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ISO guilty pleasure: respectable Mexican combo plates?

Hungry1 | Oct 25, 200501:06 PM

To preface this, let me state that I love and respect authentic Mexican cuisine. (I spend at least two weeks every year in a rural, non-touristy part of Oaxaca for my work and now find it difficult to eat tlayudas unless they're lightly dusted with the ashes from the wood fire on which they've been cooked.)

That being said, every now and then I get a huge craving for that all-
American monstrosity, the Mexican combination plate: rice, beans, and a couple of randomly selected items, usually covered with sauce and/or cheese. But almost every time I get one, I come away disappointed.
And yet I always go back for more...

So my question for all of you is this: where can one find a Mexican combo plate that's actually good, and if at all possible, truly reflective of its ethnic roots? Here are a few of my criteria for "goodness": (1) the rice and beans have to be flavorful and worthy in their own right, and not just fillers. (2) the other items have to be distinctively seasoned (e.g., fillings must have actual texture and flavor) (3) the plate should be attractively presented (all items should be immediately distinguishable and not look like they've been run over by a steam roller or welded to the plate under a layer of melted cheese).

Does such a thing exist around here? (I'd be particularly grateful for any suggestions for the Irvine/Costa Mesa/Santa Ana area.) Thanks for your help!

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