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SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudoMexican Flavors on the High Seas

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Legend of Gringo Bandito

Smokin' hot off the presses, like fresh smoke drifting off the barrels of Gringo Bandito's two just-fired revolvers, comes the first announcement to the public of the availability of new Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce, formulated by the legendary Gringo Bandito himself, better known as Dexter Holland, the singer for punk group The Offspring and founder of Nitro Records. Dexter, a longtime Orange County resident, set out a couple years ago to concoct the quintessential hot sauce and has finally arrived at the perfect combination with a mixture of habañero peppers, jalapeño peppers, red japanese chili peppers, and a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. Or maybe seven herbs and spices. Who's counting?


Having not had any homemade Mexican food around since receiving my sample jars I have only been able to try it on some KFC food and have to admit it was very friendly to my taste buds.

Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce is only available online at the moment but while you're ordering be sure to pick up some Gringo Bandito t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and frisbees. The site also has plenty of recipes (someone sure knew how to use style sheets to make the recipes very printer-friendly), photos, testimonials, and more. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up seeing a jar of Gringo Bandito on a table in a Mexican restaurant someday.

UPDATE: Have just been told by my cousin who works at Nitro that Gringo Bandito can already be found on tables at the following Orange County restaurants:

  • Fiesta Grill (HB)
  • Cancun (HB)
  • Normita's Surf City Tacos (HB)
  • Las Barcas (HB)
  • TK Burger (CM, NB, HB)
  • Chronic Cantina (CM)
  • Pancho's (Orange)
  • Azteca's (FV)
  • Molcajete Grill (FV)
* Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce Official Site *

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tortilla Jo's - Review #1



Date of Visits: August 12 and October 18, 2006
Tortilla Jo's
@ Downtown Disney
1510 S Disneyland Dr, Bldg. A
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 535-5000

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Tortilla Jo's - Logo

IMPORTANT NOTE: We have covered literally every Mexican place there is at Disneyland (including Tortilla Jo's Taqueria and some you don't know about). You can find all that coverage at once by CLICKING HERE. Many people do not find the information they are looking for simply because they do not click that link. Don't be one of those people.

Tortilla Jo's - Exterior

Back in early 2000 I had just graduated from college in Hawaii (it's a hard life, I know) and made a trip to Disneyland. In the lobby of the theater where you can see the audioanimatronic Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address were concept art paintings of a coming nightlife district being built adjacent to Disneyland to be called "Downtown Disney." The paintings made it look like the Sunset Strip, or the Vegas Strip (pick your "Strip"), and the only detail I specifically remember was a Hard Rock Cafe. Well, by the time Downtown Disney opened in January 2001 the Hard Rock Cafe had become the House of Blues and just across the walkway from it was a two-story dance club called Arriba! Arriba!

Tortilla Jo's - Patio Seating

I'm guessing the public couldn't quite get used to the idea of a hipster night club operating at Disneyland but for one reason or another Arriba! Arriba! eventually went out of business and from its ashes arose a Mexican-themed restaurant: Tortilla Jo's.

Tortilla Jo's - Old Dessert Menu

It's not as "Disney-fied" as you might think, though. It's certainly less Disney-oriented than the Mexican restaurant in Disneyland proper (review coming sometime in the not too distant future) and the one in Disney's California Adventure. All three Mexican restaurants found in the Disneyland resort are completely separate from each other with their own very distinct identities. In fact, Tortilla Jo's is run by the Patina Group which also runs the high end Mediterranean restaurant Catal and Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, both also at Downtown Disney, all of which are headed by celebrity chef Joachim Splichal.

In addition to their inside seating and their patio seating (which share the same menu) they also have a takeout window ("Tortilla Jo's Taqueria") with a somewhat different menu. I believe they have frozen fruit bars as a dessert item at their takeout window. (UPDATE: See new review on Tortilla Jo's Taqueria.)

Tortilla Jo's Taqueria

On the first visit my friend Chris ordered the flautas appetizer as an entree:

Tortilla Jo's - Flautas

And I ordered the Mango Chicken Torta, a chicken breast sandwich with mango salsa and fried plantain strips on the side:

Tortilla Jo's - Mango Chicken Torta

When you order flan you actually get two little flans:

Tortilla Jo's - Flan

Chris ordered the chocolate ice cream brownie:

Tortilla Jo's -

He still had food to take back home so he was given this fancy takeout bag:

Tortilla Jo's - Fancy Takeout Bag


Tortilla Jo's - Wall Faces

On the next visit, two months later, I ordered the chile relleno/chicken and potato combo with sauteed vegetables in place of the beans and they really loaded the plate up with the vegetables:

Tortilla Jo's - Combo Plate

Chris ordered the carnitas platter (he's the carnitas guy) and reported that it was excellent:

Tortilla Jo's - Carnitas Platter

Service was excellent and personalized each time I went. On the second visit my friend was late meeting up with me and one of the waitresses let me use her cell phone to call him (yeah, I'm part of the dying breed of the cell phone-challenged).

