Finding good Mexican food in Orange County requires a drive over to the Latin American community down in Santa Ana. It's a totally different world down there. The streets are just awful--cracks and potholes will torture your car's suspension. Deep in Santa Ana, there is not a single gringo face in sight. It is as if you just crossed the Border. Think: Colima's Chinese & Korean strip malls. See: Little Saigon. But if you are willing to come this far, rest assured you will be rewarded.
I found El Gallo Giro packed on a Tuesday evening. Turns out, it is an extremely popular take-out restaurant that also does a brisk business in desserts and pastries. A bright illustrated menu covers pretty much all the standard Mexican fare we are accustomed to. And then some. I settled for a plate of braised beef and a Torta Cubana even though El Gallo's specialty is carnitas.
It is very helpful to have at least a basic understanding of Spanish when coming to El Gallo. The staff does not seem to speak or understand much English, thus forcing customers to speak Spanish. I initially attempted to order and ask questions in English, but that got me nowhere. Needless to say, the cashier calls out order numbers in Spanish, so stay sharp. Drinks are sold at a separate counter, by the way.
Mind you this is a hot sandwich, fresh off the girdle. Each bite is a meat lover's dream. Crispy beef, spicy tender pork, headcheese!, and fresh creamy slices of avocado to top it all off...This manwich makes me as happy as when I watch my baby Alizee perform. Yeah. It's THAT good.
It was so good my dining partner couldn't help but ask for a bite...then another bite, then another, and yet another.
Not shown in this post is the savory, ultra-tender plate of braised meat plus the complementary oh-so-fluffy tortillas. I dug in and cleaned the plate before I realized I brought my camera.
On the way out, I purchased my favorite pan dulce:
The bread was fluffy and springy. Its outer surface was a beautiful golden brown and appropriately crispy. The sugar on top was baked to perfection and not overly sweet. Hints of cinnamon were present, and some bites reminded me of horchata. I personally like my pan dulce extra crispy and thick/chewy, similar to how Las Brisas (R.I.P.) used to serve it. But, these guys make awesome pan as well.
With just one meal, I consumed a day's worth of calories, 2 day's worth of saturated fat, and an entire day's worth of carbs. Was it worth it? Hell yeah.