Great Tacos and Birria at El Picante
Two days in a row I ate at a really wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant called El Picante in Santa Ana. This place is just south of Edinger on Standard. Its on the west side, next to a laudromat. It is tiny and well-worn. Entering through a screen door the air is thick with the mixture of grilled meat and fresh corn tortillas. You know you are in for some good food.
When you walk in a lady standing next to the grill starts pressing a few corn tortillas just for you, and puts them on the griddle. They are the best tortillas Ive ever had. They make a mean taco de carne asada, ($1.25 each). The tacos were served with a small plate of onions, radishes, and what looked like sliced orange bell peppers. Fortunately I took a bit of onion first. The onion tasted like it was on fire, really hot, and I realized that it had been sitting underneath one of the orange bell peppers. It slowly dawned on me that the orange pepper wasnt a bell pepper but instead a habanero. I was fooled because the slices were quite large. Watchale! They dont call it El Picante for nothing!
The next I day went back with a friend and we both had birria (goat stew) which was also fantastic. The birria was kind of expensive ($9.00 or so for a good sized plate with rice and beans). I dont know what the going rate is for birria but this did seem a bit high based on the modest surroundings. But it was so good that I quickly forgot about the price. The meat was impossibly tender, with a slightly gamy, goaty flavor that kept you scooping up bite after bite. Rice and beans were excellent too, and of course the sauce is swabbed up with those tremendous hand made tortillas hot off the griddle.
Unfortunately you can't get a beer there to go with the great food, but I did see a couple of guys "brown bagging" it at the outside tables.
The steam table features several rich looking stews of various meats which I intend to return to try. This is a true Chowhound kind of place. Go forth and enjoy!
El Picante, 1610 S STANDARD AVE, SANTA ANA, CA, 92707 714-285-0642 (Just south of Edinger on the west side of Standard)