Tortas El Rey

Menu

Exterior

Torta Al pastor

Chicken burrito

***** (5 stars)

This is a great place for real Mexican street food. I had the chicken burrito special which came with a drink for under 7 bucks. It was a huge tasty burrito; it came with peppers, lime wedges and two salsas, red and green, which both had a kick.

Even better was the Torta al Pastor, a giant sandwich filled with savory pork, peppers, and tomato. One of the best tortas in town.

The place is a former Checkers, so it’s efficient to drive through or to order at the window and eat at one of the umbrella-covered tables. It took a few minutes to make the food, but definitely worth it.

Tortas El Rey
6127 S Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 850-6980
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tortas-el-rey-orlando

El Pollo Loco

3 Pcs Chicken Combo

**** (4 stars)

El Pollo Loco has always been my favorite fast food place. It’s healthy (depending upon what you order), tasty, and generous. A three piece combo with chicken breasts, side salad, a heap of cole slaw, corn tortillas and a drink is ten bucks. You can’t beat that! And the salsa bar has fresh cilantro and lots of different salsas. Service was friendly and efficient.

El Pollo Loco
1545 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-2772
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-pollo-loco-los-angeles-56

Toca Madera

Back room

Enchiladas De Mole

Carne asada hot rock

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This is a very vibrant restaurant with a club-like atmosphere in the front room. It’s loud by design, and louder because of the central bar. HOWEVER… there is a back room (and an upstairs room) where you can find a reasonable noise level and enjoy some very interesting food.

The free chips and salsa were good, and the plantain chips were particularly good, not overwhelmingly tough or banana-y. I’ve had a lot of guacamole in my life, but this was the best I’ve encountered–creamy, and topped with pomegranate seeds and interesting herbs.

The carne asada hot rock preparation was okay, but nothing spectacular; the soft tortillas were a bit more like roti.

The clear standout of the meal was the enchiladas de mole. WOW! This is by far the best mole I have ever tasted. They claim they use 42 ingredients and cook it for 24 hours, and the complexity shows it is worth it!

Service was very attentive. It’s worth noting that server’s costumes may be setting a new record for short hemlines.

Yes, many of the patrons are narcissistic, dressed to the nines selfie-takers making duck faces into their smartphones. But there are also plenty of well-adjusted people enjoying some creative cuisine. My advice is to go early, before it gets too full of itself.

Toca Madera
8450 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 852-9400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/toca-madera-los-angeles

4 Locos Tacos

Exterior

Fixings Bar

Interior

Flautas

***** (5 stars)

This is a great little quick serve place opposite Crooked Can. Although the address is on Plant street, it’s actually at the back of the building, where there is ample parking.

They have lots of types of authentic soft tacos, but their specialty is Al Pastor, which happens to be my favorite. Traditional Pastor includes pineapple, but some people don’t like that. They’ve solved the problem by offering the taco with just the meat, and then having an extensive fixins bar that includes a delicious pineapple habanero relish.

I also really like the flautas, which had a perfectly fried and delicate shell with moist, slightly sweet chicken filling.

In addition to soft drinks they offer beer, wine and, surprisingly, margaritas.

4 Locos Tacos
360 West Plant Street
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 554-2312
https://www.yelp.com/biz/4-locos-tacos-winter-garden-2

El Patron Restaurante Mexicano

Presidente Margarita

Interior

Exterior

Nachos with no beans or meat

Taco Al pastor

Special dessert

**** (4 stars)

I had avoided this restaurant for many years after a bad experience when they first opened, but I’m glad I decided to try it again. It’s a pretty interesting Mexican restaurant, particularly considering it’s in a tourist area where it doesn’t need to be all that good.

I admit I started with the Presidente Margarita, which at 24 ounces may have favorably colored my experience of the rest of the meal! It was much too sweet, but a plate of lime wedges fixed that.

I started with the nachos, a generous serving to say the least. I don’t like bean and meat on my nachos, so I had them without that, and they were really good–even though I usually want melted cheese, not queso on nachos. There was a generous mound of pickled jalapenos on top, and they were just the right degree of spiciness.

After all those nachos, I just had a single taco al pastor. It was very authentic, with two corn tortillas, bits of pineapple, and just the right level of spice in the marinade.

Even though I was full, I couldn’t pass up a dessert special, bunuelos. This was a stack of three deep-fried flour tortillas coated in sugar and cinnamon and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was really excellent, very freshly made and crisp, with the perfect combination of sweet and salty, crisp and chewy, hot and cold. A dessert home run.

I really enjoyed my lunch, which was not cheap, but was just what I wanted. Everyone else in the place was taking advantage of the lunch buffet, which is a good deal, especially for a tourist area.

Service was attentive and friendly, and the place is nicely decorated. I will definitely return.

