A Veritable Rainbow of Tacos
When it comes to finding some amazing tacos in the U.S., Southern California is pretty much the place to be. Some folks might argue for South Texas or South Florida, but let’s stick with businesses within driving distance. Narrowing it down to the cities of Orange County, it’s hard to compete with Santa Ana as a hub for good Mexican grub. That said, there is a decent collection of noteworthy places in Irvine where diners have found their go-to taco place, and while this list should provide a satisfactory overview of some favorite local joints as well as a couple of nearby outliers that are worth the trek, please keep in mind that variety is the spice of life. Read on to see what we mean and enjoy!
Puesto Los Olivos Irvine
8577 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine
We thought we’d start out fancy. At Puesto Los Olivos Irvine, guests can expect a royal experience. The venue was designed by Paul Basile, of BASILE Studio, and includes indoor and outdoor seating. For indoor diners, wandering eyes will take in the nouveau design, which provides a view of the kitchen through a wall of glass. Their food consists of similarly designer works of art. While they do have a full bar, colorful salads, appetizers and seafood dishes, the menu’s tacos run the gamut from Chicken al Pastor (melted cheese, hibiscus & chipotle tinga, avocado, and piña habanero pico) to Grilled Portobello (cilantro chimichurri, papas fritas and avocado). Their collection of nearly a dozen varieties of designer tacos are presented as impressively as they are comprised of delicious ingredients. This one is a little on the expensive side, so it might be best for date night.
Puesto Park Place Irvine
3311 Michelson Dr., Irvine
The folks at Puesto know a good thing when they have it. With the same menu as above, this location caters to the folks a bit closer to the airport. Same nouveau style, chow, and prices — just less of a trek for some.
Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen
13126 Jamboree Rd., Irvine
Cha Cha’s provides more nouveau chic. Their menu is extensive and includes salads, sandwiches, enchiladas and flautas. They also have a bar with numerous cocktail and tequila options. Their taco options include: chicken, steak, carnitas or wild mushrooms. Once again, your presentation will look like such a work of art that you will be tempted to preserve its beauty by not consuming it. Naturally, after photographing your meal with your phone, this impulse will pass as you escort your taste buds to heaven. Words for the budget-challenged: 50 percent off on taco Tuesdays!
Food Truck (locations vary)
All right, now don’t get upset, but we’re doing a little something borderline with this one (no pun intended). However, if tacos can be the centerpiece of a fine-dining experience, then a pita-centric entry can have a place on our list. Beyond that, this food truck’s description of their Falasophy Creations is “spicy modern tacos”; plus, they’re delicious and very reasonably priced! There are three entries in Falasophy’s modern taco selection, and they are: Falafel (avocado, pineapple-pickled jalapeños, pickled red cabbage, cilantro-garlic sauce, and tahini); Chicken Shawarma (pickled daikon and carrots, pineapple-pickled jalapeños, cilantro and garlic sauce); and Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb (sumac-onions, parsley, pineapple-pickled jalapeños, pickled turnips and tzatziki). If you’re willing to broaden your taco definition just a bit, we think that you will love this Lebanese food. Warning: food is powerfully addictive!
Chronic Tacos – Alton Square
Alton Square, 5365 Alton Pkwy., Ste D, Irvine;
With Chronic Tacos, we’re getting back to some brass tacks tacos. Located at the corner of Alton Parkway and Jeffrey Road, in the Alton Square shopping center, you essentially build your meal here. Starting with the category, first you choose: taco, burrito, salad, quesadilla, torta, etc.
Then you choose your filling: pollo asado, carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, fish, shrimp or vegetarian. Finally, make it a meal, choose extras, etc. In the end, what you’re most likely going to get is a satisfying meal.
Chronic Tacos – Walnut Village
14435 Culver Dr., Irvine
Another hot location, another chance to get your Chronic Tacos fix!
Tortas Y Jugos Sahuayo
14520 Newport Ave., Ste B., Tustin;
For Tortas Y Jugos Sahuayo, we’re willing to drive to Tustin. They are really best known for their tortas, smoothies and deserts (their concha with ice cream is the stuff dreams are made of). However, since their chicken, beef and chorizo tacos are delicious too, we thought we’d let our readers know that there’s some very tasty Michoacán flavor waiting for them just beyond the Tustin border.
2943 El Camino Real, Tustin
Now that we’ve already breached the Tustin boundary, we thought we’d throw one more non-traditional taco option into the mix. You ready for something mind-blowing? Try Japanese / Korean fusion in the form of a taco. There are certainly plenty of non-taco items on their menu, but the tacos they do have are pretty special. There is the Beef Taco (Korean BBQ beef, sautéed onions, sesame vinaigrette lettuce, red sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions and nori), the Braised Pork Taco (miso-coconut braised pork, arugula, garlic aioli, masago, lemon wedge and fried onions), the Chicken Taco (Korean BBQ chicken, sesame vinaigrette lettuce, wasabi mayo, cilantro and fried onions), and the Zen Taco (soy and portobello mushroom patty, sesame vinaigrette lettuce, red sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions and nori). If ever you are in a group of people, wherein some want tacos for dinner and others want Korean BBQ, then don’t say we’ve never told how to handle the situation!