Solita Tacos & Margaritas (photos by Leonard Ortiz, OC Register)
The first thing that catches my eye at Solitas is the ceviche. I see servers carrying these oversized goblets through the dining room, plunking them down on tables with a delicate thud.
“Is that the yellowtail?” I ask, pointing.
“Should I bring you one of those while you look over the menus?” our server asks.
I nod silently, wide-eyed, like a child in a candy store who’s just been granted a wish.
By the time the fishbowl of ceviche arrives, I’m already enjoying an excellent margarita. The drink tastes like real lime juice, not one of those mixes. It also tastes like real tequila. Casa Noble to be exact.
When our server comes back to take our entree order, I ask about the roasted chicken.
“It’s really good, but I have to warn you,” she says. “It takes about 40 minutes to cook.”
I look at my watch. I look at my guest. It’s almost two in the afternoon. I consider the giant goblet of ceviche on our table. I glance across the dining room, at the raised garage-door-style windows that separate indoors from out. A pleasant breeze rustles through the restaurant, swirling the air with the scent of oak charcoal, whiffs of which occasionally escape from the glass-enclosed kitchen. Mexican music plays subtly in the background.
“I’ll take the chicken,” I say. “And another margarita.”
Over the course of several visits, I’ve really enjoyed the drinks here. On manly principles, I normally don’t order frozen margaritas, but the blended drinks here defy their frou-frou stereotype. They, too, taste like real margaritas. The micheladas are excellent, too. And when I order a sangrita, nobody blinks. The waiter knows exactly what I’m talking about, which is a shot of tequila alongside an equal shot of tomato juice similar to a Bloody Mary mix but lighter, more refreshing…
The food here is familiar — burritos, fajitas, grilled fish, tortas, enchiladas — but just familiar enough that it makes you feel at ease rather than bored. A lot of the dishes taste like things I’ve eaten in Mexico when I’ve wandered the streets of Sayulita, La Sauceda or Cholula, simple little towns not known for culinary greatness but where great food is always easy to find. It’s the kind of stuff that you almost always smell before you see, and it’s those intoxicating aromas that hook you before you’ve even had a chance to taste it…
This is obviously just a synopsis. Want more? You can read my full review and see the star rating along an extensive slide show by photographer Leonard Ortiz in this week’s OC Register. If you don’t have a subscription, you can buy a Day Pass — cheaper than a cup of coffee — for 24-hour access to the entire OC Register archive. I also invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.