Taco Mesita Brings Gourmet Fast Food to Tustin

March 23, 2023

Taco Mesita comes to the heart of Orange County with a vision to redefine fast food. Its flagship location, which softly opened its doors in early February, is nestled at the gateway of Old Town Tustin – a historic downtown experiencing an exciting revival and growing diversity.

The concept was brought to life from a collaboration between award-winning restaurateur, chef Ivan Calderon (founder of Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa) and a next-generation team of blended talent: Calderon’s son and co-founder, Nico, along with distinguished designer and partner, Max Moriyama.

Taco Mesita melds tradition with modernity, achieving an unexpected sophistication through its commitment to a simple yet premium palette of ingredients and materials. Every element of the concept – from the house-made ingredients to the branding and building design – communicates a dedication to quality and authenticity. 

“We set out with the intention of creating a restaurant we wanted to eat at ourselves, but hadn’t ever experienced before. We questioned why quality dining experiences were reserved for upscale settings,” says Nico. “We think bringing this experience to a fast food setting is new and surprising and it communicates our ethos to being a place everyone can enjoy.

A streamlined menu offers a carefully curated selection of tacos, burritos, and snacks. Each item’s ingredients are a representation of the brand’s prioritization of a high-quality culinary experience over all else. The menu riffs on and elevates what you might find at a traditional taco stand: charred skirt steak, rotisserie chicken, and al pastor tacos, all topped and garnished with colorful and flavor-packed relishes.

Almost every item in the kitchen crosses paths with woodfire, a cooking method that has as much of a place in traditional campesino cooking as it does in high-brow food culture. The result is meats and vegetables infused with the smoke of citrus and almond wood, providing complex flavors that speak to Taco Mesita’s principles of building on simplicity and tradition to create an unexpected fast food experience. “The food doesn’t overcomplicate things – it finds a balance between premium, unique ingredients and the goodness of a home-cooked meal” explains executive chef and co-founder, Ivan Calderon.

An heirloom mole recipe – passed down generations in the Calderon family – is paired with a blue masa tamal and filled with huitlacoche and shiitake mushrooms. The horchata, a Mexican staple drink, is cleverly dubbed “white gold” to showcase its superfood-driven adaptation, using tiger nut and organic agave nectar, instead of rice and sugar. The corn and flour tortillas are all fresh-pressed and small-batch, using nixtamalized heirloom masa and milled flours. “You’re getting quality over quantity, and you can still feed a family for a fraction of what you’d pay at other restaurants with a menu of this caliber,” says Nico. “That’s what makes us proud of what we’ve done and most excited to share with our community that has so generously welcomed us in.”

Taco Mesita is located at 765 El Camino Real in Tustin and is currently open for limited hours during its Soft Opening from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. In the future, hours of operation will be extended from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

Greer's OC
Blogger | Journalist

Since 1993, Greer has been writing about fashion, dining and trends in Orange County, as a popular columnist for the Los Angeles Time Community Newspapers (Daily Pilot, Coastline Pilot and HB Independent) and now as founder of Greer’s OC.

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