A major treat for aficionados of authentic Mexican cuisine is the
emergence in Food Village of Taco Mesa.
Launched a few weeks ago as an instant replacement to La Fogata,
the popular Orange County venue came as a big surprise, especially to
locals familiar with the concept created in 1991 by brothers Marco,
Ivan and Sergio Calderon.
On my initial visit, some enthusiastic patrons revealed their
delight that this local facility will save frequent trips to Costa
Mesa, where they often drove to savor the high quality and affordable
Noting the incredibly extensive menu, we soon discovered that
everything is prepared to order using fresh ingredients assembled
every morning. "No lard, MSG, preservatives, coloring or additives,"
the menu says.
The first impression is from glance at the complimentary condiment
bar, a bountiful array of every conceivable embellishment to further
enhance the taste treats awaiting. Large and small containers are at
the ready to heap with freshly chopped cilantro, onions, crunchy
cabbage relish, lemon and lime wedges and hot to mild salsas of
avocado, tomatillo and roasted tomato.
Starting with "breakfast served all day," there is so much to
admire about the inventive recipes that account for this newest
success in the thriving quintet of Taco Mesas. Blackened calamari,
shrimp, fish and chicken add an interesting dimension to tacos,
burrotes (big burritos) tortas, quesadillas, nachos and tostadas.
These are priced from $2.69 to $5.99, most served with pinto beans
A popular $5.99 combination offers a choice of two entrees -- a
taquito, enchilada, taco or tamale. Flavorful enhancements to various
dishes include such tastes as chile mayonnaise, sour cream sauce, a
blend of lightly crumbled cheeses, pico mesa relish and crisp pumpkin
A favorite specialty is the plump chili relleno, a large
egg-battered pasilla pepper bountifully blanketed with fresh chunky
"cadillo" tomato sauce. At $3.69 a la carte, this treat oozes a
volcano of spicy chili jack cheese when pierced.
Twin corn tacos bedding fried pork carnitas, marinated al pastor
pork and carne asada are $1.69; red and blue corn tortilla tacos
crowned with shredded beef, chicken or vegetables, $1.99. Blackened
shrimp, fish, calamari or chicken in what are billed as New Wave
tacos are all less than $3. These top a red and a blue tortilla with
chile mayonnaise, sour cream and a blend of cheeses.
Other a la carte creations are stuffed jalapenos, enchiladas and
tortillas, taquitos, sour cream and guacamole from 69 cents to $2.99.
Beyond all this bounty, look for daily offerings of intriguing
soups and entrees. For instance, Thursday's velvety lobster bisque,
the identical recipe from Marco's realm at famed Chanteclair, and
Monday's creamy roasted tomato soup. These are $1.99 for small and
$3.99 for large servings.
Papaya and mango butter relishes distinguish daily arrivals of
such fresh fare as red snapper, catfish and swordfish, all a nominal
Accolades too for the Burrito Arizona. At $6.99 this big flour
tortilla is wrapped around perfectly grilled chicken breast, which
has been sauteed in chipotle cream sauce with spinach, mushrooms,
tomatoes, onions, topped with three sauces and served with saffron
rice and pinto beans.
A sweet example of this decidedly gourmet cuisine at fast food
prices is the luscious, velvety cream cheese flan dessert. This $3.49
winner, served on a paper plate, is a delectably creamy mound posed
on a pool of vanilla custard artistically drizzled with dark burnt
sugar sauce and enhanced with fresh berries.
Each and every dish is meticulously packaged for take-out or ready
to enjoy at one of the al fresco tables that make Laguna's Food Court
a winning attraction for locals and tourists.
In addition to Mexican coffee and soft drinks, sangria, cervezas
and wine will soon be offered.
* GLORI FICKLING is a long-time Laguna Beach resident who has
specialized in reporting restaurant news and views since 1966. She
may be contacted at 494-4710 or by e-mail at email@example.com.