Best of Santa Ana: Mexican Food, Part I

Santa Ana merits it’s own Best of Mexican Food mentions apart from the rest of the county. Lumping and comparing Mexican restaurants in Santa Ana with others in the county attenuates what this city has to offer and ultimately is a disservice to us. And so, it’s a must that we distinguish ourselves from the rest.

There are many many options, which can make selecting difficult, but we’ll give it a go and see what results.

Best Dine In Experience:

La Cebollita (The Little Onion)
110 West MacArthur Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(714) 979-1144

This spot is affectionately referred to as La cebollita by locals. It’s not too flashy, colorful or pretentious. It’s just right.

Best Mole:

Casa Oaxaca
3317 W 1st St
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 554-0905

Mole is their specialty and they serve five different types here.

Best Tacos Dorados: (Hard Shell)

Sariñana’s Tamale Factory
2216 West 5th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 558-8650

Only real locals and real connoisseurs (thanks to a local) know this spot.

Best Fish Tacos:

Baja Fish Tacos
3664 South Bristol Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 641-4836

Their Ensenada style and blackened fish tacos are great. Pair these up with either black (saltier) or pinto beans and white rice and your choice of 7 or 8 Mexican beers and you’ll see why this place is regularly filled to capacity.

Best Asada (steak) Tacos:

Tito’s La Especial (two locations)
503 W 17th St Santa Ana, CA 92706 and 701 N Harbor Blvd Santa Ana, CA 92703

These are larger than the common “street” taco at places like De Anda, Guadalajara, Tapatía or Tacos México. The guacamole makes these stand apart from the rest.

Honorable Mentions:

El Toro, El Metate, Super Antojitos, Taquerías Guadalajara, and El Gallo Giro

Best Tacos de Carnitas:

Carnicería El Toro
1340 W 1st St
Santa Ana, CA 92703

El Toro’s motto, El que no conoce a El Toro, no conoce a Santa Ana, (He who doesn’t know El Toro, doesn’t know Santa Ana), is painted on the entrance to the market.

A generous serving of carnitas in two of their Best in Santa Ana Take Home Tortillas make this one a winner.

Best Torta de Asada: (Steak sandwich)

Taquerías Tapatía (both locations)
1118 W 1st St Santa Ana, CA 92703 and 202 S Bristol St, Santa Ana, CA 92703

These are the best. Everything from the bread, the meat and the guacamole make this one a winner. The fact that this place is constantly busy means continuos fresh meat thrown on the grill, not reheated.

Honorable Mentions:

La Cemita Poblana
519 S. Main St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 664-0892

La Cemita serves up humongous tortas cubanas but it is their cemitas that they specialize in. These are made with sesame seed bread buns, the size used for tortas.

Tortas Sinaloa
701 S Harbor Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 775-6000

This spot has a dizzying menu of torta combinations, but it’s probably better to go there when they are most busy to ensure that their meats are being grilled in real time, and not reheated.

El Gallo Giro
1442 S Bristol St
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 549-2011

Their tortas are seemingly all the size of a torta cubana.

Best Pollo Asado: (Grilled Chicken)

Don Jacinto

2413 S Fairview St, Ste H
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 434-0821

Their chicken is consistently juicier than El Pollo Norteño, which has been habitually serving drier meat in recent years.

Best Take Home Tortillas:

Carnicería El Toro

El Toro stood the test of time and still has the best take home tortillas in Santa Ana, or anywhere. It’s weathered the coming of newer Santa Ana tortillerías like Northgate González Market, La Copa de Oro, and La Flor de Mexicali, easily.

For over 30 years, El Toro is my family’s choice and we’ve tried the rest.

Best Pan Dulce: (Bakery, sweat breads)

Rosa’s Panadería y Pastelería (Formerly Panadería Tlaxcala)
1011 S Fairview St
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 550-9589

Their conchas are larger than other panaderías and their bolillos, aka bollos, (bread buns) are tastier than other bakeries especially when they’re fresh.

Honorable Mentions:

La Abejita
2509 W McFadden Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 550-9759

This is another frequented bakery by my family, but Rosa’s is still more frequented.

El Metate (Formerly Ruben’s Panadería)
For years this was the spot of Ruben’s Panadería on site at Carnicería El Toro’s premises. El Metate, which has a market and taco shop further up the street on First and Standard, moved into this location in what looks like an encroachment into El Toro’s business.

Best Champurrado:

Taquerías Guadalajara

Guadalajara takes the cake thanks to their inclusion of a buñuelo with a cup of champurrado, which is un buen detalle.

Honorable Mention:

Taquerías Tapatía

Best Flan

Rosa’s Panadería (Formerly Panadería Tlaxcala)

A generous portion, and rich in flavor, is what flan should be. Rosa’s has this down. Other places are bland and stingy compared to Rosa’s.

Got any suggestions? Comment below.

Part II: Mariscos


2 thoughts on “Best of Santa Ana: Mexican Food, Part I

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