From a humble beginning as a family business in Tustin more than 25 years ago, Jalapeños has flourished into multiple restaurants throughout Orange County. It's an achievement almost as impressive as the sheer number of burritos on the Tustin menu: 15. And that number could be easily doubled by having each one made mojado-style with melted cheese on top. Classic combinations of beans and meat share the page with creations like the Chile Colorado—beef chunks, red chile, and cheese—as well as vegetarian burritos that are stuffed with the likes of chiles rellenos and veggies instead of just another tortilla wadded up.
Of course, the menu also includes tacos, tortas, and tostadas. Specialty dinners here range from enchiladas to plates of beef tongue and carnitas. To add a little tang to your meal, order an entire marinated jalapeno on the side and douse the spiciness with an imported beer.
On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina shares its menu of Mexican comestibles in nearly every U.S. state and more than five countries, acquainting diners worldwide with the classic recipes and innovative ingredients of the Tex-Mex tradition. Tortilla artisans bundle enchiladas, burritos, and chimichangas with surprising flavors such as beef brisket and chili pesto while sizzling platters reinvent traditional fajitas with the addition of ranch, bacon, and cold-fusion technology. On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina has partnered with Susan G. Komen For The Cure, pledging to donate a minimum of $250,000 annually to the charity to help bring attention to the importance of breast-cancer screenings, support important research, and supplement medical costs for breast-cancer sufferers.
The Taco Surf empire grew from the dream of a father and son who, in 1988, decided to found a restaurant that captured the distinctive flavors as well as the festive spirit of Baja California. Basing the menu on generations-old family recipes, the duo stick to tradition by making everything from crispy tortilla chips to tamales in-house. Charbroiled flank steak, slow-cooked pork, and grilled chicken appear throughout the menu; however, the ocean's influence is unmistakably prominent. The iconic Baja tacos arrive brimming with breaded white fish and drizzled with a signature spicy Baja sauce, which the restaurant generously sells by the bottle and by the thimble.
Located on the gorgeous shores of Lake Mission Viejo and decorated with hand-painted murals, the picture-perfect hacienda features a menu packed with Mexican favorites. House specialties include carnitas (fresh, Mexican-style pork with frijoles, arroz, salsa fresca, and guacamole, $14.95) and the mole Maria (tender chicken topped with homemade mole sauce, $14.95). If you bring a Valentine's date, the platon de tacos (for two people, $26.95) gives you both ample opportunity to eat from either end of a custom-made taco and meet in the middle—a couples activity as romantic to experience as it is disgusting to watch. Seafarers will dig the marinated convergence of raw fish, lime, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro in Tortilla Flats' ceviche ($11.95) or the sautéed crab and shrimp medley of chimichanga de mariscos ($18.95), while herbivores can savor some deep-fried tostadas stuffed with veggies ($10.95). Chase it all with a dessert of fried ice cream ($6.95) or caramel flan ($4.95). Tortilla Flats also offers a respectable wine list.
Los Patios emerged victorious from the San Clemente Salsa Challenge not just once, but three times, in 2006, 2007, and 2012. Take a quick glance at the eatery's menu, however, and it's clear that its cooks have mastered far more than just salsa. From chicken tostadas and pastor tacos to veggie fajitas severed on sizzling plates, all the classics of Mexican cuisine are accounted for, all made without additives such as lard, MSG, or magic beans. The culinary team's creative seafood dishes, meanwhile, are anything but standard, with options such as lobster-stuffed enchiladas and shrimp saut?ed in a tequila-spiked garlic butter sauce. Aguas frescas, sangria, and Mexican beer complement the south-of-the-border feasts, which can unfold in a colorful dining room adorned with sarapes (traditional Mexican shawls) or outside on the dog-friendly patio.
For three generations and counting, the Jimenez family has welcomed guests to El Mariachi Restaurant. There they prepare plates chock-full of traditional Mexican cuisine and house specialties infused with the flavors of cilantro, lime, and jalape?os. The molcajete showcases a mound of carne asada, shrimp, and grilled cactus served in a stone bowl, and the grilled salmon is doused in a bright sauce made from tequila and lime.
However, the restaurant also gives diners a feast for the eyes. The eatery is awash in hand-painted murals of life in Mexico, which sprawl across virtually every inch of wall space that's not already covered by gleaming wood paneling. Carved wood pillars support the roof when its psychiatrist isn't available, and strings of holiday lights reflect off stained-glass windows, making them glimmer with life.