Once again, Old Towne Placentia, also known as Placita Santa Fe, has hit another one out of the park. A wee bit larger than a hole-in-the-wall, El Sabroso Grill stands rightly accused of serving up some of tastiest traditional Mexican fare that I have enjoyed outside of Mexico. Antonio and Guadalupe Zamayoa, who hail from Michoacan, have operated this little gem with love and devotion for over 7 years. Its locale, ambience and charm are apt preludes to the exceptional eats and splendid service that awaits within.
Chips & Salsa – Fresh, warm, crispy chips, medium-thin and not greasy. The house salsa was divinely fresh and rich, prompting me to ask if other versions were available. Wow, I’m glad I did! I was quickly rewarded with a superb tomatillo and an incredible, deeply complex chile rojo concoction. All three were quite punchy, yet not overpowering. I got the feeling that the best was yet to come - and come it did, again and again.
Handmade Corn Tortillas – Yes, indeed! Reason alone to make El Sabroso Grill a destination. Light, pillowy, yet substantial with a hearty corn masa flavor. Among the very best – somewhat akin to those at Los Cinco Puntos or Babita. Need I say more?
Chilaquiles – Excellent. Choice of rojo or verde – I opted for the rojo, covered in cheese, topped with a duet of farm-fresh tasting eggs, fried over-easy and served with a side of delicious rice and cheese-laced refried beans, no doubt cooked with manteca (lard). Yum to the gum and the tum, Buddy!
Chicharrones – Rojo or verde (my choice). Heaven, help me! Unquestionably, these were the best darn chicharrones I’ve ever had, anywhere! The cut was fabulous, including just a bit more than usual of the subcutaneous fat for extra chew and flavor. The salsa verde, perfectly spiced, possessed a kick that managed to allow my taste buds to remain intact. More on these later.
Mole Poblano (Chicken Mole) – The dark red mole possessed a distinctive, faintly citrus quality that grew more enjoyable with each taste. As good as the mole was, it was the chicken that ruled supreme in this dish. This was no ordinary chick. In my guesstimation, she was free-range, freshly slaughtered, never frozen and cooked to absolute perfection. The portion was quite generous and included both white, but mostly dark meat – deboned in various sized chunks. Sublime!
Tacos – The tender chicharrones and chicken were so wonderfully savory in spice, texture and flavor that I ordered tacos to go so that I could further explore Antonio’s culinary mastery later. I ordered the chicharrones, chicken, buches and al pastor. Unfortunately, the tripas were sold out, as was the menudo (to no surprise). I requested that my tacos be made with the handmade tortillas and all the trimmings. At home, several hours later, I chowed my way deep into taco bliss. They were all, in a word, phenomenal, especially the al pastor. It packed such an amazing variety of textures and flavor that my taste buds were working overtime to delineate them all – lean, fatty, crunchy, soft, gristly, charred, mild, spicy, savory, sweet … whew! I cannot wait to try the tripas and the birria. Hmmh, tomorrow?
Service – Exceptionally warm, friendly and attentive without being overindulging. Thank you very much, Diana.
One sad note – My beloved Margarita; she was not to be found. Beer and wine only. Senorita Bohemia did ease my pain, however, with her ice-cold, frosty charms in a frozen mug.
Menu – I’ve perhaps saved the best for last. El Sabroso Grill offers an unusually broad selection of meats (al pastor, barbacoa, birria, buches, cabeza, carne asada, carnitas, chorizo, lengua, tripas, etc.); seafood (campechanas, cocteles, fish, oysters, shrimp) and other dishes (burritos, breakfasts, caldos, chile rellenos, enchiladas, gorditas, menudo, posole, sopes, tacos, tamales, tortas, tostadas, etc.). There is something on the menu for everyone and, so far, everything has been among the best of its breed. What’s more – with only a couple of exceptions, everything is under $11.
So, how does El Sabroso Grill compare to El Faralito and Tlaquepaque? Well, go check it out and decide for yourself. As for me, my next several visits to Old Towne Placentia will take me to:
El Sabroso Grill
214 W Santa Fe Ave
Placentia, CA 92870
Postscript: Several other Placita Santa Fe venues that I’ve yet to try but have captured my attention are El Cantarito, Mi Casita and 301. They all look promising and are within a couple blocks of each other. If any of you Hounds have experienced any of them, please do chime in.