Taco Mesa in Orange is one of those eateries that attracts a diversity of customers so typical in California. This fast-casual restaurant embodies a warm environment with friendly staff, and a menu that is both affordable and tasty. However, it is the restaurant’s house-made tortillas, using non-GMO corn, that is the biggest draw for me. These soft, perfectly textured tortillas are packed with that distinctive aromas of corn, possessing a great chew, that I am utterly enamored by.
But before we dig into the tortillas, my group nibble on appetizers such as Stuffed Jalapeños ($3) with fresh pico de gallo, queso, and crema fresca; crispy Tlayuditas ($8) filled pinto beans, mole pipian, panela cheese, purslane, watermelon radish, and heirloom tomato; and Guacamole ($4) a perfectly creamy consistency with chunks of avocado dotted throughout.
Queso Fundido ($12) is rich and gooey, but the bowl cools down too quickly which congeals the four-cheese blend, layered with mushrooms, and rajas. It becomes difficult to maneuver once the cheese hardens, and before you’re able to finish the bowl.
Esquites ($6) is hard to resist. The kernels of roasted sweet corn enveloped in a concoction of lime juice, queso fresco, epazote, serrano pepper, and garlic butter, makes my mouth salivate just thinking about it.
For those looking for a lighter approach, try King Tostada ($7.50) a salad served in a tostada bowl layered with hearts of romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, chile sauce, beans, and melted cheeses, tossed with lime vinaigrette, and topped with avocado, sliced carrot, and jicama. Add protein for a complete, meal (Blackened Chicken $11/Steak $12/Salmon $12).
My first introduction to Taco Mesa a decade ago was its signature lobster burrito. Tonight, we order Lobster ($5) tacos on blue corn tortillas. Cabbage adobada, pico de gallo, carrot, and jicama sit atop the succulent chunks of lobster. This is decadent and without a doubt, one of the best items on the menu.
If you’re looking for tacos, this is THE place to be. “Best of the West” Blackened Tacos Calamari ($3.75) is a must! The strips of calamari are tender and dusted with a seasoning best described as tantalizing on my tongue. The tacos are topped with chipotle sauce, cabbage relish, crema fresca, and cheese.
Carne Asada ($9) is a straightforward entrée for those looking for red meat options. Charbroiled skirt steak is served with grilled scallions, avocado, and piping hot tortillas (your choice of corn or flour).
Pescatarians will love Pescado Veracruz ($12) a lightly battered wild red snapper, topped with sautéed sweet peppers, onion, capers, olives, and caldillo sauce (a light tomato sauce from Oaxaca). Although I love the tortillas, I prefer this dish with rice!
Taco Mesa is perfect for the whole family. There is something suited for everyone, and the price tag is affordable even when you have a large family to feed. And of course, the hand-made tortillas are the icing on the cake!
3533 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92869
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