There are few things more wonderful for a chowhound than the first amazing bite of a delicious dish in a totally unheralded diner. It's even better when the place is a mom & pop enterprise that looks as though it's seen better days. Last night I had a nice evening in a place that had received raves from many O.C. chowhounds, but my food was only pretty good.
Today, after fruitless driving through Lake Elsinore in search of a light meal to see us through to Ramona - and that my unadventurous father would appreciate - we stopped at this slightly seedy (but mostly clean and efficient) diner/fast food drive-thru in downtown Lake Elsinore (202 N. Main Street, corner of Heald Ave., west of I-15 Main Street offramp). I thought it might have pretty good burgers, but when I saw a Mexican section to the menu and heard the waitress's slight accent, I decided to try the carne asada burrito. It arrived plump and inviting looking on a plate with no frills but a side of salsa cruda. And I was in heaven. (I should explain that I have spent the last 17 years mainly in New York City where a burrito is generally a rice-stuffed, black bean affair. And our real Mexican restaurants are Pueblan - what do they know from burritos, right?) Anyway, here was the burrito of my youth - meat, beans and cheese - but the carne asada was of much higher quality than the carne mechada we used to get in Fullerton back in the day.
And the really cool and unusual thing is that my totally Midwestern dad ordered coffee (also good) and a ham on rye. He got a thick slice of real ham with lots of lettuce and tomato and mayo on toasted rye and, even with his 90-year-old reduced appetite, finished every last bite. The menu in this place is long, including a whole page of breakfast items (served from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) with all the usual and even things like carne asada omelet. And the Mexican food list included a pastrami burrito.
It's obvious that locals from many walks of life know this place. It has collages of old car and motorcycle photos, probably from the days of the nearby raceway. And it also takes credit cards, including American Express and Diners Club. Our meal, with the coffee and a large Coke, cost about $13.80 so we managed to pay cash, but the sheriff's deputies each swiped a card. You can even call ahead for faster take-out service (909) 674-8577. Try it next time you're out that way for genuine, unpresumptious, homemade fast food.