Biting into OC Brunch - Anepalco's Cafe

The first time I went to Anepalco's Cafe, I had absolutely no idea what chilaquiles were but the buzz about the restaurant was around this dish. It must have been around for about a year or two when I first started frequenting this first location of theirs in Orange near the CHOC Hospital (located at 415 S. Main St., Orange, CA 92868), waiting for nearly an hour every time as the small space filled up to the brim every single morning with people hankering for hearty Mexican breakfast dishes. They started in August 2008 in this tiny hole-in-the-wall spot but in April 2012, expanded to a much larger location just up the street at the Ayres Inn which has the capability of serving more than just breakfast. Lunch and dinner menus can also be found here (and I promise they are phenomenal as well) but we visited one weekend afternoon to get a better peek at Anepalco's brunch.

What has seemed to confuse some people when they start reading about Anepalco's is that the menu is described as Mexican and French. What could that possibly mean? Well, Owner and Chef Daniel Godinez has quite the impressive culinary background but it stemmed from training in French cuisine. Once he started up his restaurant(s), he wanted to hearken back to his roots in Mexico and bring a more sophisticated look into Mexican cuisine using his knowledge of French techniques. The result is a superb restaurant that still seems to be an Orange County secret. Perhaps they are known for the chilaquiles but I implore you to try the other menu items at other meal times. To start off the morning meal, you can grab a Guava Mimosa with fresh guava juice and a tart start to the day or you can go a little more familiar by sipping on a beautiful glass of Sangria made with fresh fruit juices and red wine. You can't go wrong either way.

If you absolutely must get a whiff of Anepalco's claim to fame, you could order the masterpiece chilaquiles in either red (most common) or green versions. They vary depending on the sauces that are used, and Chef Danny really knows his sauces. I would have to say that his command and mastery of sauces really cement the food he puts together into a higher echelon of culinary arts. On paper, Anepalco's Chilaquiles does seem quite simple - tortilla chips, omelet-style eggs, a signature red sauce, cotija cheese, sour cream, avocado mousse and pico de gallo. On tongue, it is more complex than one could imagine, and we attribute it to the secret ingredients in their sauce which is made with seven different peppers. On sight, it is beautiful and head-turning. The cult following for this dish is astounding and hard to believe at times but every bite just confirms how brilliantly the chef has turned around a dish once confined to the home and served mainly to bleary-eyed young ones by their mothers and grandmothers. It also follows the same color scheme he wants to show off in all of his dishes - the colors of the Mexican flag.

The flavors Chef Danny puts together are inspired by all of his experiences growing up, and we were delighted to taste what he called his own favorite dish. Only available at the Ayres Inn location, the Huevos Perdidos is a spicy dish with coddled eggs covered and "lost" in sauce, hence the name. Easily could he have stopped at making a coddled egg dish with spicy tomato sauce but the food at Anepalco's Cafe is about upping the ante on traditional foods. You'll be able to find bacon, roasted potatoes, and pan-seared duck in this dish as well! If you are feeling more like lunch time instead of Mexican breakfast depending on the time of day you stumble into the restaurant on a weekend, there are many options including the towering Mexican Truffle Burger, a tall order with 8 ounces of all-natural beef, Oaxaca cheese, white cabbage, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and huitlacoche aioli. It is juicy, umami, and an all-around good time.

If you're trying to figure out why Anepalco's Cafe and Chef Daniel Godinez may sound familiar to you though you have never been there, you may have heard the recent news that he will be opening a restaurant in Downtown Santa Ana called the El Mercado. It's not open yet so I encourage you to venture on over to Orange for either breakfast at the original Anepalco's or brunch/lunch/dinner at the second one located at 3737 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868. It's not only a matter of how delicious the food is. The environment of sleek French look with Mexican influences such as bright pink upholstery is charming, and the service is just like family. In fact, a large amount of the staff has been with Anepalco's since 2008 so they all know the restaurant(s) inside and out. We highly recommend them for any meal of the day!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

NOTE: This brunch article is a part of a series that we will be running through to April, the month when the full editorial will appear with a multitude of more articles and informational pieces in the Orange County edition of LOCALE Magazine. Make sure to check stands when the issue drops so you can get the full scoop on brunch in OC!

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