Thursday, December 26, 2019

Our Taco Trek Continues at Tacos De Chino

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:

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