Tortilla Jo's - Decorations

On the second visit I ordered the Pastel de Tres Leches, which the waitress on the first visit kept trying to get me to order. When I finally tasted it, I knew why she had been recommending it. This is a baked sponge cake soaking in three types of milk and topped with caramel frosting. It is so rich that it can easily be shared by two people.

Tortilla Jo's - Pastel de Tres Leches


The Hollywood Cookbook

For those who like to experiment with making their own food, Tortilla Jo's also offers cooking classes held every quarter. And their chef, Joachim Splichal, is a featured chef in the Hollywood Cookbook, although I'm not sure whether or not any of his recipes in it are for Mexican food.

Tortilla Jo's earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

Update

"ChubbyPanda" from the Epicurious Wanderer blog has pointed out that Speedy Gonzales is a Warner Bros. character, not a Disney character, and that that might create a conflict of interest. So in the interest of not creating a conflict of interest, and jumping at the chance to utilize one of my favorite Disney characters, I now state that Tortilla Jo's at Downtown Disney earns a four "Panchito" rating:

Panchito Panchito Panchito Panchito

Contest

Four Speedy Gonzaleses Panchitos go to the first person who can identify what Disney movie Panchito is from, but five Panchitos go to the first person who can give his full name.

UPDATE: Four Panchitos go to Nick who correctly pointed out in the comments that Panchito is a character from the old Disney movie The Three Caballeros.

Panchito Panchito Panchito Panchito

However, we are still waiting to see if somebody can give Panchito's full name. "Panchito Pistoles" is a nickname. His full proper name begins with "Panchito," has five middle names, and then the last name.

UPDATE (November 26, 2006): "Anonymous" has correctly given Panchito's full name as Panchito Romero Miguel Junipero Francisco Quintero Gonzales, so s/he earns the prize of five Panchitos:

Panchito Panchito Panchito Panchito Panchito

Read more about Panchito at Toonopedia

Read more of our Tortilla Jo's coverage (we have two more reviews and more pictures) or all our Disneyland Mexican food coverage by clicking the appropriate label below:

Friday, October 27, 2006

OC FlipTrack & Roundup #7

While I'm prepping the next reviews to be posted here I thought I'd mention a non-food-related blog that recently linked to this blog: OC FlipTrack - Orange County Housing Bubble Blog. We get many visits from them and the people they refer stay here for a long time and read many different entries. Not only that but OC FlipTrack lists us as being "More Important" than the real estate sites they link to. For all that OC FlipTrack gets a five Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

If they can help bring about conditions that will allow me to afford a house in the county I grew up in on my salary that would've been sufficient for home ownership if housing prices hadn't started skyrocketing six or seven years ago then they'll earn an unprecedented six Speedy Gonzales rating.

Another blog that recently linked to this blog is goood morrrrningggg ichiiiigooo!, but I'm not entirely sure what its focus is.

Here's a teaser image from the next review to be posted here:

Tortilla Jo's - Pastel de Tres Leches

And here's the pipeline for upcoming reviews: a review of another Mexican restaurant at the Disneyland Resort, a guest review of a Mexican restaurant in Orange, then a review of a Mexican restaurant in Huntington Beach, then even more reviews. There will also be a report soon on a new hot sauce coming out from a famous local musician (think gringo punk guy who uses Spanish in his songs and album titles from time to time and you might guess who it is). In short, I really have my work cut out for me.

Non-Mexican restaurants I've been to since the last roundup include, but are not limited to: Old Spaghetti Factory, Ashoka Cuisine of India, Kabuki, 50 Forks (twice - see updated entry), Funashin (twice), Romano's Macaroni Grill, and Crab Cooker.

