The years just keep rolling by quicker and quicker these days. When I was a kid it seemed like it took forever for Christmas to get here. Now that I'm a bit older, it feels like it was just last week that all of the Christmas decorations were put away. As is the tradition of not only this restaurant blog but almost every publication around this time of year, it's time to let you all know the top ten restaurants I ate at during 2019, but first, a word of thanks.
I'd like to thank not only the following ten restaurants that are on my upcoming list but all of the restaurants I had the pleasure of eating at during the past 12 months. Restaurants have always been magical places for me. As a kid, I was always in awe that a place could make pretty much whatever I wanted to put in my mouth at any given moment. This enchanted feeling continued in 2019 with the assistance of the numerous hosts/hostesses greeting us, to the wait staff, bussers, cooks, dishwashers, chefs, and managers of the restaurants trying to ensure that we as guests had a wonderful experience in their dining establishments. As someone that works in the service industry, I am in constant awe of the many awesome people that we meet in pretty much every restaurant we visit.
Speaking of great people, I definitely need to thank my family and friends who have put up with my endless picture taking at every meal, the constant questions that I ask about how they enjoy their food, and for them allowing me to pick most of the places that we end up eating at. My number one supporter and cheerleader is my beautiful wife Katie, who not only is my partner in life but suffers through almost every meal you have read about on this blog for the last ten years. Words can not express what it means to have her by my side for not only the last decade but for the rest of my life.
Lastly, I'd like to thank all of you that have stuck with me through this journey of eating and discovering all the restaurants that our wonderful county and beyond has to offer. These days blogs are not really in vogue anymore. It's more of an instant gratification world now, with Instagram pictures, social media posts, videos, and whatever the latest app the kids are using for the next two days before another one hits their phones. My sincerest of thanks for anyone that has taken the time to read my subpar writing and glanced at my photos. I promise a creative writing class and a better camera are definitely in the works. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my posts. It means the world to me that people take the time to read my thoughts about restaurants. Now without further ado let's see the best restaurants we experienced in 2019.
#10 Restaurant Mary - Santa Ana
Not only is this the first restaurant on this list, but it was also the first restaurant we ate at this year. Early in the year, I was obsessed with a chilaquiles list that was put out by the OC Weekly. Restaurant Mary had the best I had this year. Very unassuming place in Santa Ana that makes not only great chilaquiles but everything else we had was excellent as well. Worth a visit.
#9 The Scratch Room - Anaheim
Due to my work schedule for a good majority of the year, I did not really get a chance to visit too many breakfast spots. The Scratch Room was one of the rare exceptions. Crazy busy on the weekends, but worth it with their down-home breakfast plates and probably one of the best slices of banana bread I have had in a restaurant.
#8 Vaka Burger - Irvine
OC residents need to rejoice, as an LA favorite, Vaka Burger has moved south to the new Mess Hall in Irvine. I've visited twice and have loved all the burgers I've inhaled. Forgo the fries and get the best onion rings we have had in a long time.
#7 Din Tai Fung - Costa Mesa
We were very late getting on the Din Tai Fung bandwagon. This restaurant has been at South Coast Plaza for five years now and it's easy to see why there is almost always a wait of an hour plus to get a table. Their dumplings and other options are all top-notch and fresh.
#6 Pino's Cucina - Ladera Ranch
The only Italian spot on our top ten list this year, and thankfully it's right near where we live. Ladera Ranch is not exactly swimming in great restaurants, but Pino's Cucina is one of the rare anomalies in this South OC city. The pasta is freshly made, the sauces burst with flavor, and the proteins are all done perfectly. Consider yourself lucky if you live near here, as we do.
