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I ate lunch the other day at the second Taco Rosa in The Market Place in Irvine. I was surprised how busy it was on a Saturday at noon.Patio Bar at the Taco Rosa at the Marketplace, Irvine
Couples were hanging out on the patio sipping midday margaritas. Nearly every table in the dining room was full. I was curious if it was like that all of the time, so I called Ivan Calderon to find out.
Ivan and his brother, Marco, own Taco Rosa and Taco Mesa restaurants. Taco Mesa is known for its inventive menu - salmon enchiladas, blackened calamari tacos - though it looks like a typical taco stand. Taco Rosa is more upscale and offers sit down service and an expanded menu.
You can usually see one or the other of the Calderon brothers at Taco Rosa in Irvine or Newport Beach. The day I was there, I saw Marco pop in to check on things, his eagle eye examining the state of the tables.Marco Calderon, Ivan Calderon, Rene Fuentes
I always like seeing owners around. There are so many large chain restaurants in Orange County with headquarters in Houston or Tampa, it's nice to watch local proprietors working the floor.
Ivan told me sales are better than projected so far. The biggest difference between the Newport Beach Taco Rosa and the Irvine restaurant is location, location, location.
"At the Market Place we have great visibility and accessibility and are surrounded by national and local businesses which allows us to compete at that top level," he said.
The visibility on Jamboree Road in Irvine is so much better. The Newport restaurant off Bonita Canyon is on an out-of-the-way street in an out-of-the-way shopping center. And once you are in the center, the restaurant is still hard to see.
Ivan said the busiest times are lunch and dinner. They do allow you to call ahead and get put on the waiting list.
The new restaurant started out serving breakfast daily but stopped this month. Instead, Taco Rosa will now offer a five course Sunday sangria brunch.
For me, the best part of the new restaurant is the patio bar. It makes you feel like you are on a tropical island far away instead of surrounded by big box stores. Sign me up for one of those midday margaritas.
13792 Jamboree Road, Irvine 714-505-6080
2632 San Miguel Road, Newport Beach 949-720-0982
Here's a link to a story I wrote eons ago when the first Taco Rosa opened. The company put it on its Website. You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see it.