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Anepalco's Cafe in Orange brings tasty Mexican and French influences together

Anepalco's Chilaquiles are a signature dish at Anepalco's Cafe in Orange
Anepalco's Chilaquiles are a signature dish at Anepalco's Cafe in Orange
Edward Simon

Anepalco's Cafe has two locations in Orange County. The oldest, a nondescript looking storefront in a row of shops on Main Street in Orange, is easily recognizable, with people waiting in front, happy diners enjoying the food while sitting at wooden tables on the sidewalks and many sipping cool drinks while waiting for one of the dozen inside tables. Sure, you could go to their newer and larger location only a few miles away, but part of the charm of the original location is it's cozy neighborhood feel.

Anepalco's Cafe in Orange provides delicous breakfasts and lunches in a cafe setting
Anepalco's Cafe in Orange provides delicous breakfasts and lunches in a cafe setting
Edward Simon

Anepalco's Cafe classifies itself as a Mexican-French fusion restaurant, but that barely describes what it is. Breakfasts include touches of French influence on some menu items, while the main dishes overall lean more to the stately cuisine of Mexico City rather than the breakfast burrito and nachos that are found at most Mexican restaurants. This makes sense, as Mexico was a part of the French Empire in the 1860's. The French touch is apparent in not only the taste of some of the dishes but the presentation that is way beyond what one might expect at a breakfast and lunch place.

The menu at Anepalco's consists of breakfast and lunch dishes. A good example of the mixture of cuisines that makes Anepalco what it is shows in the Guava French Toast. Classic French preparation, but with the flavors of guava, coconut and agave syrup for a decidedly tropical taste. Another example is the Go Veggie Crepe, an excellent choice for those who are avoiding meat. Pesto sauce, spinach, tomato, red onions, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese nestle in a delicate crepe, accompanied by a cup of fresh fruit. The Green Tomatillo Crepe shows what happens when France meets Mexico (and with much better results than Maximilian I had). The delicate crepe is filled with chicken or pork, chicharrón and queso fresco. Topping it is a tomatillo sauce, avocado,
red radish and Cilantro.

Some of the unique Mexican dishes that are rarely found in other restaurants is their versions of chilaquiles. This dish, originally a creation by Mexican cooks trying to find a way to use day or two old tortillas, is a classic of Mexican cuisine and yet rarely found in restaurants. The Green Chilaquiles comes plated as a round tower, topped with avocado mousse, pumpkin seeds and pico de gallo. Scrambled eggs, a tomatillo sauce, sour cream, queso fresco and scrambled eggs complete the presentation. The tortilla chips are cooked somewhat differently, part of them being cooked to complete, almost falling apart softness, while others are added later in the cooking to achieve an al dente type of bite. This is one of the best versions of this dish around, hearty and yet with an unexpected lightness.

The Mexican Enchiladas Trio is on the lunch menu and can be made with either chicken or cochinita pibil. The Cochinita Pibil is Mexico's answer to Hawaiian Kalua Pork. It is a pit roasted pork, first marinated in fruit juices and achiote (a read seed paste), then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for hours until extremely tender. The enchiladas are topped with a house made red sauce, sour cream, shredded lettuce, guacamole and cotija cheese. The serving of three enchiladas is flavorful, with the sauce still allowing the flavor of the meat to shine.

The chilaquiles are presented well in an off-the-menu dish, Molé Chilaquiles. The complex molé sauce that Anepalco Cafe has put together is well balanced, with subtle hints of pumpkins seeds and chocolate enhancing the variety of chiles used. The sauce is reddish black, thick and totally delicious. Sometimes it is also available as a topping for enchiladas. Either way, it is a sauce well worth trying. The menu also includes a variety of omelets. A special, the Green Chile Omelette, combines toast and potatoes on a plate with an omelette with a delicious green chile sauce. Other omelets on the regular menu include a Spanish Omelette and a Veggie Omelette.

For lunch, salads and sandwiches augment the breakfast choices which can be ordered all day. The dishes such as the enchiladas also are part of the lunch menu. French choices include a true Parisian Croque Monsieur and a Ratatouille Sandwich, while choices such as a Cuban Sandwich and a Pulled Pork Jamaican BBQ Sandwich provide a nice Caribbean influence. Of course, Mexico is no stranger to the sandwich, as evidenced by it's popular torta. Anepalco's Sandwich features the cochinita pibil, a Mexican Sandwich features chicken breast along with pico de gallo and queso fresco cheese, a Poblano Chicken Breast Sandwich has popular chile topped with a poblano aoli and a Carnitas Sandwich has bacony chicharron as part of its toppings.

Anepalco's Cafe on Main Street is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch. The other location on Chapman adds dinner hours to brunch and lunch menus. For breakfast, though, the original Main Street location is open from 8am and make a perfect spot to get a tasty, unique breakfast. Anepalco's Cafe has the charm of a small cafe with a great mix of traditional Mexican, creative French and some nice twists on a few old breakfast dishes too.

Anepalco's Cafe

415 S. Main Street

Orange, CA 92868

PH: 714-456-9642

www.anepalcoscafe.com