Avila's El Ranchito
2201 E. First St.
Santa Ana, CA
Mama Avila brought the delicious recipes from Guanajuato, Mexico that had been in her family for generations. Over the years, Avila's El Ranchito has grown to 11 locations in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Each restaurant is under the personal care of a family member, providing some distinct differences from location to location, but always providing outstanding Mexican food.
Because each restaurant is operated by a different family member, there are differences between the menus. Not to cause a family rivalry, but we've eaten at a few of the locations, and Tustin is fortunate to have the best of the 11 locations nearby, at 2201 E. 1st St., just across the border in Santa Ana. Victor, with the help of his wife and children designed and created this restaurant with a garden patio for his customers to dine in and enjoy.
Avila's El Ranchito specializes in Mexican food made with the highest quality ingredients. Choose from a lengthy list of must-try items including soft tacos, fajitas and combination plates. Our personal favorites are the Avila's Chicken Soup and the Azteca Burrito. Don't miss the happy hour from 3:00 to 6:00 Monday to Friday, when Avila's puts out an assortment of goodies and offers discounted drinks.
For the consistently great Mexican food at reasonable prices, Tustin Magazine names Avila's El Ranchito in Santa Ana the Best Mexican Food In and Around Tustin.
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Very Honorable Mention: It's a bit of a drive, but we discovered a little hole in the wall place further inside Santa Ana, at 1736 W. Fifth Street. Taqueria Los Grandes is not much bigger than a Taco Bell, and like a Taco Bell you order the food at the counter and pick it up when called. In other words, not an upscale place. Indeed, we went there on a recommendation, but based on the way my car's navigation system steered us there, I thought I must have entered the address wrong because we were in a residential neighborhood. But as I peeked around the front of a building facing Fifth Street, it turned out to be the restaurant.
We picked some things at random, and sat down to wait for our food, a bit skeptical that this would be worth the drive. That skepticism continued even as we picked up the food. The portions were large, always a bonus, but the presentation wasn't much. Both orders came in those aluminum foil containers and, oddly, the napkins were from Bagel Me. But the food was insanely good. My nachos were fantastic, with a large quantity of beef on top. My cohort ordered the carne asada burritos, which were served with Mexican rice. She insisted that I take a bite of the rice, which looked like plain old Mexican rice to me. Again, the taste was amazing, and she explained that was only the second time in her life that she had experienced authenticate Mexican rice at a restaurant, all other instances having come from home cooking. It was almost comical that such fantastic tastes could be coming from what was sitting in those unassuming aluminum containers. This is no Taco Bell.
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