Monday, February 25, 2013

Mexican Food Craving Killed

Avila's El Ranchito
2201 E. 1st Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705

  So I have been craving Mexican food the past couple days and a we have been to a couple really good places but I needed something to write about so we took a chance and went to Alvila's El Ranchito based simply on the Urbanspoon rating. The restaurant looked busy but we were seated fairly quickly. We started the meal with some guacamole and chips, my daughter ordered chicken fingers with fries, my son ordered the two item combo plate, my wife ordered the green sauced chicken enchiladas and I ordered the carnitas plate. With drinks and two desserts the meal was about $74.

   When I was checking out the menu online I was suprised that they had freshly made guacamole as an appetizer so I made sure to order some with our drinks. The guacamole was awesome! The avocado was creamy, the fresh onions added a nice texture, the chopped tomatoes helped to add some sweetness and a tiny bit of acid was noticeable from fresh lime juice. I was mixing the house salsa and this guacamole to get a bit of spice and that was the pefect combo. The house salsa added heat while the guacamole cut through some of that heat so it was not over powering.

  I was a bit disappointed with my daughters chicken fingers, these things looked like they came from a box at the grocery store. Maybe I shouldn't have expected anything better but it seems to me that they could make some good chicken fingers with chicken breast and some flour. My daughter didn't mind though because she finished almost everything on her plate. My son's plate had a few choices but he decided on a chicken flauta and ground beef taco. My son said the flauta was crisp and full of chicken. He said the taco was crispy and loaded with ground beef. When I asked if he liked the food he gave me two thumbs up.

  My wife takes any opportunity to try the green sauce chicken enchiladas at any new Mexican restaurant that we try. That is her marker for a restaurant that tells her if she will go back or not. I think Avila's El Ranchito passed the test. My wife said she enjoyed the enchiladas and she said the green sauce was good too. My wife also said the enchiladas had a good amount of chicken in them and that they were made well. I had too much of my own food to try hers.

  As for me I always like to try the carnitas at a new Mexican restaurant that we have never been to before, this is my marker. If they can make good carnitas then I can almost be sure that the rest of their food will be good. My plate had a generous amount of carnitas on it with all the typical fixings. The carnitas it self was moist but not dropping wet like some I have had. There was a small amount of crust on the outside of the pieces while the middle remained tender. With the addition of house made flour tortillas this plate of food did not last long. I was loading each tortilla with a forks fulls of carnitas, beans, rice, lettuce and more of that awesome guacamole. Even after filling four tortillas with this combination of food I still had some carnitas left over that I simply forked up and finished.

  As if that wasn't enough food we decided to order dessert. I haven't had flan is ages and that was my clear choice. My wife and son ordered the churros while my daughter got some vanilla ice cream. The flan was firm yet creamy with a caramel sauce that really kicked in the flavor. I would have drank that sauce off the plate if I wouldn't have looked odd doing so in a restaurant full of people. The churros were strawberry filled and looked to me like something that you could get out  of a box. However my wife and son liked them but they weren't excited about the churros.

  All in all I was very pleased with our meal at Alvia's El Ranchito and would definitely go back. My only real complaint, if you could call it that, would be the chicken fingers and churros but that's an easy fix, we will not order those next time. The quality of the rest of the food was very good. The veggies were all fresh, the guacamole was out of bounds and the meat was moist and cooked just right. If you happen to be planning a trip to the Santa Ana Zoo then make sure Avila's El Ranchito is on your itinerary because it's right around the corner from the zoo and should not be missed.

Avila's El Ranchito on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Grill 'Em All Restaurant

Grill 'Em All Alhambra
19 E. Main St.
Alhambra, CA 91801

  The family took a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits today and on our way home we had to make a pit stop at Grill 'Em All Alhambra. This is the newly opened store front run by the same guys that brought you the Grill 'Em All food truck. The same truck that won season one of The Great Food Truck Race on Food Network. I have always wanted to try their food but have never had the chance until now. My daughter got the FTW, my son got the Jump in the Fryer, my wife got the Dee Snider and I got the Paul Baloff. With two orderes of fries and two drinks this meal was about $52.

  The FTW is just meat, cheese and bun. The most simplistic of burgers for anyone that does not like the crazy combination on the menu. My daughter said the burger was good and that she really liked the meat. She ate the burger with no fuss so it must have been good. The Jump in the Fryer that my son ordered was burger, cheese, bacon, a piece of fried chicken with maple syrup and all served on waffles for buns. I had a bite of this and it was good but for me a little confusing. The chicken was good and the waffles were good but the flavors just fought with each other.

  The Dee Snider my wife ordered was a burger with strawberry jam, chunky peanut butter and bacon. I almost ordered this my self but reading the ingredients on the menu it just sounded very wrong. However I was wrong, but wrong in a very good way. I had to have a bite of this burger and damn it was good. Believe it or not but these flavors went with each other better then the Jump in the Fryer in my opinion. The salty, crunchy peanut butter with the sweet jam really worked well with the meaty burger. I very much got the feeling of warm PB&J but with a beefy twang to it. I know it still sounds odd but I am telling ya'll it was fantastic and something I would order for myself.

  The Paul Baloff was a burger with pastrami, cheese, pickles and a fried egg. All burgers at Grill 'Em All are cooked medium rare unless asked for differently. The burger it self was moist and dripping with juice. The pastrami was thick and fatty. The fried egg was a little over cooked for me, I wish the yolk was a bit more runny. Finally the pickles were nice and sour. Every bite of this burger was filled with each of these ingredients. I can only explain it as burger par excellence. The bun it self was soaked with all these flavors and held together nicely. But then again this burger did not sit around for very long. I must have finished this monster it less then ten bites. It was that damn good!

  The fries served at Grill 'Em All are double cooked so you end up with nice well done fries. Some are crispy and some are still a bit on the softer side. The salt used with these fries had a really clean and intense salty taste. The fries come with what I thought was a garlic aioli but I honestly like the fries with a basic ketchup. The ketchup added a nice sweetness to the fries that went really well with that intense salt.

  I would have driven out to Grill 'Em All Alhambra just to try it but since we were kind of in the neighborhood it was a win win. Overall I was very pleased with the all the burgers but my personal favorite was the Paul Baloff. If I had one criticism it would have to be the prices. For example the Jump in the Fryer was $15 by it self. While the burger was good I just feel $15 is a little pricey for an al a carte burger. Despite my personal cheapness I would still go back to Grill 'Em All Alhambra in a heart beat and if you are anywhere near this store front it is a must go.

Grill 'Em All on Urbanspoon