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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Tortilla Republic opens in Laguna Beach

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Possessing the right menu may be an important attribute on a restaurant’s list of desirables, but right up there is location. With a coveted address in Laguna Beach, Tortilla Republic set its sights for their third destination (exiting locations include Kauai, Hawaii and West Hollywood). We were fortunate to find a spot in the central structure, since our lack of parallel parking prowess is notorious in this neighborhood.

We enter their abode and beeline for the booth with a people-watching view of Pacific Coast Highway, sunshine naturally lighting up the dining room and extensive bar. Dimly lit lanterns illuminate additional seating below us, their reflection bouncing off a mirrored wall. From a dramatic art installation of ivory rope, to a metal stand used to corral multiple handbags, it’s the details that set them apart.

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Orange County native Chris Tzorin helms the team. His presence is equal parts skill and playfulness– a plus when stationed in an exhibition kitchen. Of the appetizers shared, we gravitated towards crunchy flautas stuffed with free range chicken. Other favorites included gluten-free shrimp tacos wrapped in jicama ‘shells’ and huarache de hongos: flatbread topped with a mushroom duo, cheeses, baby arugula and roasted shallots.

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Seafood was a craving that day. Maybe it was Laguna’s influence, but creamy lobster enchiladas (also gluten-free; just ask for suggestions) in a crab and shrimp bisque hit the spot. Pork fans found solace in crispy carnitas, pickled jalapenos and warm tortillas. For strong stomachs, their spiciest dish is a short rib “chile verde.” Plates featuring duck or poblano mole are worth trying, as is a signature hamburguesa. Their modern take has watercress and chipotle aioli. Discussing Mezcal and tequila cocktails is a whole other conversation. Consider one the next time the hustle of PCH requires a break. Thank us later.

Originally transplanted from the Bay Area, Anne Marie Panoringan is a freelance writer who prefers to divide her spare time motoring between great cuisine (especially breakfast!) and workouts that get her hungry again. Anne Marie’s day job is in government, but late evenings are spent typing and catching up with her spouse and DVR.

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