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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Little Onion Mexican Restaurant - Review #1

110 W Macarthur Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Official Site

Appetizer: Chips and Hot Sauce
Entree: Arroz con Pollo

Little Onion - Exterior

I'd never even heard of Little Onion but I saw it when driving away from the dealership where my car had just got a checkup so I made a U-turn and pulled into their parking lot. This place doesn't jump out at you because it's just part of a little strip mall and I assumed it'd be slow but it was actually quite busy and there were people fighting for parking spaces. I'm not even entirely sure the place I parked was actually a parking spot.

When I went in the downstairs was so full that I was led to a table in the upstairs loft area which was an interesting spot because I was seated right near what appeared to be a roof below the main roof of the building, sort of an inside roof with potted plants all over it and even a couple old brooms.

This restaurant seems to fit firmly into what I think of as your "standard sit-down Mexican restaurants," one of those places that has been around 30-plus years and is a lot like all the other Mexican restaurants that cropped up around the same time. Nothing too inventive but sometimes you just want a familiar experience.

The menu was pretty standard and I ordered a bowl of arroz con pollo, which arrived quickly, filled me up quick, and sat well. No rice or beans (well, I guess the rice was already in the bowl and I don't mind skipping the beans every once in a while) but there were nice, hot corn tortillas and butter and some lettuce and guacamole on the side.

Overall the experience was just above average so Little Onion warrants a three Speedy Gonzales rating:

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These photos were taken more than three years after my initial visit. Click any of them to be taken to the complete photo album:

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Taco Rosa - Review #1 Update



Okay, so I went back to Taco Rosa the day after my last visit. I had only gone the first time because I knew I'd be near there the next day with somebody who had said before that they don't particularly like Taco Rosa . . . but when I was out with them that's where they wanted to go. So, if somebody who doesn't like Taco Rosa still wants to go there then it must be good. And this time they brought the free appetizers right out. It was a mini tostada and a chimichanga. We also tried the mango and fresa (strawberry) aguas frescas and I had a very good zucchini quesadilla (known on the menu as flor de calabaza; it might sound funny but don't knock it till you try it) and we shared a cheesecake flan which came this time decorated with fresh raspberries.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Taco Rosa - Review #1

2632 San Miguel Road
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Listing on Yahoo! Local

Official Site

Appetizer: Mini Tostada
Entree: Chile Relleno Salad
Drink: Mixed Fruit aguas fresca
Dessert: Cheesecake Flan

I decided to stop here for a quick lunch on this day-after-Christmas day but when I arrived the whole atmosphere seemed rather languorous so I adjusted my pace to the current pace of the restaurant. I can't blame them for seeming a little slow on a day when many people are not working so I took advantage of any downtime by reading the book I had brought in with me.

Taco Rosa is one of my favorite Mexican places. I guess it is "fast casual" but, if so, it is on the higher end of the fast casual spectrum. Instead of bringing the usual chips and salsa to your table as an appetizer they bring each person in the party a specially handcrafted item such as a tostadito, taquito, or gordita. I believe they have one cook who does nothing other than make appetizers and desserts. Today though I didn't get an appetizer when I arrived. I didn't complain because, after all, it is free and who am I to demand free food?

I started out by ordering an aguas fresca to drink. Every day they prepare two different flavors of these fresh fruit juices and today they had pineapple and mixed fruit. I chose the mixed fruit and it turned out to be a refreshing concoction with watermelon figuring heavy in the mix.



The mere fact alone that they offer aguas frescas is a big plus in my book. I don't drink alcohol and sometimes water alone is fine but sometimes I like to have a drink with some flavor to it. Sodas fit the bill quite often but I find that the carbonation in soda mixed with the spiciness of Mexican food can be a little too much of a double whammy, so their aguas frescas are perfect. Other flavors I've had on my visits so far have been watermelon (all by itself), cantalope, mango, honeydew (excellent!), raspberry, tamarind, jamaica, and maybe one or two others. A waitress there once told me their grape aguas fresca is particularly good but I haven't been fortunate enough to be there yet on a day when it was being offered.

They seemed to have a new menu today, one that's slightly more colorful than their prior version and now contains pictures of a few of the items. I kept looking for the postres (desserts) section on the menu but couldn't find it so I was left wondering if they stopped giving free appetizers AND stopped offering dessert items.

For an entree I ordered a chile relleno salad from their relatively new lunch menu. I wondered just what a chile relleno salad might be like and it turns out that it is, simply enough, a chile relleno (a very good one, mind you) on a bed of lettuce greens. I only have a very cursory knowledge of the Atkins diet but I imagine this menu item would be rather Atkins-friendly. When I was done my waiter asked me if I would like any dessert but I still wasn't filled up lunchwise yet so I asked if they still gave out the free appetizers. He then realized that I had never received an appetizer so he came back a minute or two later with a made-to-order mini tostada with some escabeche (spicy pickled onions and carrots) on the side and that filled me up just right.

Then the subject of dessert came up again. He mentioned their chocolate-covered strawberry dish and their fried sopapilla dish. I have had all of their desserts at least once if not more and they are all very good but the two dishes mentioned are too big for one person (unless I'm particularly hungry . . . and they don't do half-size desserts any more like they used to) so I ordered the flan. I don't know if it was to apologize for forgetting the appetizer at the beginning of the meal but when the flan came it had been prepared in an especially fancy manner accompanied by two chocolate-covered strawberries. It was the perfect way to finish off the meal.

Overall the experience warrants a five Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Follow our Taco Rosa label below or CLICK HERE for our very extensive coverage (and dozens of photos) of both Taco Rosa locations. If you are only looking at "Taco Rosa - Review #1" you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.