On a warm Sunday evening, the lobby of Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and bar is buzzing. Children are dropping quarters into a big gumball machine wearing an even bigger sombrero. Patrons, patiently waiting, are stirring straws inside stiff margaritas. Waiters are cutting through the thick crowd, carrying steaming bowls of tortilla soup and cheesy enchiladas to hungry mouths.
Though the warm weather is unusual for an early March evening, the crowd is anything but. Since Mi Casa opened in 1972 along bustling 17th Street in Costa Mesa, it has been the beloved stomping grounds for people living within a 15-mile radius. And when they come, as they do regularly, they often come prepared to wait for a coveted table.
Mi Casa is famous for far more than its food. When it opened, parents brought their children. And when those children graduated from the kiddy menu of bean and cheese burritos, returned from college and got married, they brought their own children to Mi Casa
And the wait, most say, is well worth it. The menu, by popular demand, hasn't changed over the years. The Mi Casa Grande Burrito is huge, stuffed with rice and beans and meat and covered with the tastiest of enchilada sauces.
Customer favorites include the Mexican pizza, served in three sizes, with choices of beef, chili verde or chicken. The pizzas are served on homemade, crisp flour tortillas and topped with melting cheese, beans, olives, tomatoes, onions and green chilies, and come with sour cream and guacamole.
The restaurant, opened by Barrie Moore, was run in part later by his two sons, Rick and Dennis. A few years ago, one of Rick's sons, Ryan, took the reins of the restaurant after graduating from college.
When Barrie Moore opened the doors of the restaurant more than 30 years ago after leaving the liquor business, it had been a steakhouse. And for reasons unknown, probably just to save a few bucks, he kept a lot of the steakhouse decor around.
But Moore added a few things, too. Televisions are dotted around a good-size bar (a great place for slurping down tasty margaritas and appetizers of chips and salsa while waiting). Thick strands of plastic bougainvilleas overhang dark booths, and miniature red, yellow and green chili pepper lights glow over tables.
The menu hasn't really changed in Mi Casa's 35 year existence. Chef Abel Vega, who helped paint the restaurant before it opened in 1972, still serves many of the same Sonoran-style dishes today.
Favorites are the combinations of tacos and enchiladas, but there are other delicious temptations like the steak picado and steak sandwich. The carne asada, and the flautas -- rolled in flour tortillas then deep fried and generously topped with guacamole and sour cream come served with awesome rice and beans.
Try Mi Casa-style huevos rancheros, the breakfast burrito (with chorizo), the chili cheese omelet and (yum) the Gringo burger, which comes with cheese, ortega chili, guacamole and french fries.
Barrie Moore passed away two years ago, and even though Ryan primarily runs the shop, Rick and Dennis are still around. "People love to see my dad and my uncle," Ryan Moore says.
The brothers still work the doors, greet customers, take reservations and seat customers. They'll gladly bring you extra salsa, and it's likely you'll overhear one of them catch up on engagements and promotions tableside with regulars.
Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Bar
296 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
- Visits: 2579
- User: Rita Thomas
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