Santa Ana is one of the more metal places in OC—infinitesimally more so because my band practices and records there—so I’m always glad to have an excuse to hang around.
A Monday night studio session is an excellent occasion to make a quick detour to El Toro Carniceria for yet another lengua burrito and medium tamarindo. This is pretty much the ideal studio fuel (lasted me the whole 6 hours!). Of course, this is also pretty high on my general list of ideal things.
The post won’t count if I don’t put a picture of the food.
Sometimes, I consider skipping salsa to enjoy the wonderfully savory thing, but salsa’s really the thing to do.
After devouring the above, I took the Suburban full of drums around the corner to the studio. An hour and a half later, I was tuned and miced up:
I call her/them/zem/pronoun…”my drums.”
Here’s a rundown of my rig.
Recorded with a nice selection of industry workhorses: SM57 on the snare, MD-421 IIs, Beta 52A, a nice AKG condenser on the hats, and my AKG D112 in the kick for attack.
Check out what we got!
El Toro Bravo is another outpost of one of my favorite carnicerias, El Toro Carniceria. It’s snugged in that tiny shopping center at Red Hill and El Camino Real, with a Starbucks, a check cashing place, and several other businesses. For those who know the center but have never gone in, the parking lot is actually roomier than it looks from the outside. But this isn’t a parking blog, so on to the food.
I’ll just start by saying that this was one of the best assembled and most tightly wrapped burritos I’ve ever had. Carrying it around, it almost felt like it would bounce if I dropped it, and when I finally ate it, every bite had every ingredient represented. The default fillings-rice, beans, meat, and salsa-make an excellent burrito on their own, but I highly recommend asking for some roasted jalapeño. They were just sitting in an unlabeled tray of the steam table, enticing me with their charred skin and a promise of a nice fruity spice. The guy making my burrito seemed to be taken aback, though, warning me that my burrito would be “mucho hot” before chopping two peppers and adding them. It was indeed, and I loved it!
I also had the opportunity to let this burrito sit out in its wrapper for a little while, which my mom always says makes a burrito taste better as the flavors marry and all that.
I have no idea how I did not about Tacos Ensenada before a couple of months ago. I had always thought the area around El Toro and the 5 was something of an culinary wasteland – Guitar Center and Smart & Final were always the main reasons to venture to the area. To illustrate just how bleak my perception of the area was, I can say that I was genuinely happy when Lee’s Sandwiches opened there! Tacos Ensenada is somewhat hidden from view off Raymond, a small side street, in one of the many subdivided shopping centers running along each side of that stretch of El Toro. I don’t usually get wet burritos, but the first time I went there, the person taking our order offered the wet option. Without really thinking, I said yes, and chose green sauce over red. Going to a new place always spurs me to try something new, and it turned out I had no idea what I was missing. The burrito is massive, wet or not, and filled simply with meat, rice, and beans. Wet, it comes covered in melted, not to mention activated, cheese and your chosen sauce. Silverware is, of course, needed.
I did say it was big.
El Fenix was a godsend when it first opened in little ol’ RSM, but thanks to the city’s weird (or possibly nonexistent) zoning logic, it was slotted in just two doors to the left of a well established Mexican restaurant. Fortunately, El Fenix distinguishes itself from its neighbor not only with far superior food, but with a very useful market, the opening of which spawned my family’s Taco Friday tradition. The Reuben’s Tortilleria tortillas delivered daily, hot off the shelf, their wonderful salsas, and great prepared and pre-marinated meats make every Taco Friday an excellent Taco Friday.
El Fenix’s lengua is a lengua verde—nice chunks of tongue in a slightly spicy green sauce, with the tongue’s richness complementing it nicely. It adds a wonderful saucy element to whatever you use it in. Pictured: burrito lengua with rice, beans, serrano salsa, and guacamole.
Maybe not the most photogenic burrito, but it’s dang good! Taken from my Foodspotting profile.
It went very well with Cismontane Brewing Company’s Coulter IPA and Citizen California Common.