Best Mexican Restaurant – Orange County Register

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1. El Ranchito d’Avila

Multiple locations; avilaselranchito.com

Salvador Avila, who came to the United States from Mexico, opened his first restaurant 55 years ago in Huntington Park with five picnic tables. Now it has morphed into 13 restaurants in Orange and Los Angeles counties run by Avila’s children.

Maribel Avila Ley, co-owner of three locations, says food consistency is guaranteed at all of them. “Customers come back again and again because they know our staff and are treated like family.

“My grandma taught her kids, who taught us… to stick to the simplicity of great food and really good service. Never cut corners; treat people with respect. Mama Avila (my grandmother) understood this.

Recipes from Mexico’s matriarch dating back generations populate menu items ranging from soups and carnitas to fajitas, enchiladas and more. Of course, there are also Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday specials.

Since last year, restaurants have upgraded their takeout and outdoor dining businesses. “We had a great time getting creative with take-out margaritas,” says Avila Ley. “Our hugely popular party and family packs are always a hit, but now you can add margaritas.”

New promotions are regularly posted on the Instagram pages of the locations. The Mercado Margarita in Huntington Beach, available Tuesday nights, is “made with ingredients from the Surf City Farmers Market right out front. It’s a great way to support locals.

2. The Farolito

201 S. Bradford Ave, Placentia; 714-993-7880; elfarolitomex.com

Another family business, El Farolito was started in 1974 by the Sandoval family and serves good old-fashioned Mexican food, like combo plates, at reasonable prices.

Food critic Brad A. Johnson has praised the restaurant’s tampiqueño steak with grilled jalapeños and caramelized onions and carne asada nachos in the past. All kinds of eggs are on the breakfast menu. There are lunch specials, big burritos, tostada salads and more.

Yelp reviewer Sandra L. from Orange County said the food is “so tasty here. I don’t even like refried beans, but El Farolito makes them so good that I’m now a refried bean addict. The portions here are generous. My husband and I shared a Jr plate and chose the chili relleno ($0.75 extra) as the only item and it came with rice and beans. We also ordered a cup of Menudo (available on weekends only). We liked everything. Every item was freshly made, well seasoned and well priced.

3. Torito

Multiple locations; eltorito.com

Larry J. Cano founded this Mexican restaurant in 1954 out of an Encino Tiki bar. The first OC location opened in Newport Beach in 1973.

Randy Sharpe, CEO and President of El Torito, says, “It’s a celebration of family, food and community and that’s why so many customers feel at home when they dine at El Torito. The fresh, made-from-scratch cuisine and the warm hospitality of the staff make your meal something to enjoy and come back to.

Regular customers tend to rave about the table settings, the made-to-order guacamole, the flame-grilled fajitas, the taco Tuesdays, the Saturday breakfast menu with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. Then there are the very popular Happy Hour food and drink specials for $4, $6, and $8.

“El Torito continues to innovate and present seasonal specials throughout the year,” notes Sharpe. “Our latest Tacos Vampiros with cheese and jalapeños, grilled directly on the tortilla before being filled with marinated and grilled steak, were very popular.”

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