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Café El Cholo

840 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, CA, 90631

562-691-4618

It’s combo-plate heaven at this venerable local chain that started in Los Angeles in 1927…

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Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico

31441 Santa Margarita Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, 92688

949-709-7600

This lakefront sprawler offers top-notch Cal-Mex fare from the culinary vision of owner Clemente Heredia Jr. and the kitchen of exec chef Jose Colin…

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Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico

217 Broadway, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

949-715-7829

This is the boutique version of Rancho Santa Margarita’s sprawling shop, but both offer top-notch Cal-Mex fare from the culinary vision of owner Clemente Heredia Jr., a third generation operator…

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Coyote Grill

31621 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

949-499-4033

A great scenic stop on your weekend drive down Coast Highway, Coyote Grill is a Mexican-American diner with a million-dollar view…

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El Adobe de Capistrano

31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA, 92675

949-493-1163

This restaurant will always be known as Nixon’s favorite. No surprises here, just steaks, combo plates, friendly service, and a charming setting…

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El Cholo

5465 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA, 92604

949-451-0044

A spiffy suburban outpost of this combo-plate chain that started in L.A. in 1923…

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El Farolito

201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia, CA, 92870

714-993-7880

Often packed tighter than a taquito, this is Old Town’s go-to favorite for traditional border fare, served fast and friendly…

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El Mercado Modern Cuisine

301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana

714-338-2446

Danny Godinez’s refined encore to his two Anepalco’s Cafes is unlike any Mexican restaurant in Santa Ana.

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Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

141 S. Glassell St., Orange, CA, 92866

714-633-3038

From gorditas al pastor (masa cakes with kurobuta pork belly and pineapple-onion relish) to a Mayan tart made with chocolate truffles and served with salted dulce de leche ice cream…

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Javier’s Cantina & Grill

536 Fortune Drive, Irvine, CA, 92618

949-872-2101

Sipping margaritas made with premium tequilas and fresh lime juice, and dining on steaks or seafood amid the glamorous resort-style decor…

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Javier’s Cantina & Grill

Crystal Cove Promenade, Newport Coast, CA, 92660

949-494-1239

Sipping margaritas made with premium tequilas and fresh lime juice, and dining on steaks or seafood amid the resort-style decor is like a little trip to Baja…

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Las Brisas

361 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

949-497-5434

Equal parts history, view, and food, Las Brisas (The Breezes) endures as a coastal landmark locals can’t resist for showing off the best view in Laguna Beach…

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Sol Cocina

251 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA, 92663

949-675-9800

Fresh, spunky flavors of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula lure the coastal crowd to this bayside cantina that flaunts a slick remake by restaurant designer Thomas Schoos…

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South of Nick’s

110 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA, 92672

949-481-4545

From the festive boxes of Chiclets at the reception station to scores of fine-sipping tequilas at the roomy bar…

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Taco Maria

3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, CA, 92626

714-538-8444

Every dish is a marvel of deeply considered modern Cal-Mex cuisine from chef-owner and O.C native Carlos Salgado…

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Taco Rosa

Tustin Marketplace, Irvine, CA, 92670

714-505-6080

With agave-sweetened margaritas, daily agua frescas, a tortillera, and house-made churros, these flagships of the Taco Mesa chain take fresh Mex to the max…

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Taco Rosa

2632 San Miguel Road, Newport Coast, CA, 92660

949-720-0980

With agave-sweetened margaritas, a tortillera, and house-made churros, these flagships of the Taco Mesa chain take fresh Mex to the max…

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