I’ve always thought that Spoons Grill & Bar is a chain, but it turns out, Spoons has been independently owned for a decade now. There is only one Spoons Grill & Bar left, and the menu is completely different from what it used to be. It is essentially a sports bar, but also has that pseudo diner feel about it. None of this matters to me. All I care about is whether the food is good or not.
Situated at Santa Ana’s “hotel row” off the 55 freeway’s Dyer exit, you probably have driven past it without giving it a glance. I know I have. The boy and his dad are always looking for a spot to go watch the game and grab a bite to eat, usually, somewhere I’m not excited about, so more often than not, I don’t join them. However, that might soon be a thing of the past.
The first thing I notice is the heavy Mexican influenced menu. I’m a huge fan of soups, and even though the weather is warm, I am eager to try Chicken Tortilla Soup ($7 bowl/$3 cup add on with an entree) a tomato-base soup swimming with chunks of grilled chicken, onions, garlic and Mexican herbs topped with mixed cheeses, cilantro and crispy fried strips of corn tortillas. This is as good as the one I make at home!
Next is Albondigas Soup ($8 bowl/$3 cup add on with an entree) a robust broth with a savory meatball made from Angus beef, chopped garlic, onions, and Yerba Buena (an herb reminiscent of bergamot mint). I am impressed by the temperature of both soups — scorching hot — which is just the way I like it. There is nothing worse than a tepid soup unless it’s meant to be enjoyed chilled.
Since we are having a hard time deciding between several appetizers, we settle on Ceviche & Cocktail Combo ($14) which gives us a single portion of ceviche tostada ($9.50 a la carte) with a full order of shrimp cocktail ($12 a la carte) on a plate. The shrimp cocktail comprises large marinated shrimp in a zesty sauce of Clamato, avocado, onions, Serrano chile, tomatoes and cilantro which reminds me of the ones I enjoy on the Baja peninsula. The tostada is no different. A crispy tostada is topped with marinated chopped fish in citrus, Serrano chile, avocado, onions, fresh cilantro and tomatoes. This is the stuff we eat standing up in Ensenada off a roadside stand.
Since the Mexican fare has been super thus far, we continue with some more options when it comes time for our main courses.
I’ve eaten fish tacos off the coast of Baja, California several times, so when I bite into Baja Fish Tacos ($10.50) I am happy to say, they are just as good as the ones south of the border. Two corn tortillas are stuffed with crispy fried fish, topped with shredded Jack cheese, julienned cabbage and pico de gallo.
Sizzling Fajitas: Trio Combo ($23) is a huge portion enough to share between two people. A large sizzling plate arrives with steak, chicken and shrimp on a bed of julienned vegetables. There is Spanish rice and beans — although I must admit, I didn’t care much for the beans — as well as a side of Cheddar cheese and sour cream, and your choice of corn or flour tortillas.
We are curious how the American-style fare holds up against the Mexican, so we select a sandwich of Classic Clubhouse ($11) a generous portion of sourdough bread with mayo, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, Swiss cheese, avocado, crispy bacon and sliced turkey. They also come with a good amount of fries.
Tequila Chicken Penne ($12.50) will appeal to everyone who isn’t into Mexican food (I don’t know any but I’m sure they’re out there). The penne pasta is cooked perfectly al dente and tossed with red peppers, red onions, cilantro and a tequila cream sauce. A whole chicken breast sits on top of the pasta sprinkled with cheese and finished off in the salamander. It tastes even better the next day!
We ended with Choconana ($6) a fried flauta stuffed with sliced bananas and melted chocolate coated with cinnamon sugar.
There is a scoop of ice cream and it is quite tasty albeit a bit sweet for me with the chocolate inside the flauta. Next time, I will have that on the side.
Spoons will celebrate its 10th anniversary this week. I’m so stoked to find this hidden eatery — and so close to us — with solid fare and amazing prices.
I notice there are a lot of regular customers. They’re the ones who walk in and chat to Norma and oftentimes, I will see her giving them a hug. Throughout our meal, I see Norma walk around the dining room making sure everyone is doing okay. She stops by our table often and gives us her infectious smile, making us immediately feel cheerful. Our server Oscar is also absolutely amazing. He is super efficient making sure we aren’t waiting too long for our food, and keeps our water glasses always full. We will be back!
Spoons Grill & Bar
2601 Hotel Terrace
Santa Ana, CA 92705