El Patron Restaurante Mexicano
12167 S Apopka Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 238-5300
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-patron-restaurante-mexicano-orlando

El Tenampa

Interior

Appetizer sampler

**** (4 stars)

This is a nicely decorated neighborhood restaurant with excellent service. The first impression is that it will be very authentic Mexican, and there are such items on the menu, but there is also a lot of Americanized Tex Mex.

We tried the appetizer sampler of quesadilla, guacamole, chicken taquitos, and nachos. The nachos were too much about refried beans for my taste, but the rest of the items were good.

Because the appetizer was very generous we just shared a taco plate. Three authentic tacos were served on soft corn tortillas. The beef was okay, and the carnitas was tender but not very flavorful. However the pastor was terrific, with lots of flavor and a slight kick. All were topped with fresh cilantro.

There’s a full bar. The margarita I had was heavy on agave flavor, but a generous pour. Prices are reasonable.

El Tenampa
11242 S Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 850-9499
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-tenampa-orlando

Reyes Mezcaleria

Exterior

Lounge

Interior

Chips, salsa and guacamole

Ceviche

Tuna tostada

Carnitas taco

***** (5 stars)

It’s about time Orlando got a gourmet Mexican restaurant! When we travel I always enjoy trying Mexican places that are doing fusion cuisine, or thinking outside the box, like fine dining restaurants do in Mexico. The chef at Reyes is drawing upon Baja and other seacoast cusines, and says he was influenced by Rick Bayless’ (Frontera, Topolobompo) cooking, but I actually thought it was better than those places.

We started with chips and salsa, and guacamole, just to compare the old standards. The chips are obviously house-made, thick and sturdy, with a good corn flavor. The guacamole was good, enhanced by pickled onions on top. The salsas were outstanding: a fairly typical red, excellent green, and amazing chipotle. I’m not even a big fan of chipotle peppers, but I couldn’t stop eating that one!

The other appetizer we tried was the ceviche. My companion enjoyed it, but I felt like the fish was overcooked, either by the lime juice or perhaps actual cooking, I couldn’t tell.

For our mains we shared the tuna tostada and 12-hour carnitas tacos. Both were excellent. The tostada featured thin slices of tuna on a thin, flat fried tortilla, and the delicate fish wasn’t overwhelmed by the toppings. The carnitas are a house specialty, and I can see why, They are incredibly succulent and tender, and just needed a squeeze of lime to make a perfect soft taco.

The space is a remodel of the old Citrus restaurant, and has benefitted from being lightened up.

Service was attentive, except for an unexplained disappearing act when we were ready for the check.

The place is all hard surfaces, so I’m sure it can get noisy, but the back room seems quieter, and there wasn’t anyone else in there at brunch, so we enjoyed it very much.

Reyes Mezcaleria
821 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 868-9007
https://www.yelp.com/biz/reyes-mezcaleria-orlando-3

Uncle Julio’s

Exterior

Interior

Spicy seared tuna tacos

**** (4 stars)

I’d been to one of these in Chicago, and they are pretty similar. There’s a bit of a corporate feel to them. We had a large party, so I can’t really comment on the service, because that is always difficult, but the food was all pretty good. There isn’t really a standout appetizer or entree, although the spicy seared tuna tacos that I had were probably the best item. One person complained they were cold, but since they’re almost raw tuna and slaw, it seems appropriate.

Their unique item is the chocolate pinata, a suspended sphere of chocolate that you break open with a bat to scatter fruit and churros into the whipped cream moat below. It was fun for the group to scavenge through the debris and find their favorites.

Uncle Julio’s
8409 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(321) 430-0600
http://www.yelp.com/biz/uncle-julios-orlando

El Cholo

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to El Cholo on Western since I was a child, and it defines Mexican food for me, even if their idea isn’t perfectly aligned with what has come to be known as Tex-Mex, and even if it’s not all authentic Mexican either. I love it.

This location is just as good, if lacking a bit of the small house ambiance. Have a number 1 and original nachos. You won’t be sorry.

El Cholo
1025 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-1106
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-cholo-santa-monica-2

Anita’s Mexican Restaurant

Exterior

Interior

Appetizer sampler

Chicken chipotle

Green enchilada

*** (3 stars)

This place serves typical Tex-Mex food in a road side diner environment.

The most interesting item we had was the chipotle chicken, which had been simmered in a thick red sauce and was fairly spicy. We couldn’t try the rellenos or the tamales because they were out of both, but the green chili cheese enchilada and quesadilla were average. The rice was good, refried beans had an odd flavor.

I would avoid the appetizer sampler, a literal pile of loaded nachos, quesadillas, taquitos and guacamole. It just sort of dissolved into a sodden mess, although the taquitos were pretty good.

Anita’s Mexican Restaurant
114 W Central Ave
Lake Wales, FL 33853
(863) 223-8504
http://www.yelp.com/biz/anitas-mexican-restaurant-lake-wales