It doesn’t happen too often, but every once in awhile in the midst of breaking national food and beverage news – our team finds something spectacular in our own backyard. The unveiling of new delicious foods and restaurants is always exciting, but can also be a bit embarrassing as one starts to understand their full scope of ignorance to the greatness that is.
To start, Antojitos Don Juan, is a mere 10 minute drive from our office in Santa Ana, CA, a Southern California city known for its high-density Hispanic population and therefore, some of the best Mexican food in the country. To have access to such brilliance is a blessing (have you tried Mexican food in states that don’t share a border?), but allows for an over-saturation of mediocre, even semi-decent food within the same city limits. Think tourist trap, but instead hundreds of taquerias, carts, trucks and sit-down restaurants boasting 90 percent of the same menu items – tacos, burritos, mariscos, etc.
So because eating at a different Mexican establishment everyday is a bit overwhelming (even for us), we tend to stick to the tried-and-true. The places we would mourn upon closing. Add Antojitos to that list.
Let me first warn you of a few mental obstacles that may lead you astray upon your visit to Antojitos Don Juan. The location isn’t specifically close to any freeway, and in what is most likely an impoverished neighborhood. The shopping center is nondescript, boasting a Panda Bowl, Hair Salon and King Water as its anchors. From the outside of the actual building, you will have no idea what you’re walking into. Even upon entering, you’ll still be a bit confused. Chalk menu specials. Assortment of tables and chairs. An outdoor patio that resembles a 1980s Taco Bell. This should not concern or deter you from greatness. Pay heed to the food.
Meet Chris and his father Juan, two of the five-membered Garcia clan whose family is responsible for bringing an aggressive foray of French and Italian inspired Mexican cuisine, in addition to many of the Cali-Mexican classics. On the chalk-written specials, you’ll find a couple off-menu items that look like a mistake. Escargot. Frog Legs. No mistake, and if you’re an adventurer of food – you should trust them.
Escargot – Garlic, Butter, Tomatillo, Shallot & Crisp Toast
In a similar vein to many of us, Juan’s first impression of eating snails was a negative one. But as a chef for a popular French-Italian restaurant, he couldn’t help but notice the high quantity of orders for the delicacy. It wasn’t too long before he was eating an order every night and perfecting his own recipe with garlic, butter, tomatillo, and shallot.
Sauteed Frog Legs with Bacon Sauce
As much as frog legs can be compared to chicken, they’re still in a league of their own. Even when prepared at a high level (which these are) the texture and taste can still be too gamy for many palettes. But if you can appreciate the tenderness and taste of frog – this non-fried menu item is a must have. Oh, and it’s slathered in bacon sauce (or 3 additional from-scratch sauces).
Taking on a similar consistency to Chicken Parmesan, of the multiple entrees we tried family style — this one got demolished first.
Molcajete: Seasoned Chicken, Beef, Chorizo and Cactus
Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp in Spicy Cream Sauce
Carne Asada Fries: Seasoned Beef, Garlic Sauce, Cheese, Pico de Gallo, Sour Cream, Cilantro
The garlic sauce on top of the fries really makes this dish unique. However, here’s some advice: while the sauce adds a ton of flavor, it needs to be eaten with 5-10 minutes, otherwise, soggy city.
Fresh Salmon in Cream Sauce
Flaming Plantain Foster with Vanilla Ice Cream
Antojitos Don Juan
1130 W. Warner Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92707