Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

Road Grill

March 9, 2010


Pimp my Paella.

 Most of us eat out in brick and mortar establishments. It’s less drafty, and there are places to relieve yourself, and sit. 

Some of us treat them as homes away from home, pouncing on our favorite booth as if it were a Sit ‘n Sleep floor sample.     

But what about those days when you can’t leave your desk and no one in the office is going out to even the most rudimentary of drive-throughs?   Or when you’re a gridlock captive in the Honda Center lot after the concert in dire need of absorbant vittles?

Tapas on Board!

Meals on wheels are the answer, and their evolution has never been more fully realized. A few months back, a food truck convoy the length of Mariner’s Mile rolled into OC in the wake of Kogi BBQ’s exhaust offering  everything from Taco Dawgs to Hakuna Mattatta Tostadas.

The latest mobile offerings come from Barcelona on the Go, twenty-two feet of quilted steel that looks like the spawn of an   Overhaulin’  rig and  Pimp my Ride  utility vehicle. And they have tapas on board. 

Croquettes are  as big as biscuits with the tender texture of Thanksgiving  mashed potatoes. The gilded crispy crust gives way to fluffy, mellow manchego and savory bits of ham. Balsamic reduction drizzle adds a concentrated sweet acidity to the mild snack. 

Alongside the croquette sits a Galician style empanada is the size of a coin purse, stuffed with  sautéed onion, red and green bell peppers and savory, moist chicken infused with smoky pimenton.   

Chimmi Chimmi Co Co Bop!


A full flavored flat iron steak is Expertly seared, hacked into rugged strips and generously doused in chimmichurri giving each bite of fat-marbled beef a garlicky, oily blast. A handful of rustic, crispy hand cut fries accompany the dish.    

While his fellow Argentine chef makes each dish to order,  you notice Barcelona on the Go owner Esteban Nocito’s curatorial attention to detail. His is the only coach I know of with lilting samba on the speakers, a museum quality facsimile of Picasso’s Guernica on the side of the truck and lovingly nurtured snapdragons in a window box. 


Piping hot lentil soup with morsels of ham is deeply flavored and homespun, like something you’d sample in a San Sebastian taverna. 

Flan was, well, flan. But when Nocito adds the promised chocolate drizzled pears poached in tempranillo to the menu, I’m there. 

For location, check Twitter updates at 949.939.6798. Dinner for two, $18.00, food only.


Lola Gaspar

October 29, 2009

Lola Gaspar 003Restaurateurs have a way of looking  ill at ease, or just ill at the beginning of a new venture. After all; life savings, mortgages, pawnable goods and  first-born children are often hanging in the balance. Yet in the half-dozen times I’ve been to Lola Gaspar since it opened ten months ago, the owners always appear relaxed and companionable, chatting up guests with the effortless brio of the guys you met on the train to Pamplona back in college.

 Indeed the Santa Ana Artist’s Village is about as close to Europe as you’ll get in OC. With the Santora Arts Building’s ultra-baroque churrigueresque-style faςade as its bones and a pedestrian street with a trickling fountain and  sunny patio in front, the reinvented pocket of downtown Santa Ana is channeling a Gaudí -studded Barcelona or even Milan’s Brera neighborhood with its side street wiles. A prickly debate has raged for at least ten years over whether this area could or should  go through the pains of metamorphosis. Now the point is moot thanks to a handful of pioneering  restaurants and clubs like Lola that are stimulating down town Santa Ana’s economy one glass of sangria at a time.lola gaspar outside 009

Inside, there are a handful of black leather booths and cute servers that sometimes wear boots to match. Hi-tops and bar stools  flank the L-shaped bar. A single flat screen discreetly shows stuff like The Motorcycle Diaries or the Argentine Super Clasico soccer match while samba plays on an IPOD. Shadows cast by florid wrought iron give the haunt an ethereal vibe during lunchtime while goth-glam chandeliers add femininity at night.

Lola Gaspar 006

Lola’s kitchen occupies the paltry square footage a larger restaurant might set aside for, say,  their small walk-in, yet manages to turn out the casual, unmanipulated fare of a San Sebastian tavern.  Flatbreads  and tacos are decent. Caramel-like dates stuffed with pungent blue cheese and wrapped with crisp bacon have their own cult on Yelp. Seared cuts of steak, caramelized onions and  cheese  in a grilled tortilla rendered translucent with oil is essential comfort food while the accompanying Spanish-style potato salad is just alright.

At thirteen dollars, the roasted wild snapper is one of the more expensive things on the  menu. Cooked to  tender flakiness and dressed in  a tangy caper beurre blanc, it could easily go for more in a formal setting on a dinner menu  even without the accompanying green beans and  crumbly, golden-crusted goat cheese polenta that yields to a pudding-like texture. 

Let the politicos spar about whether gentrification was nefarious or the  if the dominant demographic and current aesthetic of the neighborhood will continue to co-exist. I’ll be on the patio at Lola with a slightly effervescent glass of Twin Vines albarino.

Lola Gaspar 211 W. 2nd Street Santa Ana 92701 (714) 972 1172. Dinner for two, $40.00,  food only.