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By Jen Lucas, Pack Up + Go Contributor
Southern California has a great deal to offer including an average of 260 days of sunshine per year, warm temperatures year round, beautiful beaches and one of my ultimate favorites, fantastic Mexican food. Growing up on the East Coast but having lived in Huntington Beach for several years, I not only familiarized myself with the cuisine but also found some of the best tacos and burritos on the planet. So if you ever find yourself in Surf City, I highly recommend the following:
Fiesta Grill & Catering - 418 17th St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Fiesta Grill tops this list as my all time favorite Mexican food spot. There are two locations – but the main one (located just a few blocks from the beach) has a small eat-in space with just a few tables and bright beach themed murals adorning the walls. My personal favorite, and what I recommend to all carnivores, is the shredded beef enchiladas. The beef is slow cooked daily with the perfect amount of spice, and the homemade red sauce that covers the dish is to die for. I often found myself buying tubs of the sauce a la carte and using it in my home cooking. I’ve failed at any attempt to find a better enchilada and believe me, I have tried.
Sanchos Tacos - 602 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Sanchos Tacos, voted the 2016 best breakfast burrito in Orange County, is only a few years old but has already opened 4 locations. Sanchos is always one of my first stops when visiting HB, and everything I’ve ordered there is legit. My favorite, the Flaco Burrito, is technically a breakfast burrito per the menu. However, I always opt for the lunch option which includes spinach, onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, avocado, their incredible green salsa on the side (ask for extra – you’ll need it) and be sure to add chicken. Sanchos is conveniently located in downtown Huntington Beach with an art-for-sale filled restaurant and several tables outside. The eclectic environment adds to the character and being across the street from the ocean is a nice bonus as well.
Taco Grill – 8481 Heil Ave H, Westminster, CA 92683
Taco Grill was recently recommended by a friend and was not one of my original go-to spots, but it is so tasty it’s now on the “must visit” list. The restaurant is small with a few tables, but the outdoor space is a decent size and covered with an awning. Although technically located in Westminster, CA it’s only minutes from downtown Huntington Beach and well-worth the drive. The menu is typical with tortas, burritos, and flautas but my taste buds always call for the tacos, specifically the shrimp and grilled chicken. There’s nothing extraordinarily unique about their tacos, just full of flavor and authentic street style. Muy delicioso!
Mario’s – 18603 Main Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Mario’s is a sit-down restaurant and bar with a popular happy hour. During Monday night football they offer a free buffet in the bar seating area during the game. The menu is large, and the margaritas are killer, but my favorite dish has to be the beef tamales. The outer cornmeal is not super thick like what I’ve usually encountered and it’s filled with large chunks of tender beef. They also throw a few pieces of the beef on top of the tamale as well as a darker, almost mole-type sauce with a nice amount of spice. The décor is very Mexican beach themed with palapas covering tables and subdued lighting.
Normita’s Surf City Taco – 815 Indianapolis Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Normita’s serves their famous fish tacos and other Mexican street foods in a counter serve operation. There are a few tables outside, but it’s more commonly known as a take out establishment. Although I appreciate a good fish taco, my favorite grub here is their breakfast burrito. You can customize the fillings as you wish but my favorite includes eggs, bacon, potatoes, beans, rice and onions – which I realize are pretty standard in the breakfast burrito realm, however, there’s something about Normita’s flavor combination that makes it stand out from the crowd. Also, their salsa alone is something to rave about and thankfully is included with the burrito.
After each visit to my old stomping grounds and due to all of the Mexican food I consume, my diet quickly switches to salads. However, these are some of the best spots I’ve encountered (including those within Mexico), and it’s worth every single bean and rice-filled calorie.