Just relaxing on an islet in the Caribbean

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I have often wished for tasty, authentic Mexican food that is also good for me and much to my delight my genie-in-a-bottle granted my wish at “Taco Mesa” in Costa Mesa. This small dining establishment and three other restaurants throughout the county bearing the same name have been owned and operated for 18 years by Ivan Calerdon. Across from the DMV and the site of a former Taco Bell restaurant building with an outdoor dining area, Taco Mesa is a non-descript little Mexican diner and offers all the healthy taste treats my tummy periodically needs and craves.

The “House Salad” is a simple salad for a mere $3.99 but requiring much needed protein, I requested a full order each of Grilled Blackened Shrimp and Calamari Strips. My salad was fresh and delicious with crispy romaine lettuce, firm tomato wedges, pepita seeds, queso fresco and served with a side of cilantro ranch dressing. The grilled seafood was cooked to perfection bringing out the natural sweetness of the shrimp and tenderness of the calamari. I know much care is taken in the kitchen when my grilled shrimp taste sweet and succulent not over-cooked and old tasting.

One very popular item is the “Blackened Chicken Breast Burrito”. In fact, this burrito is so good that Sunset Magazine called it the “Best of the West” burrito a number of years ago. My hubby orders his burrito “wet” with a spicy chipotle sauce drenched over the top melting the blend of flavorful, gooey cheeses together.

A scrumptious dish that satiated a huge craving of mine was the “Salmon Enchiladas”. The enchilada was filled with fresh spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and topped with an overly-generous amount of tangy lime cream sauce. The flavors were wonderful but next time I will ask my order taker to cut back on the amount of sauce. Although very good, it was a bit too heavy for my palate.

If I rated my dishes on a scale from one to ten, I would give the “Tacos de Cangerejo” a ten! Several mini flour tortillas are crispy fried and filled with a generous portion of crab meat and diced fresh mangos in a drizzle of habanera cream sauce then sprinkled with shredded cabbage and mango relish. “Cilantro Rice”, crisp jicama slices, cucumbers and orange wheels are the healthy, low-fat accompanying side dish.

Most Mexican restaurants offer a mediocre version of “Escabeche” but I have decided the Escabeche that Taco Mesa offers is my favorite. For the uninformed, this accoutrement is a blend of spicy, pickled thick carrot slices, onion slices, jalapenos and herbs (usually bay leaf and oregano) served room temperature which brings out all of the veggies glorious flavors. I gleefully nibble on the tasty, crunchy nuggets while waiting for my order to arrive.

I dig that fact that Taco Mesa dares to serve a “Taco Alambre”…grilled steak with bacon (si, bacon!), peppers, onions, marinated Serrano chilies and Oaxaca cheese. Guys, we all know that bacon makes everything taste amazing. They also serve breakfast all day! If “Machaca con Huevos” does not appeal to you, try the “Fresh Fruit Salad” topped with trail mix and honey. This mixture of fresh, sweet seasonal fruits will wet any appetite.

In addition, I treated myself to the house made “Sangria”, a lovely combination of fresh squeezed natural juices, sweetened with Agave (a natural sweetener from the Agave cactus) Aquamiel and topped with a plethora of fresh sliced strawberries. I found my drink to be very refreshing and yummy. Beer, wine and homemade Margaritas are also available. Those beverages alone, along with weekly dinner specials and delicious food, will keep me coming back for more!


Taco Mesa on Urbanspoon
Open Daily 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

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