Senores y senoritas, boy do I have a treat for you! I’m going to share with you a little known secret. ”Chato’s Del Agave” in San Clemente offers some of the best Mexican food I have ever tasted (grandma...don’t be hatin’. Your food was great but you are dancing with the angels now. Miss you!!).
Chato’s Del Agave, a family owned restaurant, is located in the heart of San Clemente and has been there for about 13 years. Bummer for me since I just discovered them within the last couple of years! Entrance to the restaurant is through a wrought iron gate which takes you to a beautifully decorated courtyard. I always feel as if I am in a private hacienda when I go to Chato’s with its beautiful courtyard filled with many cactus plants, bird cages and water fountain. Not to mention the fact that the owners of this wonderful restaurant are almost always present making sure everything runs smoothly. The dishes are from the owner’s Michoacán family recipes which date back six generations and “holy goodness” this family sure knows how to cook up a delicious Mexican feast!
For starters their “Nachos-N-More” are superior to all others nachos I have ever eaten. Typical nachos are a pile of chips drenched with cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. At Chato’s the nachos are made and served individually on each tortilla chip similar to mini pizza slices. Each and every one is topped with delicious pork carnitas, cheese, beans and salsa. These nachos are by far the best ever!!
Every time I dine at Chato’s I order their splendid “Caldo Talpeno” which is their signature soup. The soup consists of white meat chicken, diced avocados and tomatoes in a light, pleasant broth. I also ask for diced fresh jalapenos on the side and pile them into my soup dish for an extra spicy kick.
This week I had their “Chicken Mole” which is superb! The mole takes two days to make and you can taste wonderful flavors of chocolate and chili power along with at least a dozen other fresh ingredients, which were not revealed to me (I asked, no answer, their secret). What a great combination of flavors!
In addition to all the traditional Mexican fare, Chato’s makes their sopes (very small thick corn tortillas which are filled with tasty goodies) and tortillas homemade…you can really taste the difference. I ask you, how many restaurants make homemade tortillas and sopes?? Not many, and chain restaurants that do make homemade tortillas don’t taste as good as Chato’s. "AY PAPI...quero mas tortillas de maiz"!
Another favorite of mine is the “Carnitas Salad”. I was pleasantly surprised when my waitress brought a plate of chopped lettuce greens topped with a huge mound of carnitas (shredded, roasted pork), radishes and carrots. You have a choice of two dressings; tequila or cilantro and they are both very refreshing…none of the typical heavy ranch or blue cheese dressing at this traditional Mexican restaurant.
In addition to their mouth watering food, Chato’s has a full bar, large beer selection and 147 (you read it right baby cakes, 147) tequilas to sip or shoot. They also offer several special margaritas. My favorite is the low calorie “Organic Margarita” made with organic tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar. Two other popular margaritas are the “Coronita” which is served up in a large schooner glass with a mini bottle of Coronita beer poured upside down in the glass and the “Kick Ass Margarita” with an extra added shot of tequila (“tequila tonight, for tomorrow we ride”) in the form of a mini Hornitos tequila bottle also tipped inside the glass. I must say an interesting and fun presentation for a margarita. "Salud chicos y chicas"!
In a “tortilla” shell, you should head down south and try Chato’s Del Agave. I think you will be very pleased. I know I was! Adios amigos!