#5 Pascal - San Juan Capistrano
The only restaurant on this list that you can't eat at. Unfortunately, they shut down for good at the end of March. Even better than the duck, french onion soup, and lyonnaise salad that I consumed here, all of which were fantastic, is that Chef Pascal Olhats is feeling much better after battling cancer. He's back teaching French cooking classes at Saddleback College and also working lunches and other special events at Cafe Jardin at Sherman's Gardens in Corona Del Mar. Head there for some great French food from the most legendary chef OC has ever known.
#4 Jav's BBQ - Anaheim
It was a very good year for barbecue in OC, and Jav's is the first of two barbecue spots in our top 4. Located across the street from the Anaheim Packing House, this small stand serves excellent brisket, sausage, and ribs, but do not sleep on the best macaroni and cheese we have had all year. Definitely worth the hassle of finding parking around this part of downtown Anaheim.
#3 Pour Co. - Fullerton
I don't understand why this restaurant doesn't get more love. I've been back three times, and that never happens. Pour Co. is a little off the beaten path of the craziness that is Downtown Fullerton, but if you want to consume the best hamburger I ate all year, you need to head here right away. Save room for the cinnamon roll ice cream sandwich for dessert. You will not be sorry.
#2 Evan's Smokehouse - Yorba Linda
When I was growing up in the land of gracious living, we never had a restaurant like Evan's Smokehouse. Situated on a dirt lot across from a parking structure in the new downtown area, Evan's is turning out some of the best bbq in OC right now. Once you try their brisket, ribs, and potato salad, you will dream of the day when they get their brick and mortar restaurant and be open for business more than just the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings that they are now. Fingers crossed that it happens in 2020.
#1 Ocean at Main - Laguna Beach
Grabbing the number one restaurant spot for 2019 is newcomer, Ocean at Main. Not really a surprise when you find out that Chef Craig Strong, formerly of the award-winning Studio at the Montage has branched out on his own right in the heart of Laguna. We found the food to be playful, full of flavor and possessing an understated elegance that wowed us. Not only the best new restaurant in 2019 but the best we ate at all year.
Thanks again for taking the time to read this blog, and I look forward to sharing more of our restaurant adventures with you in 2020 and well into the next decade.
Thursday, December 26, 2019
Tacos Del Chino
2431 Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
I have been obsessed with tacos recently. One reason is that as the weather turns a bit colder in OC it makes me yearn for Mexican food and some hot salsa that will give my body a jump start. The other catalyst for my taco craving is that the OC Register Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson recently published a list of the best tacos available in Santa Ana. His top ten list included some I have tried and some I have not. On our way to a Ducks game, Katie and I decided to try one that we have not been to yet, and we made a beeline for Tacos Del Chino.
Tacos Del Chino opened this Santa Ana location, their second in late 2017. They started as a food truck back in the '90s and then moved to a brick and mortar spot in El Monte in 2008. This Tustin Avenue spot is situated in a shopping center anchored by a Yum Yum Donuts, a dance studio, tax service center, and other merchants. Plenty of parking is available in front of this shopping plaza.
We arrived here shortly before 6pm on a recent Tuesday. Yes, to answer your immediate question, yes they do have a taco Tuesday special where their steak, chicken and pork tacos all go for one dollar. Other specials splashed across their front window include mulita Mondays, Torta Thursdays, and Sope Sundays. So, unless you are at Tacos Del Chino on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you will be able to take advantage of deals on certain items.
The menu here is pretty much what you'd expect from a Southern Californian Mexican restaurant. They have plenty in the way of tacos, burritos, sopes, quesadillas, tortas, mulitas, nachos, and they even have breakfast listed, which I assume is made all day, since they are not open until 11am all week. Meat options run the gamut from the predictable to the more exotic; asada, chicken, pastor, carnitas, cabeza, chorizo, lengua, tripa, buche, and seso. With so many protein options, the combinations are nearly endless at Tacos Del Chino.
Ordering is done at the register and then the food is brought out to you. The dining area is way more spacious than it appears from the outside. The evening we were here many TVs were tuned to all different sports, including two hockey games, which is a rarity in restaurants these days. Also of note, there's a small salsa station to the right of the register where you can choose to spice up your food a bit. Speaking of the food, let's take a look at what Tacos Del Chino had in store for us this evening.
