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REVIEW: Pepito's, Orange

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REVIEW: Pepito's, Orange

Das Ubergeek | Feb 25, 2008 07:30 PM

For a long time, I worked on Glendale's Brand Boulevard, within striking distance of a lot of quite good restaurants -- walking distance, even. I could walk to the enormous food court at Whole Foods when it opened, even -- and feel good about a decent bit of exercise at lunch.

Then we moved to an unholy bit of Burbank where the walking-distance choices are Mexican food (which is OK but not great) and... Togo's.

I learned not to take having good food walkable from my office for granted during my tenure in Burbank.

Now I work in Orange, in a set of very corporate-parky buildings near the Block, near where Orange gives way to Garden Grove and Santa Ana. The only things within reasonable walking distance are a Blimpie, a very mediocre Japanese teriyaki house, a donut shop and a random Mexican place called Pepito's.

Pepito's looks like your bog-standard Orange County Mexican restaurant. It's in a minimall on The City Drive, where Garden Grove Blvd. turns into Memory Lane, half a mile from the Orange Crush. It doesn't look like anything.

But walk in -- and you'll see that it is. It's damn tasty Mexican food. Is it Babita or La Huasteca? No, but it isn't trying to be. It's a combo-plate type Mexican place run by a family of Oaxaquenos. The menu isn't particularly Oaxacan -- it's not like Monte Alban or Guelaguetza, and it's not like El Fortin, for which we are profoundly grateful (El Fortin is a filthy dump).

I've eaten a lot of their menu. They have decent fish tacos (grilled, not fried, so if you want real fish tacos go to Los Cotijas on Euclid); their tortas are very good and the meat is good quality; the chile verde is hot without being stupidly fiery, and the pork is well-cooked; the crispy potato tacos need salsa but are very tasty. Today I met Mrs Ubergeek and die Uberbaby for lunch. She had chicken mole, with very good, slightly bitter mole negro. I had enchiladas "Oaxaca", with queso oaxaca and green Anaheim chiles covered in an orange enchilada sauce and more queso oaxaca, which I loved (this may be my Friday go-to meal until Easter). Their black beans were very well-spiced and not cooked to mush, the rice was fluffy and not gummy, and the salsas and carrots are nicely spicy. Mrs Ubergeek recommends the chips -- very light.

I've also had breakfast from there (they're open 8 to 9 weekdays and 9 to 9 weekends) and while the burritos don't measure up to Corner Cottage in Burbank (none ever do), they're very tasty and there's more choice than usual. You can also get chilaquiles, which are tasty (it's hard to mess up chilaquiles).

It's not a special destination Mexican place. It's not someplace I would drive from Los Angeles for. But it's the kind of place every neighbourhood needs -- and it's walkable from my office.

I recommend it. They're nice people, the food is good, the prices are reasonable. They serve beer from a fridge behind the register, if that's your thing. It gets crowded at noon, because there are a LOT of office buildings in the vicinity and not everyone wants to hike over the river to Juan Pollo.

www.pepitosmexfood.com

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Pepitos Restaurant
840 The City Dr S, Orange, CA 92868

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