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Review of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Old Town Orange
Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen Arrachera

Review of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Old Town Orange

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

Mixed Reviews of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen requires a personal investigation

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, located in Old Town Orange, has been around since 2006 and I had my first experience last week. When it first opened, Gabbi’s was the “must try” fine dining Mexican in Orange County. It is still hard to get a table on a Saturday night. 

During the first couple years, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen had two hour waits for walk ins and up to two weeks for reservations. Gabbi’s even won “Best Mexican Food” at the inaugural Golden Foodie Awards. Judging by the long wait times, this is still a favorite of the locals. 

Although Gabbi’s is not loved by all. They have received mixed reviews from critics and bloggers. Much of the complaints centered on the foods lack of flavor and  the mildness of their salsa.  Here is what OC Register food critic Brad Johnson had to say, “The chips are terrible. Unacceptable. I’ve had better chips at TGIFridays.” 

Making of Gabbis House Made Chips, tortillas, and churos. The Tortillas were amazing, not sure why the chips are not better.

Making of Gabbis House Made Chips, tortillas, and churos. The Tortillas were amazing, not sure why the chips are not better.

Gabbi’s continues to be a bipolar lightening rod of emotions, so I tried it out for myself.  

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen Location and Ambiance

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen is located in Old Town Orange, at 141 South Glassell. The first thing you will notice is that there is no exterior a sign for Gabbi’s. For reasons that I cannot speculate, the owners decided not to put a sign up. The building where Gabbi’s is located is a 100 year old brick building that was erected during the early days of the Orange Circle.

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen Interior

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen Interior

The interior is rustic with weathered brick and exposed wood ceiling beams. The dinning room is dimly lit; it feels like you are walking into a tunnel. The light at the end of the tunnel is of course the kitchen. The walls of Gabbi’s are decorated with paintings depicting agrarian life and a really cool colored glass bowl mosaic.

When I visited, the dining room was still packed with wall to wall customers. There was a contingent of walk-ins waiting for tables. We still had to make a reservation four days in advance for a Friday 8:00pm reservation.

Food at Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

I think Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen does a great job walking the line of utilizing classical European cooking with traditional Mexican recipes. Their dishes have a wide appeal, especially for to the semi food savvy Orange County customer base, who are looking for authentic Mexican food, but a little afraid of it at the same time.

Chips and Salsa

These are complimentary chips that have grabbed so much attention. They are just o.k. They would be best if they came out hot and fresh out of the fryer. I like the fact that they were not over salted, as I usually have to rub the salt off the chips at most restaurants. I liked their salsa; salsa does not have to be spicy to be good. 

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen Chips

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen Chips

Queso Fundido

Gabbi’s queso fundido is not bubbling cheese pot that you may have experienced at other Mexican restaurants.  The queso fondido here is made with queso ranchero and served warm. Normally this dish is served with Chorizo sprinkled on top. My wife does not like chorizo (boooo!), so we got it on the side. This dish is served on a rustic wood board, along with fresh made (mild) salsa, guacamole,  and hand made made tortillas. I requested my corn tortillas 50/50 style.

Gabbis Mexican Kitchen Queso Fundido

Queso Fundido

I personally liked this dish. I loved the rubbery consistency of the cheese and I thought that the chorizo was balanced.  I liked the fact that when I served all the ingredients on a tortilla, the flavors were very balanced. My wife thought this dish was just “o.k.” She prefers a boiling hot caldron of queso fondido with yellow cheese; then again she grew up in Irvine… $12

Pozole Verde

My friend ordered the pozole verde, as he was looking for something a little lighter. The pozole preparation reminded me of “Caldo de Siete Mares”, although with a pozole verde broth. It contained fresh fish, littleneck clams, shrimp, hominy, arugula, radish, and lime. He said that it ate like a soup and that the broth was slightly spicy for his tastes. The seafood was well cooked and the lime added the right amount of acidity. $14

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen Pozole Verde

Pozole Verde

Sea bass with Summer Corn

The sea bass with summer corn was one of the Chef’s daily specials and my personal favorite of the night. Sea bass was butter pan seared and served atop a beautiful puree of sweet summer corn, cut corn, sweet tomatoes, green beans and summer squash. The fish is topped with the same mild salsa, and guacamole. The fish was cooked perfectly, juicy and full of natural flavors. I loved the corn puree; it had a long sizzle on the palate and balanced out the natural sweetness of the corn. $30

Gabii's Mexican Kitchen Sea Bass with Summer Corn Puree

Sea Bass with Summer Corn Puree

Arrachera

Arrachera is fancy speak for marinated skirt steak, which is generally the same meat used in Fajitas. The steak was cooked perfectly, with a very thin line of pink in the center. The seasoning was good, although they could have amped it up a little. With that said, I did enjoy the steak.  

Gabby's Mexican Kitchen Arrachera

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen Arrachera

Gabby's Mexican Kitchen Arrachera

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen Arrachera

The steak was served atop sautéed onions and summer corn and garnished with guacamole and spicy pepper slices. The dish is served with freshly made corn tortillas, beans, and rice. I was able to make my own little tacos with the meat. $22

Hongos y Rajas

Our friend Christine, who has been dining at Gabbi’s since they opened, told me that her favorite dish is the arrachera tacos. Sadly when we got there our waiter told us that they are no longer on the menu. She was sad. Our waiter told her to try the hongos y rajas tacos; they use a very similar steak. She ordered this dish and told them to hold the mushrooms.

Gabby's Mexican Kitchen modified Hongos y Rajas

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen modified Hongos y Rajas

The dish, in its unmodified form, is made with wild mushrooms, corn, rajas, Oaxaca cheese, avocado relish, grilled habanero salsa, and yucca fries on the side. Without the mushrooms the tacos where still pretty amazing and Christine was happy with the workaround menu. The yucca fries were fatty, starchy and delicious. This is a picture of her modified tacos. $13

My Final Thoughts about Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

Overall I had a good experience at Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen; I enjoyed the food, service, and atmosphere. It was a great place to break bread with friends while soaking up the local Orange Circle culture. I give Gabbi’s 3.5 stars for the food, 4 stars for atmosphere and 4 stars for service. This is a good score and reflects a restaurant that I will visit again and recommend to my friends. Did I talk about how good their food the entire way home? No , that would be a four star rating. Tom’s Foodie Blog  does recommend Gabbi’s; just don’t get obsessed about the spiciness level of the salsa and the quality of the chips. If you can get past these two points, you will have a good time.

Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

141 S Glassell St Orange CA 92866

(714) 633-3038

Gabbi’s Website

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.

15 comments

  1. Oh God I love Mexican food so much – I would eat the whole menu!

  2. Thanks for the head’s up on this Mexican restaurant – one of my favorite types of food!

  3. It’s nice to see such a detailed review!

  4. I love Mexican food. Thanks for sharing this review. Great pictures as always.

  5. Sounds like we all love Mexican food. Some great choices here.

  6. I am so amazed on Arrachera dish! I’ve never tried a Mexican before but I love the presentation

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