The Taco Stand
240 West Chapman Avenue
Orange, CA 92866
Downtown Orange has done it again. They have lured another out of town restaurant concept to add to their already fantastic collection of eateries. Recently, the city was lucky enough to hook the Denver based, hot breakfast spot, Snooze Eatery, celebrity darling Urth Caffe opened up the first of this year, and Chef Ryan Adams left the cool ocean breezes of Laguna Beach and brought his fried chicken concept inland. These three join an already impressive established list of restaurant options in Old Towne Orange, which include; Gabbi's, Bruxie, Burger Parlor, Zito's Pizza and others. Now, you can add another soon to be packed restaurant to that list, San Diego's own The Taco Stand.
The Taco Stand comes to us from Julian Hakim and his uncle, Aram Baloyan, both Tijuana natives that lamented the fact that there was no place in San Diego to get the tacos they grew up with across the border. They decided they needed to open up a spot, and that's how The Taco Stand came to be. Their vision was for a place that had homemade tortillas, a trompo for al pastor, and a fun and inviting atmosphere. This formula must have worked because since they started out in La Jolla, they are now operating six locations, including one in Miami. Look for another to pop up later this year when you are visiting Las Vegas.
This Orange location has been open for less than two weeks now. They hit the gold mine location wise. They are situated right in between Snooze Eatery and Buttermilk, and less than a block away from the newly constructed parking structure that makes parking in this always packed area way less challenging. Since we parked with relative ease, I could not wait to enter what I hoped would be the city of Orange's next great restaurant.
Here are some quick shots I took of the interior of The Taco Stand. The registers and menu board are directly in front of you when you enter. The production line was something to definitely key in on when visiting here. There were so many people back there, like organized chaos. It was great watching the team put together each order. The trompo, which is the spinning tower of al pastor was mesmerizing., as it basted in its own juices and pineapple. All of the salsa and sauces are made daily, and I liked the variety they offered. The bright and colorful murals on the walls added to the atmosphere nicely.
The menu is broken up into sections; tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sides, five breakfast burritos, which are offered until noon, and then beverages. We met up with V.P. of Restaurant Operations Mike Roels. Mike has been very busy commuting between OC and San Diego, but you could sense his excitement of showing off the food of his restaurant. We could sense that we were in very capable hands, so we allowed Mike to bring out the items he thought we should try. We quickly found a table in the rapidly filling restaurant and waited with baited breathe to see what Mike and The Taco Stand had in store for us.
I mentioned that all of the sauces and salsa was made fresh here, and after tasting it, it really showed. I'm a real sauce guy, and all of these were pretty stellar, but my favorites were the Chipotle and the Cilantro, which both added another layer of flavor to the items we tried here. I must not have been thinking because I did not try any of their Habanero, and I love spicy. Next time for sure.
Since we were situated at our table with our sauces, we became pretty excited when Mike brought out our first plate, The Taco Stand's famous Al Pastor Tacos ($2.99 each). These are a must try when visiting here. Rotisserie marinated pork sliced off the trompo and joined in the homemade tortilla with cilantro, sliced pineapple, onion, and cilantro sauce. The first thing that caught my eye was that these tacos were really filled up with pork. The pork was rich and tender and I liked the way the pineapple cut the richness. What makes this al pastor better than others? Mike claims that they leave it on the trompo marinating longer than other places. Another highlight is the corn tortilla. Definitely not a dry taco, the corn tortilla held everything in place right through the final bite. One of the best al pastor tacos I have had in OC.
Next up were these beautifully constructed Spicy Shrimp Tacos ($3.79 each). Not only was I pretty excited by the looks of these, but I know Katie is not too fond of shrimp, so I knew both of these would end up being mine. Thank you shrimp allergy. The menu calls these spicy shrimp, but I did not really get too much in the way of spiciness, but they were very flavorful. Plenty of shrimp, a slice of avocado, cheese, cabbage, tomato, and their awesome chipotle sauce round out these tacos. Each bite included the crunch of the cabbage, brininess of the shrimp, the creamy avocado, and everything was tied together with the chipotle sauce. Again, I'm glad I did not have to share.
When Mike brought these Mar Y Tierra Fries ($9.89) to our table, I could not help but notice all of the eyes following this basket as it was placed on our table. Other customers were definitely drawn to it. It was almost too beautiful to eat, but not wanting to let it go to waste, I felt it was our duty to scarf it down in record time. Some very nicely fried and crisp fries were buried underneath plenty of grilled shrimp and carne asada, cheese, guacamole, and chipotle sauce. What made this for me were the sauces and the higher than average quality of fries that they use. Most places would skimp on the fries, probably figuring that most people would focus more on the toppings, but The Taco Stand used some of the best fries I have experienced in a loaded fries dish. Another must try when visiting here.
Lastly, Mike brought us out the Corn on the Cob ($3.25). I have to admit, I'm not much of a fan of corn on the cob, but I found this to be very tasty. This elote style corn was brushed with a light touch of mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and chili powder. The corn was nice and juicy, and I was not sure that the mayo and cotija cheese were going to interact well, but it turned out to be a very nice side item to close out our meal at The Taco Stand.
Both Katie and I were very impressed with our visit toThe Taco Stand. It's easy to see why they have lines that strech out the doors of their San Diego spots, and I predict the same for this new Orange store very soon. They have done no advertising and had only been open for 10 days when we were here, and they still had a full house of diners when we were here. I'm looking forward to coming back soon to try their Sonora Taco, California Burrito, a Breakfast Burrito, and one of their Hot Churros, which they make to order. It appears to us that Downtown Orange has another delicious hit on its hands.
We would like to thank Mike Roels and his team at The Taco Stand for their warm hospitality and their delicious food during this visit. It was very apparent that everyone that works here is very proud of the food they are serving, and loves showing it to the people of OC. We also would like to thank the fantastic Casey Sorrell of Alternative Strategies for introducing us to The Taco Stand and setting up this visit.
For more information about The Taco Stand, head to their website here: http://www.letstaco.com/index.html