As I read all of these reviews for El Toro Bravo on Yelp, I couldn’t help but to second-guess myself. How could so many five-star reviews be wrong?
But I can’t help what I experienced, and my experience at El Toro Bravo was far from stellar. Maybe my friends pumped it up too much, but, for me, the tacos were a resounding “meh.”
A friend of mine enticed me to drive all the way out to Costa Mesa to try a new taco place she’d discovered with wide-eyed tales of tacos as big as your face and lengua that melts in your mouth. Since she’s an experienced foodie, I had to scope it out.
I drove out, and promptly got super-lost because there’s another Yelp location set up for a market in the same plaza that also goes by “El Toro Bravo.” But, eventually, I found it tucked away on the west side of the plaza, on the side behind the Jugos place.
The line wasn’t too long. I usually order my “Taste Trifecta” of tacos (carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas) anytime I try a new place, but because of what I’d heard about the size of the tacos, I decided just to get two instead of my usual three. I’d only heard about the carne asada and the lengua, so I ordered those.
The tacos were indeed the size of my face. My eyes got wider and wider as I saw how much meat the man behind the counter was piling onto my carne asada taco. Then, he pulled out a whole, cooked beef tongue and began chopping it up right in front of me, and my excitement continued to rise.
I paid for my purchases and scampered off to my car, prepared for a mind-blowing burst of flavor and an unforgettable taco experience.
The result? Utter disappointment.
Sure, there was tons of meat, but it was largely flavorless. It was okay, I guess. It was a lot of food for the money (two tacos cost me about six bucks), but it was just five minutes of silent chewing and contemplation for me.
The lengua was even worse. Lengua, when it’s done right, is tender and flavorful; it melts in your mouth in the most wonderful way. Lengua without flavor is just a mouthful of mushy meat. And, at El Toro Bravo, it’s MANY mouthfuls of mushy meat.
I was so disappointed in my experience, but I figured it had to be a fluke. So, a few weeks later, I went back with my sister. This time, she got the carne asada and I got the carnitas.
The result was the same. As we bit into our tacos, I nervously asked my sister, “What do you think?”
She paused for a moment, and replied, “It ain’t that great.”
And that was my overall impression of the place. It was decent, and the portions are certainly amazing. But I can’t understand all the rave reviews at all.
My ultimate conclusion was that there must be a dearth of good taco joints in the Irvine/Costa Mesa area. El Toro Bravo might be the best taqueria in that area, but only because there just aren’t any better ones.
Come to the Westside. We’ll show you what carne asada should really taste like.
El Toro Bravo
745 W. 19th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627