Let's start things off with Katie's selections this evening. She must have been in a chicken mood, as she is almost every time we go out to eat Mexcian food. She had Two Chicken Tacos ($1 each) and a Pastor Mulita ($3). Katie loved the chicken tacos, which came simply dressed with cilantro and diced onions. The tortillas could have been a tad softer but did a great job of keeping everything together. The pastor mulita was the star of the show though. The tortillas were grilled a bit and filled with some delicious marinated pork, cheese, onions, and cilantro. Just like a quesadilla with meat inside, except it has two tortillas instead of a folded one.
Katie also got a Chicken Sope ($2.95). This sope came piled high with a slathering of beans, shredded lettuce, onions, diced chicken, and cotija cheese sprinkled on top. It was good, but the base of the sope was kind of lackluster and the toppings could not recover. I would have liked this with a little more beans on it to add a little moisture, but the chicken was good and plentiful. Not the best sope we have had, but it was bigger than most we have tried.
I took full advantage that it was taco Tuesday, and had four tacos to fuel me up for cheering on our hometown Ducks a little later in the evening. From left to right, Buche ($1.65), Carnitas ($1), Pastor ($1), and Carne Asada ($1). I had mixed feelings about these tacos. Let's start with the good first. Both the pastor and the asada were delicious, full of flavor, and very tender. I was surprised about the carne asada because I very rarely have luck with it in lots of Mexican restaurants. I used salsa on these two, but they did not really need it. The carnitas taco was fine, but nothing really made it stand out and it was a little on the dry side. The salsa did help out a bit. I had hoped that the buche was going to be as good as the one I had recently at Los Olivos Taqueria in Orange, but that was sadly not the case. If I had to describe this buche in one word, it would be swampy, which is not how you want your tacos to taste. I also had a Chorizo Mulita ($3.50) which I sadly did not get a picture of. I know, a real rookie move, especially after a decade of writing this blog. The chorizo was as advertised at Tacos Del Chino, although the one featured in the OC Register article had about double the chorizo as the one I had, it was still excellent. The tortilla was a little crunchy from the kiss of the flattop, while the chorizo and cheese melded slightly to form a mass of delightfulness. A good finish to my up and down meal.
I liked the food from Tacos Del Chino, but I could not help comparing it to Los Olivos Taqueria, a spot that we recently visited in nearby Orange on our way to another hockey game. I liked the tacos and other things we had there better, but that doesn't mean you should not eat here. The prices here are just as reasonable, and the chorizo was even better at Tacos Del Chino. I also liked that they have plenty of specials throughout the week, along with lots of games on their numerous TVs, and beer and wine are available here to wash down your tacos and mulitas. Service was fine, and they got us on our way rather quickly so we could make it for puck drop at the Honda Center. I'm looking forward to seeing where Brad Johnson will steer us next.
Out of five cornucopias, (I'm not sure how they came up with their name when they don't even have a location in Chino, but I learned that the city of Chino has a cornucopia featured on their city seal), five being best to zero being worst, Tacos Del Chino gets 3 cornucopias.
Tacos Del Chino does not have a website, but you can find out more information about them by visiting their Yelp page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-del-chino-santa-ana-2
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Goerge's Greek Cafe
135 Pine Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802
Katie knows how to get me to do what she wants. It was a few days before Halloween and her friends were having a party. I'm all for hanging out with her friends, but I had to work at 6am the next day and the party was up in Long Beach. I usually like to be home before 10, but she said the magic words that made me agree to a late evening. "You can pick a restaurant to go to before the party." That's all I had to hear, and I was off trying to find a spot for us to eat.
