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.
Though Cafe Del Sol’s chefs largely stick closely to the restaurant’s Mexican theme, they’re not afraid to throw in a few American favorites, either. Chefs are equally skilled at grilling carne asada and artfully preparing shrimp fajitas as they are at creating tiered club sandwiches and sizzling double cheeseburgers. The sunny restaurant is the perfect place to sample all the cuisine’s varied dishes or rank tortillas by their taste, texture, and which one doesn’t remind you of the napkin that ruined your last date by being so tasty.
From 14-hour days during the beginnings of their first restaurant in Long Beach more than 37 years ago, Super Mex founders Manuel and Socorro Orozco built franchises across Southern California. Inspired by the local cuisine of the village he was born in—Villa Jimenez, Michoacan, Mexico—Manuel brought his passion for traditional Mexican food to California, where the business grew with a dedicated following of college students. Striving to craft dishes that taste homemade, Super Mex offers Mexican classics such as burritos, tostadas, and flautas.
Although originally a Mexican restaurant, these days, Senor Big Ed is more like a trip to Puerto Rico, from the cuisine to the flags on display. And, as Miles Clements writes for the Los Angeles Times, “past those patriotic goods are wispy white curtains and sun-bleached walls…light and bright enough to recall a breezy beach scene despite its landlocked location on Lincoln Avenue.” If the decor alone doesn’t transport diners, the food will: helpings of mofongo (plantains, pork rinds, and garlic), plus roasted leg of pork and stewed beef impart signature Puerto Rican flavor, not unlike a bite of the fortress walls surrounding Old San Juan.
Chefs at La Cocina pick fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding area to build Mexican and Cuban plates as colorful as the eatery's bright orange walls or a firework-filled piñata. After rounds of fresh ceviche or ham croquetas, rustic wooden tabletops fill with made-to-order rice dishes such as the palomilla empanizada—thin-pounded top sirloin steak breaded and pan-fried—or stone mortars known as molcajete filled with chorizo or seafood and fresh cheese. For dessert, chefs hand-craft creamy flan or natural shakes made with mango or tropical mamey fruit. A tiled chair rail runs along the restaurant's tangerine walls, which are studded with Mexican-style art and framed photographs of famous burritos that have visited the restaurant.
No matter how delicious the fillings, an otherwise promising taco can be easily ruined by a subpar tortilla—a complaint Gabriel of Xotl Burrito never faces. With a simple combination of corn masa and water, the Puebla, Mexico-area native hand-makes corn tortillas each and every day for his burritos, tacos, and sopes. And at Xotl, which means “fresh” in Aztec, tortillas aren’t the only house-made items. Gabriel follows his Mama Loreto’s recipes for seasoning and grilling succulent meats, such as carne asada and chicken, boosted by fixings from the fresh salsa bar. He spikes shaved ice, or raspados, with seasonal fruits, and even adds American food to the mix by creating burgers dressed with bacon, cheese, and a top hat.