Carmelita’s By the Lake

If you read my last post I reviewed an amazing gourmet Mexican restaurant in Irvine. For some reason I have had my eye on tacos and Mexican cuisine so I decided to try another Mexican eatery down in Rancho Santa Margarita. By now you must know that I have pretty high standards for what I consider exceptional. So when my friend recommended Carmelita’s I expected it to be to that standard. On a side note, driving down from Irvine to RSM is not bad if you bypass the traffic which we did not. But as we arrived into RSM and were instantly surrounded by majestic rolling hills and residential community after another. We were quickly soothed into calm suburbia state of mind.

Spinach and Cheese Enchiladas

Carmelita’s is located near an amazing lake with a beautiful view. When we arrived it was very chilly so we decided to sit inside. I wasn’t about to sit through dinner and freeze myself in the process. It’s very difficult to enjoy a meal when you are thinking about your body shivering. We entered a dimly lit restaurant with a very woody and almost cabin like interior. Nevertheless, it was warm and friendly. We were given our menus by a hearty waiter that asked if we would like to start with a pitcher of their famous margaritas. Most of my group wasn’t interested in drinking margaritas and one pitcher was 5 glasses. Regardless, we decided to splurge and order it anyway. It was the spicy margarita with sliced jalapenos in it. It was a flavorful drink with a pretty strong kick to it. I believe they make their drinks from scratch and do not use a mix of any kind. Next, they brought out the typical salsa and chips mixture with a little added bonus of their “famous bean dip”. In my opinion, I think the bean dip was tasty but nothing quite to the context of my friend’s ravings or other reviewers that had tried it before. It was a typical bean dip nothing more and nothing less. I don’t think it made the meal but really just accessorized it by providing us with another item to dip our chips into.

Half the group was vegetarian and ordered Carmelita’s cheese and spinach enchiladas. In addition we also ordered fish tacos, carne sada, and carnitas. I did take a bite out of my friends cheese and spinach enchiladas and the texture was crispy and cheesy. Let’s just my socks weren’t knocked off by that experience. The show stopper was when I ordered the carnitas. First thing that stood out was the portion. It was like having half the pig on my plate! It also included guacamole, a spicy dipping sauce, and some onions and cilantro. They give you a few tortillas to wrap the carnitas in as well. I grabbed my fork and sunk it straight into the meat and as my fork left the plate you could see the juicy tender meat fall apart.

I want to properly explain how my tongue felt. I know that is a strange way to say it but that is exactly what I mean. The meat was so flavorful that it literally made my tongue and taste buds happy. I didn’t even know that food could do that! The meat was seasoned with the right spices and was chewy and tender in all the right places. I know I am going into some detail but I think that this particular dish deserves that much. I tried my husband’s carne asada expecting much of the same experience but was not as satisfied. The carne asada meat was a bit tough although very flavorful. I would suggest ordering it medium rare next time as they tend to cook it more here.

Carne Asada

At this point, we were all quite full and satisfied. Although, I wasn’t a big fan of the cheese and spinach enchiladas my friends were which means that part of my experience is based on the fact that I am such a hard core meatatarian. I would not fully enjoy a vegetarian dish in general. So if you are vegetarian I do recommend those enchiladas for you to try as my friends loved it. The waiter came and asked us if we wanted to get an order of their churros. At first, we were a bit hesitant because what can you really do with churros? But since I am a foodie and a food junkie I jumped at the chance of trying it anyway. We decided on getting two orders and wished we ordered three. I don’t know how they managed it but they had inserted a creamy filling into each of the churros creating a crispy sweet and creamy concoction. It was basically the “perfect churro”. Maybe, I go to far and maybe I don’t. I think you need to go and try this out for yourself because I have tried many churros in my life and this one takes the cake. Or rather takes the churro!

CHURROS..amazing churros!

Overall, I would go back to Carmelita’s to enjoy the carnitas and churros while sitting by the lake sipping on a nice margarita. This is a restaurant you want to visit in the spring or summer to take advantage of all it offers. However, if compared to Taleo a Mexican restaurant I previously visited it comes in at a close second. The main reason is it simply wasn’t the best of the best. They try hard and are quite successful but it was missing that extra factor to make it exceptional. It is still a fine establishment and worth visiting but hasn’t reached my standards yet. I will need to try their seafood and find out if that is what will be their point of excellence.

Article Written By: The Food Junkie


Check out Carmelita’s

31441 Santa Margarita Pky #P
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

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