We do not make it up to Long Beach very often, so I was a little bit overwhelmed with the vast selection that I could choose from. I decided to pick a place near where the party was going to be, so that made Downtown Long Beach the logical choice. I went to Yelp and looked for the most reviewed and highest rated restaurant, which wasn't a sushi place, and found George's Greek Cafe.
It had been a while since we had Greek food, and we were both pretty excited to try George's, which had an impressive 4 and a half stars with over 2100 Yelp reviews. After a little research, I learned that this restaurant was started by George Loizides, a Greek immigrant living in Zimbabwe, who moved his family here in 1980 and saved up money to fulfill his and his son's American dream by opening a Greek deli. After a short move of location, the restaurant transitioned into George's Greek Cafe, and they subsequently added two other spots, one in Belmont Shore and another in nearby Lakewood.
George, unfortunately, passed away at the age of 83 about a week before we made our visit. His legacy is living on with the family still serving family recipes passed on from the older generations. Their menu is pretty extensive with plenty of items that you see in all Greek restaurants, (gyros, hummus, and falafel). That's just scratching the surface though. Dig deeper and you'll find other things that you just won't find at other Greek places, (melintzanosalata, scordalia, and kleftiko which you will see in a bit). Prices seemed pretty reasonable especially considering the area, with all entrees listed in the $8 to $23 range.
We had made a reservation on a recent Friday evening at 6pm. We did not really need them, as the dining room was pretty wide open, with only the front room and bar occupied when we first sat down. The dining room did fill in during our stay though. This dining space is accented by lots of dark wood, plenty of pictures of Greece and family members along the walls, and a rather large patio that extends from the front of the restaurant to the side of it, which I imagine would be a prime people-watching spot during the warmer months. Enough build-up, let's see the only thing that really matters to me, the food.
Hummus ($6.75) is one thing we always start out with when eating in any Mediterranean or Greek restaurant. This came out rather quickly and was surrounded by triangles of pita bread. This was an ultra-smooth version of the classic dip made up of mashed garbanzo beans. It was good but could have used a flavor boost with maybe some extra garlic or some more spice. Not bad but kind of humdrum.
I guess one starter was not enough for Katie, so we also got this Spanakopita ($7.50) before our main dishes came out. This filo dough was filled with feta cheese, spinach, and spices. It also came with a little salad of tomatoes, cucumber, and onions. These were made very well, but the feta kind of overpowered here. I'm not a big feta cheese lover, so these might not have been an ideal starter for me, but Katie liked this a lot. I did like the spinach in these and liked them a bit more when I dipped them in the leftover hummus.
Katie's meal came out first. She went with the Chicken Souvlaki ($14.75) which is chunks of seasoned chicken with onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and plenty of tzatziki sauce wrapped in a pita. She really enjoyed the insides of this sandwich, which she found to be tender and flavorful, but the pita could not handle the amount they put inside of it and quickly dissolved into quite a mess. She upgraded her fries with Feta and Garlic (plus $2). The fries were nice and crisp and made even better for Katie because she loves feta cheese. A hearty meal that prepared her for the wild party that we were going to attend later.
It was a Friday evening, and at George's, that means Kleftico ($18.95). Honestly, I had never heard of this dish before I sat down here for dinner, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. The story goes that during the Turkish occupation of Greece centuries ago, the Greeks cooked their lamb in sealed underground pits to hide it from their enemies. Now at George's, they roast their lamb shoulder for six to eight hours so it comes out very tender. This was a pretty good-sized chunk of meat, with most bites being very good. The lamb was spiced well and lacked any of the gaminess you would expect when consuming lamb in some places. They also provided a nice gravy with this, which I used in alternating bites. This special also came with a Greek salad and roasted potatoes. The salad was good, but I really enjoyed the potatoes. The smaller potato cubes had a crunchiness to them that I liked, while the bigger ones were soft when bitten into. I liked the contrast. A good plate, and if you are here on a Friday and like lamb, this is what you should order.