Mexican restaurants I've already reviewed (and may still review again) that I've visited since the last roundup entry include Javier's, Taleo, Azteca's, Taco Rosa (see updated "Guided Tour" entry), and Gabbi's.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

El Torito Grill - Review #2

Date of Visits: September 10, October 4 and 14, 2006
El Torito Grill
1910 Main St
Irvine, CA 92614
(949) 975-1220

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My menu selections from my first visit:

Appetizer: Fresh-made tortillas with honey butter and two salsas
Entree: Mesquite-grilled Halibut
Drink: IBC Root Beer
Dessert: "Fresh Fruit Indulgence"

El Torito Grill - Daytime Exterior

I was trying to hold off on reviewing El Torito Grill in Irvine for a while but felt like I better do it soon once I realized it is very easy for people to confuse it with the El Torito that is just around the corner. (Read our review of El Torito in Irvine.)

El Torito Grill -

To further confuse the matter, this location doesn't appear to show up in the Yahoo! Local or Citysearch listings and appears incorrectly in the Google Maps listings as "El Torito Mexican Grill."

So, just to clarify matters: El Torito is on Macarthur (across the street from John Wayne Airport), while El Torito Grill is on Main St.

El Torito Grill - Exterior at Night

To park to eat at this El Torito Grill you will probably have to use the adjacent parking structure. On weekdays you can have your car valet parked or you can self-park and get your ticket validated inside the restaurant. On weekends you can self-park for free. You will see the following sign painted on the wall of the parking structure as you are headed towards the restaurant:

El Torito Grill -


El Torito Grill -


El Torito Grill -

At El Torito Grill, rather than getting the standard chips and salsa you get some freshly made tortillas with honey butter to spread on them and a mild salsa and a spicier salsa. It is easy to eat four or five of these before your entree comes.

El Torito Grill -

There are also intriguing appetizers such as the Chicken and Shrimp Taquitos:

El Torito Grill - Chicken and Shrimp Taquitos

The Romaine Salad comes with pumpkin seeds and Cilantro-Pepita Dressing™ (yes, they have actually trademarked the term "Cilantro-Pepita Dressing™") and is chopped tableside for you by your server:

El Torito Grill - Romaine Salad

The Carne Asada Tostada comes with "Grilled marinated steak, romaine, beans, jicama, tomatoes, crispy tortilla strips, cheese, salsa quemada and ranch dressing served on a crispy red chile tortilla," which just so happens to be the same shape as the triangular plate it's served on:

El Torito Grill - Carne Asada Tostada

You can order the same item with barbecue chicken in place of the carne asada.

The tortilla soup, according to their menu, is made of "Tender chicken and vegetables in a savory broth with crispy tortilla strips and jack cheese." When it says "vegetables" I think it really means "zucchini" because there was a lot of zucchini in it.

El Torito Grill - Chicken Tortilla Soup

One of the things I like about El Torito Grill is that their specials menu changes more often than the specials menu at the regular El Torito does. I was told by a waiter at El Torito Grill that it changes roughly every two to three weeks. On the first of my three visits for this review I ordered the Mesquite-grilled fresh halibut with "mixed vegetables, tomato-jalapeño salsa and orange-cucumber relish."

El Torito Grill - Mesquite-grilled Halibut
Mesquite-grilled Halibut

My friend Chris is a carnitas junkie so he of course ordered their Carnitas Yucatan, "Roasted marinated pork topped with red onions marinated with habañero chiles and lime juice. Served with red and black beans, rice, avocado relish and sweet corn cake."

El Torito Grill - Carnitas Yucatan

When my roommate went with me on my second visit he got wild and ordered the fajitas:

El Torito Grill - Steak Fajitas

A popular entree item at El Torito Grill is the Santa Fe Torte, "Chicken, cheese, and chiles in corn crepes with jalapeño butter and red chile sauces. Served with red and black beans, pineapple-mango salsa, sweet corn cake and crispy plantains."

El Torito Grill - Santa Fe Torte

When I went by myself on the first visit for this review I ordered a dessert from their specials menu called the "Fresh Fruit Indulgence." The official description of this dessert is: "Fresh berries and mangos tossed in Grand Marnier, creamy custard, fresh cream and a peanut tostada crisp. Served with chocolate and cajeta sauces."

El Torito Grill - Fresh Fruit Indulgence
Fresh Fruit Indulgence

Since the picture turned out a little blurry I ordered it again on the second visit and this time, instead of coming on a plate, it came in a glass:

El Torito Grill - Fresh Fruit Indulgence #2

I was told by one of the servers that this dessert item was so popular that it will be added to their regular menu soon but I can't say whether it will be flat on a plate or cone-shaped in a glass when you order it.

El Torito Grill earns a four and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Here's some photos from subsequent visits:

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Cheese Quesadilla


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Roasted Vegetable Platter


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Coconut Flan

Other El Torito Grill entries:

Or click on the "el torito grill" label below to read our full El Torito Grill coverage: