This is Destination Taco: a town-to-town expedition of all things cradled in a tortilla and known as a taco. I begin in my hometown of Laguna Beach to find out who’s serving up the sexiest tacos and share the experience. As SWELL’s guest blogger, I will be rating and awarding each experience accordingly on a scale of 1-5 Cleavers. Why cleavers, you ask? Because they look cool and anything close to a sombrero would be considered racist. So here we go – get excited.
When I began planning this piece, there was no question in my mind about including Adolfo’s, it’s a true Laguna institution among locals. This family owned & operated restaurant has been serving up authentic Mexican meals for decades. I can’t tell you how many summer days of my youth started on the beach and ended here.
- Choice of the Day: Carnitas, Carne Asada, and Shredded Beef
- - Best Choice: The fall-apart Carnitas is the most authentic and delicious in town.
- -Tortilla/Toppings: Classic and predictable So. Cal Mexican style.
- Salsa Bar: One of the best in Laguna with a wide range between pico and extra hot.
- Perfect Pairing: 32oz of Carta Blanca – like a big boy.
- Suggested Dress Code: No shoes, no shirt, no problem - boardshorts, bikinis, & graphic tees
- Wait: < 3min – if you’re too impatient for that, you don’t belong here.
- Taco Tuesday/Happy Hour: Nope, but the prices are some of the lowest in Laguna
Verdict: I don’t know what makes these tacos so amazing and at times comforting, but I keep coming back for more; whether I’m tired or hungry, hungover or sick, Adolfo’s has a way of making the day better.
Asada is the new guy to the group with only being open for the past 18 months, but make no mistake, they’re cooking to stay for good. With a price point that sits at the top of my list, these tacos are masterfully planned and crafted to almost overlook the bill and indulge.
- Choice of the Day: Beer-Battered Mahi, Short-Rib, Crispy Beef, and Chipotle Prawn.
- -Best Choice: The savory goodness of the smokey short-rib taco.
- -Tortilla/Toppings: Where I felt the tortillas fell flat, the fresh toppings bring their A-game.
- Salsa Bar: No. Available upon request no extra charge.
- Perfect Pairing: Frosty Victoria (on draft).
- Suggested Dress Code: Step it up a notch. Collared shirts and dresses.
- Wait: Varies - Dinner reservations recommended.
- Taco Tuesday/Happy Hour: Taco Tuesday – $2 tacos/$3 beers & sangria.
Verdict: This is not another over-priced Mexican restaurant, pushing out obnoxious twists on simple classics. Where the presentation was a little lackluster, the depth of flavor is incredible – combine that with the beautiful design and impressive bar, Asada adds another great option to the Laguna Beach taco scene.
Now I’ll admit that Las Brisas is not on my regular radar for getting my taco fix but it really is a classic Laguna Restaurant that has been shelling out tacos since before I was a twinkle in my Dad’s eye.
- Choice of the Day: Baja Style Mahi Mahi, Blackened Halibut, and Shrimp
- -Best Choice: The Baja Style Mahi Mahi – One of the best in town.
- -Tortilla/Toppings: Not sure how to put this nicely – everything tastes way better than it looks.
- Salsa Bar: Nope and the watered down salsa they provide lacks heat and flavor.
- Perfect Pairing: Their classic Bloody Mary is a delicious distraction from the patio noise.
- Suggested Dress Code: Leave your Yankees hat at home and try a collared shirt or dress.
- Wait: < 10min - Times vary with weather & seasons
- Taco Tuesday/Happy Hour: Happy Hour Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm
Verdict: The staff hustles very hard to make it work with the crowds and they do a great job. Despite the tourist-trap prices, the incredible panorama views of Laguna and Pacific, the 1950s tile reminiscent of its glory days – Las Brisas earns 3 cleavers in my book. If you’ve never been, go, be patient with the Disneyland-esque crowds, and enjoy.
La Sirena has become a place that just feels like home to me. When you walk in you’ll notice real Laguna families enjoying what I consider the best Mexican food in town. They’ve created a culture known as “Mex-Eco” by focusing on locally sourced organic food and doing it in a way that’s not shoved down your throat.
- Choice of the Day: Carne Asada, Fried Calamari, and Fish of the Day (Tilapia)
- -Best Choice: Calamari - try it.
- -Tortilla/Toppings: Fresh pillowy tortillas and stacked fresh toppings piled high.
- Salsa Bar: Yes. Great Selection to dial in the heat or chow down on spicy pickled carrots.
- Perfect Paring: House Margarita
- Suggested Dress Code: Basic tees, boardshorts, bikinis, collared shirts, jeans – as long as you’re not naked.
- Wait: < 5min. and worth every minute.
- Taco Tuesday/Happy Hour: Nope. They’ll come around.
Verdict: With consistently awesome food and a recent remodel that bought the addition of an amazing craft beer selection, this place will never do you wrong. I urge you to find this place, hang out, watch an Angel’s game, and enjoy it all.
As I wrap up this project, I can’t help but think of the places I left off the list: Coyote Grille, Taco Loco, Papa’s Tacos, Laguna Feast, The Beach House, and the new girl Carmelita’s. So that in mind, use this as a starting point and explore Laguna, find out how awesome it is and let me know what town Destination Taco should hit up next. Eat well, drink up, & adios!