Although Goerge's Greek Cafe did not blow us away with their food, it still is a pretty solid spot for people who enjoy Greek cuisine. I liked my lamb and Katie enjoyed her souvlaki, but we've both had better. I thought the prices here were more than fair and the portion sizes are pretty generous for what you pay. The atmosphere at George's was very laid back and not pretentious in the least. Our server achieved that very delicate balance of giving us space and making sure we had our every need met in a timely manner. This visit has us looking forward to exploring more of the restaurants that call Long Beach home in the near future.
Out of five anchors, (because the city of Long Beach is home to the oldest tattoo parlor in the US, Bert Grimm's opened way back in 1927 and I'm sure they have done plenty of anchor tattoos in those 92 years), five being best to zero being worst, George's Greek Cafe gets 3 anchors.
For more information about George's Greek Cafe, head to their website here: https://www.georgesgreekcafe.com/
Sunday, December 8, 2019
The Penalty Box
12900 South Euclid St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
I get pretty excited when I hear a new burger and hot dog place opening up in OC. As if you couldn't tell from the ten years of me writing this blog, I have definitely eaten my fair sure of burgers and hot dogs. I was even more excited when I heard that the team behind one of my favorite fine dining restaurants was behind this concept. Throw in my love for the Anaheim Ducks and their best player of all-time, and I literally could not come up with a better combination of my love for food and sports.
I'm talking of course about The Penalty Box at the new SteelcCraft communal dining space in Garden Grove. It's brought to us from the very talented culinary team behind Selanne's Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach which is the brainchild of Kevin Pratt and hockey legend, Teemu Selanne. This duo has branched out to put their own spin on the ultimate in American comfort food, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and shakes. Needless to say, I had very high hopes when we were recently invited to give The Penalty Box a try.
My excitement reached even higher into the stratosphere when I learned my friend Joe and I would be meeting up with Executive Chef Vince Terusa of Selanne Steak Tavern, who does double duty overseeing the kitchen at The Penalty Box. He makes the trip from his home in Rancho Santa Margarita up to Garden Grove in the morning, gets the restaurant up and running, and then travels back down the coast in the afternoon to start his day at Selanne Steak Tavern. I was tired just listening to his workday schedule, but he really seemed to relish it.
This Garden Grove location is the third SteelCraft urban outdoor eatery, with the other two being situated in Long Beach and Bellflower. They use repurposed shipping containers to house their craft food and beverage vendors. This Garden Grove spot houses not only The Penalty Box but Cauldron Ice Cream, Renegade Taco, Barrio, which is a Filipino barbecue joint, Beachwood Brewing, The Nest, a breakfast place, and other dining options. For me though, I was 100 percent concentrated on The Penalty Box.
The menu at The Penalty Box features five pucks (burgers), four sticks (hotdogs), four twig offerings (french fries), and three whipped ice (shakes) to choose from. There's also a kid's meal and bottled sodas. Both Joe and I met with Chef Vince, made our selections, and he brought them out to us in less than ten minutes. Let's see if The Penalty Box lived up to my lofty expectations.
The menu lists these as poutines, but they are really loaded fries since there are no cheese curds or gravy included on them. Maybe they wanted to give this more of a Canadian hockey feel to them, not that they needed it. This is the "Vladimir" ($10). The base of this was their house Yukon twists, which are a thick french fry with a soft and pillowy inside that was way better than any steak fry I've had. They top this with short rib, pickled red onion, scallion, American cheese, Russian sauce, and cornichon, which I learned is just a fancy way of saying tiny pickles. Google gets the tip for that info. Anyways, everything included here melded well together. The short rib was tender and full of flavor, while the pickled red onion and cornichon cut the richness a bit. I was afraid the American cheese was going to stick out like a sore thumb, but it played nicely with the well made Russian sauce. A way more sophisticated version of animal style fries.
