Costa Mesa classic
A Costa Mesa classic gets updated, but doesn’t lose its distinct family roots.- By jason sanford | PHOTOS BY jody tiongco
Ryan Moore is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, and it’s a path that he’s worn for a big portion of his life now. Mi Casa, a Mexican favorite in Costa Mesa since it opened in 1972, remained unchanged for many years, until Ryan took the reins a few years ago and did some thorough restaurant modernizing and menu tweaks. He introduced more healthy options to the daily menu, including gluten-free dishes and organic black beans, per the requests of his loyal customers.
“We’re still known for large portions, good service and our margaritas,” Ryan says. “But we like to offer our customers many choices.”
In addition to the menu changes, Ryan also introduced a daily happy hour, taco Tuesdays and a bevy of lunch specials.
The large portions, renowned margaritas and family atmosphere have brought in generation after generation of regulars, and those folks still file in every night, bringing their kids and grandkids with them to sit and enjoy chips and salsa in the same booths that they’ve enjoyed for years.
“A lot of our customers are on a first-name basis with our servers,” Ryan explains. “I got to know a lot of customers starting when I was 12, and now I see them all the time with their kids.”
Those fresh aspects of the restaurant will bring in the fresh, hungry faces, while also making sure the regulars continue to enjoy their next experience. Some famous faces have even popped in over the years too, including Desi Arnaz, John Wayne, Lindsay Davenport and Mike Scioscia—President H. W. Bush even stopped in for dinner once. But margaritas and combo plates aside, Mi Casa’s greatest asset is its unwavering friendliness and approachability, as the family mentality naturally carries over from owner to plate to customer.
The chips come out quickly and are as warm as the attentive service. There are three delicious salsas to try: the fresh and mild salsa, the slightly warmer salsa verde and the spicier blend made with jalapeños. It’s hard not to fill up on these and the delicious house margarita alone.
Grilled mahi tacos take up a fair share of the plate and that’s a good thing—there’s a reason Ryan didn’t hesitate when asked which of his menu items was his absolute favorite. The tacos are spectacular and nicely dressed—but thankfully not smothered—with pico de gallo and fresh cabbage.
One of the most reliable barometers for a great Mexican dinner is just how good the beans and rice are, and unfortunately, many places drop the ball. But Mi Casa’s moist and flavorful beans and rice are more than just filler, they are downright delicious.
And if you somehow, some way, save room for dessert, order the arroz con leche, drizzled with chocolate. A classic postre that is, frankly, easy to mess up, it is terrific in both consistency and flavor at Mi Casa—just don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly compelled to start licking the bowl. ,
296 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949.645.7626; micasa1.com