>Santa Ana, home to literally hundreds if not thousands of Mexican restaurants I know I will never be able to fully explore nor appreciate just due to sheer logistics. Once in a while, I will chance upon one which is notable, but most of the time, it’s due to word of mouth or from Yelp. One such place is Sahuayo Primo, a little hole-in-the-wall which a friend of mine brought me to. The place is not easy to find. There is no real signage except for a few words on its window. The store front boasts a red awning, but that’s about it. The only way to describe it is that it’s on Main between St Andrews Place and Gertrude but much closer to Gertrude, almost at the corner.. Street parking is available if you’re lucky but there isn’t parking right in front of the store if that’s what you’re looking for.
There is chicharron in the window and only five small tables dot the narrow space inside allowing only about 15 people maximum seating, although I didn’t see that many chairs in there to accommodate. The menu hangs above the counter and it is simple: tortas, plates or tacos. Tacos are $1.89 each while the plates were $7.50. The meat choices are good: carne asada, al pastor, carnitas (pictured top), lengua, cabeza, birria and a few others I can’t remember now. Both my friend and I opted for three tacos each and we found a table to sit down at. There is a salsa bar consisting of pickled carrots, pickled onions, three types of salsas, onions, cilantro, limes, everything you need to top your tacos with.
The tacos come au naturel — tortillas and meat, nothing else. You are responsible for dressing your own tacos and that’s the way I like. I started with the lengua but found it very bland and tasteless. The pickled onions are marinated with habaneros so they take on a spicier quality about them which added a lot to the lengua, but I took two bites and quickly moved on to the al pastor. Now, this is a taco! the al pastor was extremely flavorful and it wasn’t too greasy — my friend said the last time he was here, the al pastor was super greasy. I topped it with everything and especially loved the smokiness of the chipotle salsa, but when I returned to the bar to get more pickled onions, the man asked me if I liked spicy, if I wanted some chile. I said sure! He went into his walk in refrigerator and brought out a green salsa with the consistency of the green guacamole sauce they serve at El Pollo Loco, but this one had a serious bite to it. It was absolutely fantastic! Even my friend started adding this to his tacos.
By the time I got to my carnitas taco I was a pro at dressing my taco — a little of this, a little of that, but definitely a lot of the pickled onions and the spicy green salsa. These tacos weren’t your average street taco-sized tacos. These were decent-sized and the guy packed the meat on! I was stuffed after two tacos. I tried my friend’s cabeza, but wasn’t impressed by that since it was similarly underseasoned like the lengua.
I’ve already decided that if and when I do return, I’m sticking to the al pastor and carnitas. These two were definitely fabulous and honestly, I’m already stuffed with just the two! Cash only!
Sahuayo Primo, 2056 S Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92707. Tel: 714-957-8821