Joe and I split this Triple Deke ($14) since we both got our own burgers and did not want to be rolled out of SteelCraft with a wheel barrel. After finishing half of this I kind of wished I had gotten my own. With this one, they take a bacon-wrapped polish sausage and top it with braised pulled pork, pickled onion, scallion, a three-cheese fondue, and penalty box sauce. Chef Vince told us that they source this very solid polish sausage from Texas. It had a great snap to it. The bacon was crisp and went well with the other parts of this loaded hot dog. Definitely one of the best hot dogs I have had this year.
For my burger on this visit, I went with the Broken Rib ($16). This third-pound wagyu burger was accompanied on the bun with a bourbon barbecue short rib, a giant onion ring, smoked gouda fondue, and sin bin sauce to tie everything together. I was expecting a heavier burger when I first read everything that was involved with this. Each bite ended up being better than the next and it was lighter than I imagined. The wagyu beef is high quality and I'd probably ask for some extra sin bin sauce the next time I had this. Really a well-crafted burger.
My friend Joe is a very sophisticated eater. While my pockets are littered with receipts from fast food eateries, his pockets are filled with credit card slips from Mastro's, Ironwood, and Fleming's. I'm not trying to embarrass him, but my point is that he knows good food. We both ended up being big fans of this Great Eight Burger ($14). This is the only burger on the Penalty Box menu that does not utilize a beef patty. It instead is anchored by an eight spiced Morrocan lamb patty and accented with roasted piquillo pepper, goat cheese, pickled red onion, rocket, and delectable chimichurri aioli. This had big-time flavor in each bite and the lamb patty lacked any gaminess that can sometimes be a drawback to eating lamb. I also have to shout out to the very good ciabatta roll that this came on. A very memorable burger, not one that should be missed.
One trip to The Penalty Box was not enough, so I went back the next week to try a little more from their menu. This time I started off with the Goon Fries ($7) which are their Yukon twists with thick slab bacon, chipotle aioli, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg on top. I liked this, but I ended up liking the Vladimir fries that I had on my first trip better. The egg was done perfectly, as the yolk was runny enough to be spread evenly across a large portion of the fries to provide a good richness. The cheese was mellow, but they could have used a bit more of the chipotle aioli for my taste.
This Barnburner ($9) hot dog was not only delicious but visually stunning as well. The beautifully shining brioche hot dog bun houses an all-beef gourmet hot dog, along with some spicy cream cheese, pickled Fresno chili, braised onions, and sin bin sauce. I was a little unsure about the cream cheese on this, but it was not a distraction here, and in fact, it added a nice element to the hot dog. This had just enough spice to make it a good choice for people who like a tinge of heat without having to guzzle water right afterward. Very well done.
My swan song on my second trip to The Penalty Box was this Hall of Famer Burger ($14). I had a great expectation for this burger when I read the description of it on their menu. A third-pound wagyu patty with red onion marmalade, American cheese, house pickles, shredded iceberg lettuce, and thick slab bacon. This was good but it was a little too subtle for my tastes. The bacon was thick and smokey, but I needed more from the red onion marmalade and maybe some of that excellent sin bin sauce as well. This was definitely the mildest of all the items that I had on either of my two visits to The Penalty Box.
After eating at The Penalty Box I definitely could feel the fine dining lineage coming through in the food here. These are elevated burgers, hot dogs, and fries. I guess it should not be surprising since the cuisine at Selanne Steak Tavern is world-class, so it logically means that the same culinary team would do the same with the food that we all grew up with. As one of my favorite hockey players, who also has his name on one of my favorite restaurants, The Penalty Box just adds to Teemu Selanne's legacy in Orange County. I can't wait to see what the Great 8 comes up with next.
