el cortez mexican restaurant

El Cortez mexican restaurant
28971 Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 495-4808

finding good, authentic mexican food in south orange county is like finding a needle in a hay stack.  i typically hang out around the laguna niguel area where my sister lived for many years, and the only mexican restaurant i went to was avila's (which is far from being authentic in flavor).  so on monday i decided to yelp and see if i could find a little mexican joint to try.  that's when i came upon el cortez.  not many reviews, but all said it was pretty authentic...even then, i find it hard to completely trust the reviews.  nonetheless, i was hungry, it was close, so off we went.

the restaurant is in a little strip mall, next to wendy's (damn i should've picked up a chocolate frosty on the way out).  when you enter, its kind of dark, dated decor, a bar, but cozy atmosphere.  the staff was friendly and we were seated immediately.   there were tons of things on the menu that i would love to come back and try, one of my favorite things is chili colorado, pollo con arroz, and they make wet burritos!!!  omg...i love wet burritos!  yummy!  ok...but i didn't get any of those items this time.  why?!  well...they have lunch specials!!!

so for $5.99 they have a list you can choose from, i picked crispy beef taco, rice and beans.  but, i also ordered queso fundido with chorizo.

by the way, they have $1.29 tacos every wednesday night!!!  i think this place is worth going to for that price.  its also a sports bar, so great place to get some tacos and beer, watch some football... oh, if only it football was on wednesday nights vs. monday...oh well...one can only dream...haha  like i care, i don't even watch football!  but i'm just trying to be considerate for the football fans out there.  =)

chips and salsa...

the chips were crispy and delicious, but a bit salty.  the salsa...whoa mama!  it was SPICY!!  but it was really good....you could tell it was fresh and home made.  i try to stay away from coke, but that day i broke down and ordered one. (i love it so much, but it really packs on the pounds for me)   let me tell you, i was sucking on that straw like no tomorrow!  holy crap!  my mouth was EN FUEGO!  my sister robin kept asking me if i wanted milk and i kept saying NO!  who drinks milk when they are eating chips and salsa!?!  i was NOT about to be the first one to ask!  haha  ok, so even though my tongue was on fire, i couldn't stop eating it.  very addicting.

piping hot queso fundido...

its almost unfair to any queso fundido i try now, because i've had rick bayless's at his restaurant, Frontera, in chicago.  omg...that was THE best queso fundido i ever had...the cheese was soft, with some grilled onions and chorizo.  so easy to eat and oh so incredibly flavorful and delicious.  what i got was cheddar and monterey mixed with chorizo, melted down, but hardening oh so quickly that it had to cut the cheese with a fork.  i asked for a mix of the tortillas, both corn and flour.  the flavor was fine, but its unappetizing to have to break off my cheese. 

LOOK AT THAT CHEESE STRETCH!!!  omg...i didn't want string cheese, i wanted it to be soft and more like a nacho cheese consistency, but thicker of course.  so this was pretty disappointing.  i would never order it here again. 

ok ok!  i promise this is the last picture of the queso fundido!  just one more look...

you can just see all the oil coming off of it and it looks like a lump of semi-melted cheese studded with bits of chorizo.  though we all know that something is fattening...you don't necessarily want to witness just how much oil is in it.  am i right?!  ok...enough said.

my lunch arrives...

off the lunch special menu...the taco was freshly fried, the ground beef inside was flavorful and had bits of green chilies which was great.  it was really moist and i appreciated that the topping were also nice and fresh.  the part of the shell where the meat was touching was a bit softer and not crispy at all, which would be my only real complaint about the taco.  the beans were pretty good, smokey in flavor, but i always like to enhance it a bit, so i got a side of sour cream and added some to my beans to give it an even creamier texture.  the rice was ok...nothing to write home about.  i would say, that is something they should work on.  making it a bit more flavorful and moist.  it was a kind of dry and tasteless. 

overall, for $5.99 i was full on this plateful of food, but it think it's also because i ate a basket of chips and salsa and some salad from my sister.  the flavors are quite authentic and i would love to go back and check out some of their specialities and see if those authentic flavors are still there. 


  1. Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to read your next review.

  2. you're welcome tony! thanks for reading!

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