Hacienda on the Lake – First Review: Breaking the Chains of Suburban Dining

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Waterside Dining Without Soaking Your Wallet


With a name like Mission Viejo, you’d think good tasting Mexican food in a full service restaurant would be easy to find. But it seems suburbanites in the sleepy little bedroom community of south Orange County, like their dining establishments like they like their houses: expensive, in a limited number of floorplans, and only available in earth tones. So, it’s no surprise, uniform and boring chain restaurants dominate the foodscape where cookie cutter is the rule of the day. There are exceptions to every rule, though, and today’s exception comes with waterfront dining, and is neither a chain, nor expensive. Welcome to Hacienda on the Lake.

The Lay of the Land


Hacienda on the Lake is perched right on the water on the western shore of Lake Mission Viejo, occupying the old Tortilla Flats location. They have utilized the multi-leveled, terraced, indoor and outdoor seating already laid out by their predecessor, so great views of the lake can still be had from nearly anywhere in the restaurant. There is a full bar, with additional bar seating in the adjacent windowed area near the lake. You will need to sit in one of these two areas to partake in the Taco Tuesday offerings, or as Hacienda on the Lake calls it, Taco Fiesta Tuesday. Keep in mind, the bar can get loud, especially when work parties top in for a happy hour drink, or during a game,

The Tacos


There are two taco specials to choose from at Hacienda on the Lake: traditional crispy tacos, or street tacos. The crispy tacos are $1 each, and are available with shredded chicken, shredded beef, or potato, and come topped with iceberg lettuce and cheese. The street tacos are sold in threes for $6.99. These can be had stuffed with carnitas, asada, chicken or fish, but all three must be the same. I can’t think of when we have ever ordered three of the same taco anywhere, and we were having a hard time justifying $2.33 tacos when there were perfectly good $1 tacos on the menu, so we chose one each of the traditional crispy tacos,

Chicken and Beef Taco

Normally, we address the pros and cons of each taco individually, but in this case, they were so similar we thought we’d spare you reading the same description twice. Both were mildly seasoned, leaned toward being dry and had plenty of meat, lettuce and cheese. The meat wasn’t jerky dry, but dry enough that salsa is more than a flavor enhancer. It helps keep your mouth from drying out. OK, that’s harsh, because the tacos are very edible. And at a $1 a piece, with waterfront dining included, Hacienda on the Lake just may be the best bargain in So OC. But trust me, you want the salsa.

Potato Taco

The potato taco was cooked perfectly. The potato was slightly crispy on the outside and a little more like mashed potato on the inside. If you like your mashed potatoes without butter, salt, pepper or gravy, or your fries without ketchup or salt, this is the potato taco for you.  We like a little seasoning, so once again, it was salsa to the rescue.

Beyond the Tacos


What Hacienda on the Lake gives up in $1 tacos, it makes up for in drinks. The house margarita special is $7.50 and tequila shots are $5. Coke products are $3.75, and according to our waitress, not refillable during Taco Tuesday. But we do like the complimentary tricolor tortilla chips and salsa while waiting for our tacos to arrive. There is a salsa bar available with mild and spicy salsa, limes, chopped onions, cilantro and spicy pickled onions.

Should You Go: Should You Go to Hacienda on the Lake for Taco Tuesday?

If we lived closer, we’d be more inclined to stop in more often, Staring out a window watching the boats cruise by, enjoying a $1 taco—it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. Can you get better tacos? Sure. But not anywhere in this part of Orange County. It’s a great place to unwind after a long day at work, or to catch a game. And it’s definitely worth breaking the chain habit, and helping out an independent restaurateur instead of feeding the cookie cutter establishment.


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