For more information about The Penalty Box, head to their website here: https://www.penalty-box-oc.com/
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Taqueria Los Olivos
1997 North Orange Olive Road Ste. B
Orange, CA 92865
Hockey season brings me some pretty big challenges. Not only do I have to endure going through another season of watching our beloved Ducks go through another rebuilding season, but I also have to find places to eat before our 15 games that we attend a year. After decades of games, it seems like we have been just about everywhere to eat before watching countless goals, brawls, wins, loses, and more at the Honda Center. That was until I read about Taqueria Los Olivos in the OC Register.
Every Tuesday for the last year or so, Brad Johnson, the acclaimed restaurant reviewer for the OC Register has written about a spot to get tacos in our wonderful county. I've gotten numerous tips from this regular column and added them to my must-try list. When we were leaving for a recent game, I figured that we had just enough time to fight traffic and try Taqueria Los Olivos, which is just a few blocks away from Honda Center.
This tiny taqueria is situated in a very sleepy shopping center which is anchored by at least three thrift stores that I counted, that apparently all close earlier than the 6pm time we visited. For further reference, the center is situated right across from Shaffer Park. From what I've been able to gather, this used to be the home of another taqueria, Taqueria Guadalupana, which was around for over 20 years in this spot.
Taqueria Los Olivos took over in the early part of 2017, made some minor adjustments, like a fresh paint job, adding a small salsa bar, and changing over from an all-cash method of payment to accepting debit and credit cards. Welcome to the 21st century. The menu is pretty much the same as the old place. They offer seven types of meat and you can either get it in a taco, burrito, torta, or quesadilla. On weekends they have menudo with handmade corn tortillas. I was excited to see if this place would be top shelf or would it hit iron and our goal of a good meal would be denied. Let's check it out.
Katie opted for two tacos for her pregame meal on this evening. She went with a Chicken Taco ($1.39) and a Pastor Taco ($1.39). These no-nonsense tacos come with onion, cilantro, and a little bit of red salsa. More salsa is available at the aforementioned salsa bar. Katie liked the chicken taco but was much more excited by the pastor. She loved the flavor profile and was especially fond of the tortillas here, which she suspects are handmade but I'm not so sure of that.
The taco party continued with my plate of three tacos. I chose the Buche Taco ($1.39), Pastor Taco ($1.39), and the Carnitas Taco ($1.39). All were dressed similarly to Katie's with the exception being the buche, which was one of the best versions I have had of this taco. For those of you that are unaware, buche is pork stomach and it can be a little dicey ordering it in some places. This one was crisper than most, which allowed for a good texture. The pastor is sliced freshly off the trompo, which is always a good sign. Not as good as the one I had at the Taco Stand in Downtown Orange, but it's a steal at half the price of that one. The carnitas was good and flavorful, but I missed the crispy tips that I love so much when ordering it. The tortillas were great vessels for these tacos, as they held everything together and had a nice crispness to them due to them being placed on the flattop for a short while.
As good as the tacos were here, both Katie and I were very impressed with this Carne Asada Quesadilla ($6.72). This flour tortilla was bursting at the seams with plenty of cheese and carne asada. The cheese and beef worked in great tandem inside, while the lightly grilled tortilla provided a nice crunch on the outside. This was cut into four triangles so it filled us up perfectly. One of the better and greater value quesadillas we have found in a long while.
It's safe to say that we will definitely return to Taqueria Los Olivos not only before upcoming Ducks games, but when we are in the area and want some really solid Mexican food. This is really a low key taqueria, so if you are looking for a place with more ambiance you might want to try somewhere else. Service was super friendly during our stay and it seemed that they were genuinely grateful for every guest that comes through their door. All of the above and three bottles of water only set us back less than $14, which left us with enough money for parking at the game.
Out of five olive trees, (because olives are in the name of this restaurant and the oldest olive tree in the world is 4,000 years old and resides on the island of Crete, your fun fact for the day), five being best to zero being worst, Taqueria Los Olivos gets a very strong 3 olive trees.
Taqueria Los Olivos does not have a website, but you can find more information about them on their Yelp page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-los-olivos-orange