Alta Baja Market
Located in downtown Santa Ana at the 4th Street Market, Alta Baja Market is a grocery store, deli and educational space dedicated to the foods and crafts of California, Mexico and the American Southwest. Alongside the selection of fresh food, wine, craft beer, cheese and home goods, they host monthly events such as cooking classes and workshops. http://www.altabajamarket.com/
We met up with Gustavo Arellano, the former editor of OC Weekly and a long-time food critic, to get the inside scoop on the growth of all kinds of Latin American restaurants in Orange County. Gustavo mentioned a few of his favorite spots, including Donde Adela for Colombian food (http://www.comidacolombianaoc.com/), the best cemitas poblanas at a food truck in Santa Ana called Cemitas Andrea, Taco Maria for high-end Mexican food (http://www.tacomaria.com/), Mariscos Mocorito for Sinaloense food where you've got to try the shrimp or fish tacos and ceviche (http://mariscosmocorito.com/), and Tempo Urban Kitchen where they specialize in farm-to-table, sustainable ingredients (https://tempourbankitchen.com/).
Priding themselves in using only organic greens, natural meats, wild caught fish and no MSG or coloring additives, Taco Mesa offers quality food over the counter at low prices. And if you are looking for fresh tortillas, then look no further than their location in the city of Orange, which has its own tortilleria in the restaurant. You can watch as your tortillas are made fresh using non-GMO corn! You'll also want to try Taco Rosa, where they create their dishes from scratch without using preservatives, additives or canned goods. Popular items include baby goat tacos, jidori chicken breast and kurobuta pork.
In the heart of Santa Ana is Mil Jugos, one of very few authentic Venezuelan restaurants in California, serving up fresh home cooking. Founded by a mother and daughter team, Mil Jugos offers dishes like arepa, cachapa, empanadas and sopa de lentejas. http://www.miljugos.com/
Evoking the ambiance of Spain with the comfort of California, Vaca offers traditional Spanish tapas as well as modern interpretations, cocktails, wine and beer. The recipes and cooking techniques by Executive Chef (and Top Chef season 13 runner-up) Amar Santana, will make you feel like you left the country without even buying a plane ticket. Vaca is located between the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. http://www.vacarestaurant.com/
In the Anaheim Packing District, they celebrate Dia de los Muertos every day at Urbana Mexican Gastronomy and Mixology. Influenced by Michoacan street food and utilizing only natural and fresh ingredients, they serve gourmet tacos and snapper ceviche, as well as handmade tortillas. With its colorful and intimate atmosphere, it's a great spot for date night. http://urbanaanaheim.com/
Located on the gorgeous shore of Laguna Beach, Las Brisas combines Mexico's West Coast cuisine with a romantic setting. Enjoy delicious cocktails on their expansive patio and stay warm by snuggling up near the fire pit. Here's some cool history: The founder, Larry J. Cano, was from East L.A., and attended UCLA before flying missions for the U.S. Air Force in World War II. He earned a business degree from USC and eventually founded the El Torito restaurant chain and his flagship, Las Brisas. He's also been called the "founding father of cadillac margaritas," and is credited with making Mexican food an American mainstay. http://www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com/
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