Studio Session Dinner at El Toro

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: Burrito Al Pastor


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.

El Toro Carniceria: Taco Lengua

El Toro Carniceria of Santa Ana is a very well-known spot at 1st Street and Bristol, a stone’s throw from the hip Arts District. It’s actually a two-part affair, composed of the main store and the smaller prepared food annex. The main store is very useful in its own right, but the tacos, among many other things, come from the prepared-food annex. The annex isn’t tiny, but it fills up fast. El Toro’s lengua has pleasant aromatic notes of cilantro and onion, and, like all their meats, is always cut up to order and steaming hot. Like any taqueria, you can of course get any meat in any form, and everyone has their favorite dish with their favorite meat. The star of any taco from El Toro is definitely the meat, although every component has its place in the dish. Usually, I go for a torta, but the first time I went to El Toro Carniceria, I saw some tacos being made for another customer, but it was how they make their tacos that really appetized me. For a taco lengua, the person behind the counter simply grabs a handful of lengua, kept in large pieces in the case, runs a cleaver through it a couple of times, and scoops it into double-layered house-made corn tortillas. A generous pinch of onion and cilantro finishes the simple, delicious, and massive taco. There are a variety of great salsas available, but for me that just detracts from the simple perfection of the meat, tortillas, onion, and cilantro.

Taco with a capital T. Taken from my Foodspotting profile.

Taco with a capital T. Taken from my Foodspotting profile.