bring a sense of home that you could probably expect from any one of the neighborhood houses that are within walking distance of Restaurant Mary.

The one-page breakfast menu includes all of your Mexican breakfast favorites, plus omelets and what I was here for chilaquiles. The regular menu has plenty to offer in the way of starters, burritos, tacos, sopes, tortas, quesadillas, seafood, and fajitas. One thing on this menu that I had never seen before was the option of having morning dove or cornish hen as one of the meat options for your enchiladas. Maybe next time I'd try that, but for me on this first day of the new year, I already knew what I'd be having. Let's see how everyone's first meal of the year turned out.

As we were waiting for Angel and his much better half Rebekah to arrive, this Chips and Salsa was sat in front of us as we perused the menu. The chips were pretty standard, and I liked both salsas, but neither was very spicy. They basically kept me busy until our food arrived.

This picture of the Queso Fundido Con Chorizo ($7.99) does not do it justice. It looks a little boring as all the chorizo was layered on the bottom of the thick and stingy cheese. I should have taken the picture after I had mixed it up a bit. This ended up being a very solid version of one of my favorite appetizers to try in a Mexican restaurant. The menu says that the chorizo here is homemade, and it did taste great. The cheese was nice and stringy and the flour tortillas were very sturdy and a great vessel for this fundido. A must try.

True to form, Katie always has to order a Side of Guacamole ($4.99) when it's available. She liked this a lot more than I did. The fresh avocados were overrun by too much cilantro and tomato. I also like the avocado to be a little creamier, as this version was more on the chunky side. Not a bad price for such a large side though.

The last of our appetizers before our entrees came out was this selection by Angel. He wanted to give their Frijoles Puercos ($8.99) a spin. The menu was very secretive about this, as they listed it as a bean dip with special house ingredients. Hmmm, I'm guessing that since puercos was in the name, it might have had either bacon or chorizo in this. Whatever was in this dip was very rich and satisfying. I found myself dipping tortilla chips in this over and over throughout our time at Restaurant Mary.

Katie almost always gets a Breakfast Burrito ($8.99) when we go out for the first meal of the day. At Restaurant Mary they offer it with either ham or bacon, and she went with the latter. The burrito also included scrambled egg, rice, potatoes, and cheese. She admitted she made an error when ordering this by not adding some refried beans or avocado to make this a little less dry. She did add plenty of salsa to help as a solution. She loved the way everything was cooked in here, the light rice, the bacon was crisp, and the eggs were nicely seasoned, She'd still probably get the huevos rancheros next time she comes here though.

Here's the plate that got us to drive twenty miles, the Chilaquiles. You can get either red or green sauce, as you will see below. I went with the Red Chilaquiles with Carnitas ($11.99). This was an excellent plate of chilaquiles. The chips were nice and crisp, with plenty of sour cream and cotija cheese. The red sauce was pretty mild, which kind of held this back from being my number one spot for chilaquiles. The carnitas were nice and tender with some nicely crisped ends. Just the way I like them. The rice was some of the lightest I have had, but the beans are where it's at. There's nothing like fresh refried beans. So good.

When Rebekah's plate was placed in front of her, all of us let out an audible gasp. This Chilaquiles Con Asada ($9.99) was one big plate of food. More like a platter really. Rebekah made the wise decision to get the green chilaquiles and they were better than the red ones I had. There was a depth of flavor to the green that the other just didn't have. I also enjoyed the slight tinge of spice that was at the tail end of each bite. I did not get a chance to try her Asada, but it kind of looked overcooked to me. No complaints from Rebekah though, so maybe it was alright.

Angel finished out our late morning meal at Restaurant Mary with his selection, Chorizo and Eggs ($7.99). He was pretty pleased with this simple meal. The eggs were done well and he really enjoyed the chorizo. He asked for double beans instead of rice because he's high maintenance like that. So demanding, I don't know how Rebekah puts up with him.

Restaurant Mary was an excellent choice for our first meal of 2019. This little unassuming gem felt like you were eating in someone's house. The food was crafted well with a pinch of love thrown in. It's up there with some of the best Mexican I've had in Santa Ana, but I think that crown still belongs to El Pico De Gallo, but Restaurant Mary was close. Service was very warm and friendly, and our food came out quickly. A very nice start to our culinary year and I look forward to crossing off more restaurants from my list in 2019.

Out of five gavels, (because the city of Santa Ana is home to the largest courthouse in OC, and their judges probably go through plenty of gavels), five being best to zero being worst, Restaurant Mary gets 3.5 gavels.

Restaurant Mary does not have a website, but you can find out more information about them on their Yelp page, which you can access here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/mary-restaurant-santa-ana

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