Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mil Jugos

One of Santa Ana’s best-kept secrets is tucked away on a one-way street that channels the five 0’clock mass exodus from the Ronald Regan Federal building.

Mil Jugos (translation: one thousand juices) is a colorful hole-in-the-wall restaurant owned by the friendly and always full of smiles Norah Briceño, seen pictured below (left) with her mother, Solange.

The vibrant walls are covered with various photos from Norah's hometown in Venezuela, as well as interesting handcrafted Venezuelan-style building façades.

As a rule of thumb when trying new restaurants, I always tell the server that it's our first visit. Not because I expect special treatment, but I like to get the back-story of the establishment while it buys me some extra time as I peruse the menu.

Luckily, our server just happened to be Norah and she sat right down with us at our table to help decipher the menu while sharing the story of the fruition of her dreams and the difficulties one faces when starting a restaurant in downtown Santa Ana.

Though the menu wasn't complicated, I did need a little handholding from Norah being that I've never eaten Venezuelan cuisine before. She seemed familiar with my cluelessness of Venezuelan dining as she proudly claimed to be "the only Venezuelan restaurant in town" (yeah, it even says that on her business card too).

After helping us pick out some of the restaurant favorites, she headed back into the kitchen where her mother immediately began preparing the forthcoming deliciousness.

First up were the Arepas–grilled cornbread stuffed with either chicken or seasoned meat. The size of an Arepa is hard to tell from these photos, but each one is about the size of a Jr. Whopper (my mouth was salivating as I Photoshopped these two photos together).

The cornbread was light and sweet with just the right amount of crispiness, adding texture to a mouthful of overflowing steamy goodness from either the seasoned meat or the flavorful chicken. The Arepas come out piping hot, but the amazing taste makes one a glutton for punishment as I couldn't resist to continue to chomp and chew away, burning the insides of my mouth rather waiting a few minutes for them to cool down.

Just as we finished up the Arepas, our Cachapas were being delivered to our table. What looks like a burned omelette is actually a folded sweet corn pancake stuffed with white cheese and seasoned meat.

Though it may look like breakfast, this bad boy could be served at anytime of the day, bringing me to my only complaint about this restaurant–the hours.

Mil Jugos is only open from 10AM-5PM Monday-Friday, and from 10:30AM-5PM on Saturday. Norah said that after 5PM, the downtown just seems to die giving her no reason to stay open, especially now in these tough economic times.

Hopefully, with my boys just around the corner at The Crosby "killin' it" on what should be a dead night like Mondays or Tuesdays, perhaps the nightlife will pick up downtown and we'll all soon have an opportunity to sear the insides of our mouths way after the street lights have come on.

Oh yeah, the juices were great, but that's kind of a given.

Mil Jugos
318 W. 5th Street
714 836-4601

Need more convincing you say? Check out these fine reads:
OC Register
Washington Square Website

...and don't forget to check out The OC Weekly's review (like I did–sorry Gustavo ;)


Anonymous said...

Mil Jugos is so good! I'm craving a carne desmechada arepa right now...

Anonymous said...

Do you think they are stoked being called a "hole in the wall"

Not so much maybe?

Ben Dayhoe said...

Anon #1
The Carne Desmechada was fantastic. Me thinks that's going to be my breakfast tomorrow.

Care to join?

Anon #2
Have you been to Mil Jugos? That place IS A HOLE IN THE WALL. Not a "glory hole" ala Porky's.

Santa Ana Slim said...

Dude...why wasn't I notified about this new discovery. And why do you find the good ones. Every time we try something new, it always sucks. Guess who's coming to breakfast!?

Anonymous said...

I personally enjoy trying out hole in the wall restaurants. They're much more intriguing than chain restaurants. Where else can you sit down and chat with the owner? That's what makes downtown Santa Ana restaurants so enjoyable.

Thomas Anthony Gordon said...

Ben....I'm in........when do we eat?

Ben Dayhoe said...

Hey Thomas!

Anonymous said...

Cachapas are GOOD! And it's not just the only Venezuelan restaurant in SanTana--it's the only Venezuelan restaurant in Southern California.

By the way, Ben, you gotta give the Weekly some love! And, yes, Anon 2: it's very much a hole-in-the-wall. As someone who has covered restaurants in Orange County for more than 5 years, I can easily say the best restaurants in OC are holes-in-the-wall, much better than $50-a-dinner madness. Nothing shameful about the term.

Ben Dayhoe said...

My apologies Gustavo.
Great review and I also learned a new word: "Zaftig".

Link to your article added to the post.

Anonymous said...

You're a kind man. If you haven't already, order a guanabana smoothie next time you're there, or one of mamey--two of the best Latin American fruits EVER.