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What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - Carnitas Heaven (Combo Hell)

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Every Friday, LAist is taking you on a trip down to Orange County to uncover the unique dining experiences that await adventurous eaters willing to explore beyond the county line.

I’ll just say it simply: LA rocks Mexican food. With the largest population of Mexicans outside of Mexico City based in the City of Angels, we are blessed with a preponderance of high-quality, authentic grub (at least based on my uneducated Chinese taste buds). Granted, we’ve neutered it a little bit, spreading our gospel of burritos and hard-shell tacos, but nevertheless, it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without stumbling across a good homestyle meal that sticks to your insides.

Because of the level of quality of Mexican food in the area, a restaurant must truly be exceptional to garner praise. Thus, I set my expectations extraordinarily high for my visit to El Farolito, Citysearch’s 2006 editorial choice for best Mexican food in Orange County, and a hugely popular pick on the Chowhound boards. (“Best” Mexican food in OC should of course be caveated, since authentic cuisine of any kind is so much harder to find in the ‘burbs). The verdict: mad love for the carnitas, everything else not so much.

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Situated in Old Town Placentia – yeah, Old Towns actually do exist in OC, it’s not all tract homes and strip malls, even if 'old' means pre-1970 – El Farolito has the charm (read: minimalist décor, old building) of the typical family restaurant you’d find in East LA, with Rivera-like prints on the wall and friendly service. The menu is similar to what you’d find at most Mexican restaurants. However, according to both the servers and the menu, the carnitas are what make the place famous.