No One Hit Wonder Here, They’re All Good!
Until visiting Hacienda La Joya, we’d been to taco places that had great carnitas tacos, and others that had great carne asada tacos, and still others that specialized in some other kind of tacos. But those specialty items were more often than not, one hit wonders. Typically, anything else on the menu paled in comparison to that one great item that made our mouths water and our bellies happy.
Hacienda La Joya has conquered the one hit wonder curse. We’ve eaten here many times, but haven’t reviewed it yet. It could be we are in disbelief that everything on the menu can be so good. It could also be that we keep forgetting bits of crucial information for the story… but maybe that’s because we like Hacienda La Joya so much we intentionally forget and subconsciously create reasons to go back. Or maybe the food is just so good, we forget the reason we’re there. Whatever the reason, we find ourselves dining at Hacienda La Joya more than any other Mexican restaurant, and that’s saying something.
The Lay of the Land
Hacienda La Joya is a small, full-service, family owned restaurant located in a small strip center in Mission Viejo behind a Sonic Drive-in off the corner of Jeronimo and Los Alisos. You wouldn’t know it was there if you hadn’t been there before or Yelped it in search of something different. Quite frankly, this is the kind of place we started BrakingforTacos.com to find: Great reasonably priced food you probably haven’t tried before.
Inside, the small dining room guarantees you won’t be lost in the crowd. Because it’s family owned and operated, they all have a vested interest in Hacienda La Joya’s success, so everyone is friendly. But be warned, that small space does fill up on Taco Tuesday, so be prepared to wait.
You know those taco places you go to for Taco Tuesday, and they only give you two or three choices of fillings from their regular menu and everything else is full price? There are no limitations like that at Hacienda La Joya. Here, every taco is $.99, and available on a crispy or soft corn tortilla, so you can try them all, and you’ll want to. Don’t get to excited about the crispy tacos, though. If there is a flaw in the food served here, it’s the perfectly formed, mass production, crunchy, not crispy, taco shells.
Fillings include potato, carnitas, carne asada, shredded beef (machaca), ground beef (Sonora), and chicken. Sour cream, cheese and guacamole can be added for $.50 each per taco. We ordered crispy potato, soft carnitas, soft asada, soft chicken, crispy ground beef and crispy shredded beef.
Soft Chicken Taco:
Our most common gripe about chicken tacos is they almost always end up dry and tasteless. Hacienda La Joya is one of the few that have figured out how not to serve chicken jerky tacos. Topped with cilantro and onions, every bite is juicy and has enough flavor that while they are not our favorite taco here, unlike most establishments we would consider ordering them again… if every other filling was sold out.
Soft Carne Asada Taco:
The key to great carne asada is in how the meat is marinated or seasoned. And while the carne asada at Hacienda La Joya is good, it is not great. It is served with cilantro and onions. We had a tough time deciding which is better: the chicken or the asada. I think the chicken won because so few restaurants do chicken well, while quite a few places serve up a decent asada making the competition tougher. Like the chicken, the asada was good and we would order it again… if every other filling was sold out.
Soft Carnitas Taco:
It’s odd to have carnitas tacos so far down on our list of favorites at a restaurant, especially when the flavor is spot on, and the texture is that perfect blend of spicy and crispy. The carnitas here are really good, that’s not the problem, it’s just that other tacos here are that much better.
Crispy Potato Taco:
This is the restaurant that introduced us to potato tacos… and ruined us for every place else. Hacienda La Joya has set the bar so high with their potato tacos, that everything else just pales in comparison. The seasoning is amazing. The texture of the potato is delicately crispy on the outside of the filling, but mashed potato-like on the inside. I’m not a veggie guy, I like meat in everything, but this potato taco has become a staple on our order nearly every visit. It’s. That. Good.
Crispy Shredded Beef (Machaca) Taco:
I’ve ordered beef machaca at other restaurants before, and it was good, but it was nothing like this. The shredded beef is so tender and juicy that each chew sends a little spray of the seasoned juices back across your tongue keeping it bathed in the deep seasoned goodness. The seasoned flavor is so good that you’ll wish he meat would get out of your way so you can enjoy more of those juices. To do that, just order the Sonora taco.
Crispy Ground Beef (Sonora) Taco:
The Sonora taco has the same great flavor as the machaca, but contains ground beef instead of shredded. Even though they are similar in flavor, we like it better than the machaca because the smaller bits of ground beef allows more of that great tasting seasoning to wrap around the tinier morsels of meat and increases the flavor in every bite. We need to point out, though, this particular Sonora taco came with more than we bargained for. It included sour cream and cheese that we didn’t ask for, but really made a great taco even better.
Beyond the Tacos:
The complimentary chips and salsa at Hacienda La Joya will keep you mouth happy until the tacos arrive. The salsa id flavorful and has a mild spice that heats up over time. Depending on the crowd, the salsa may have you wanting another drink before your server notices. Coca Cola fountain beverages are refillable for $2.50, and they also offer horchata for $2.35.
If you want something other than tacos, we highly recommend the chile verde any way you can get it. It’s a darker, richer flavor than we’ve experienced elsewhere and it’s become a regular on our list of favorites here.
There’s plenty of parking outside, but as mentioned earlier, table space may be limited.
Should You Go: Should You Go to Hacienda la Joya for Taco Tuesday?
All the tacos here were flavorful as well as juicy. None were dry as we’ve experienced in so many other places. However, despite their juicy flavor, some of them didn’t quite hit the mark that some other establishments have set.
Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have a single bad taco. They weren’t all outstanding, but they were all very good or better. And that’s what makes this place great–instead of having one or two that are really good and the only tacos worth ordering, it was a pleasant suprise to have every taco we put into our mouths hit our taste buds without regret! Our favorites are the potato and shredded beef. That being said, they were all hits, and had our mouths dancing like nobody was watching. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
One final note: The order mix up on the Sonora taco is not an uncommon occurrence. Maybe it’s because we always order assortments, but it seems at least one taco is not quite what we ordered. Crispy instead of soft, an extra topping, or one that’s the wrong filling. For $.99, it got us to try things we normally wouldn’t, and since everything we’ve tried has been so good, we roll with it. The bottom line is, Carlos and his family provide awesome food at a bargain price, and we should be paying more for everything he serves–even the mistakes.
Hacienda la Joya, Mission Viejo, Taco Tuesday Quick links:
Hacienda la Joya, Mission Viejo, Website
What Yelpers Say About Taco Tuesday at Hacienda la Joya Mission Viejo
Directions to Hacienda la Joya Mission Viejo for Taco Tuesday
Hacienda la Joya Mission Viejo Taco Tuesday Gallery: