Some of you remember my (short, not very nice) review of Ricardo's in Orange. I said "Next time, El Farolito."
Next time was last night.
"I want Mexican food," said I, "and it's my turn to pick. I want to go to El Farolito in Placentia, about 50 Chowhounds have recommended it to me."
"Forget it," said she, "if 50 chowhounds recommended it, it's going to be very expensive and impossible to get in to."
"I'm going to call them and find out," said I, "and if it's less than a 20-minute wait we are going."
Well, there was no wait when I called and only about a 10-15 minute wait by the time we got up to Placentia, and I'm glad I prevailed.
El Farolito is in "old town" Placentia, which is a surprisingly Wild-Mexican-West place given the usual tract-homes-and-minimalls vibe of North OC.
First, you just sign yourself in. Print your name and how many in your party. That way everyone who works there can actually work instead of having to be the host or hostess.
Second, the beer cooler (in the room just past the entry) is apparently self-serve. They do keep an eye on it, to make sure that nobody underage is grabbing a beer, but if you want a beer while you're waiting, walk over and grab one. There's a bottle opener mounted on the wall to the left. Mostly Mexican beer -- I grabbed a Dos Equis.
It was such a random crowd -- there were grizzled old surfers, Mexican families, yuppies down from the hills of Yorba Linda, and teenagers on dates.
We sat (near the beer cooler, hooray!) and menus were put in front of us. The food is exactly what you expect from a sit-down Mexican place in Orange County -- combo plates, various meat platters, appetizers, etc.
I ordered carnitas with frijoles de la olla and my second Dos Equis. My wife got enchiladas rancheras with chicken, regular refried beans and a root beer. Chips and salsa -- a bit greasy on the chips but quite tasty, and good salsa with more kick than it looks like.
The enchiladas were quite tasty, said my wife... I didn't even get a bite, so I can't vouch for them personally. I was too busy scarfing the entire freaking plate of carnitas. Homemade tortillas, great juicy fried pork, tasty beans and rice, and some of the salsa that went with the chips. I asked for -- and got really quickly -- more corn tortillas and a lime. They were fantastic. I didn't even talk the whole time, I was just too busy mowing down that plate of food and alternating with sips of cold beer. You'd have thought I had just turned up shipwrecked off the coast of Michoacán.
We saw other food going past -- a burrito the size of a masala dosa, the Nachos of the Sierra Madre ("gravity? we don't need no steenking gravity!") with three layers of "stuff" between the chips, a huge sizzling comal with a shocking amount of carne asada on it. It all looked fantastic.
The service was friendly and quick, but not chatty, which is fine. There were huge numbers of people going both in and out -- I'll bet you they served 500 dinners.
The bill was the best part. Two imported beers, a huge plate of carnitas, a big ol' enchilada plate, and a soda -- $26. I asked the guy at the front desk (the owner, as it turns out) if this was related to El Farolito Jr., which is on East St. near the 91 in Anaheim. "Oh, that's my sister," he said. Just so you know.
All I wanted after that was a paleta -- but I was overridden before I could start the search.
Thanks, 'Hounds! You done yourself proud.
201 S. Bradford St. (1 block south of Chapman Av.)
Placentia, CA 92870
El Farolito Jr.
1339 N. East St. (1/2 block south of 91 freeway)
Anaheim, CA 92805