Amor Y Tacos, hidden away in a strip mall in Cerritos, California, is a popular restaurant serving up fresh Mexican fare along with homemade tortillas. Even knowing the location, I had to keep an eye out for the place while driving by. If it wasn’t for Yelp, I probably would have never known that this place even existed.
The chef of Amor Y Tacos, Chef Thomas Ortega is well known for his culinary skills and unique twists on Oaxacan and Mexican culinary staples and other comfort food favorites including burgers and even hot dogs. This isn’t your typical Mexican restaurant.
Some might also recognize Chef Ortega from his other restaurant, Ortega 120 in Redondo Beachh, along with his appearance on the television show “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gordon Ramsay.
When I arrived on a Saturday evening, the place was pretty busy and the bar was packed. People were waiting both inside and outside for tables.
After putting in my name the hostess, I passed some time watching the lady near the front door making fresh, handmade tortillas on a small grill. The tortilla making station was literally right at the front door when you walk in. I don’t know what it was, but watching fresh tortillas being made was so much fun to watch. Kids will love it even more.
Surprisingly, after only five minutes, my table was ready.
I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and design of Amor Y Tacos when I first stepped inside. For a strip mall location, the last thing I expected to find was a hip restaurant with a great decor and atmosphere.
When you first enter Amor Y Tacos, you will notice, other than the lady making fresh tortillas, a small open dining room on your right and a larger open dining on your left with a fully stocked bar. The dining rooms were filled with dark wooden tables.
The decor was bright with orange and gold walls. The ceilings were painted black in a tin pattern with unique modern light fixtures hanging down. On the walls were flashy Mexican art pieces including Lucha Libre themed paintings. For the moment, you might think you are sitting inside a restaurant in Mexico instead of a strip mall in Cerritos.
The ambiance was casual and fun. Everyone seemed like they were having a great time eating, drinking, and talking. With an open dining room and music playing in the background, the place got a little loud for my liking. If you arrive at the right time, you might also catch the live band.
Amor Y Tacos Menu
Almost every single item on the Amor Y Tacos menu sounded delicious to me. I had a tough time deciding what to order.
You will find your normal burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, soups, and salads along with unique twists on tacos, taquitos, fish tacos, and chilaquiles.
The more adventurous will surely be interested in items such as roasted duck tacos, Mexican coke slow roasted pork belly, chile relleno burger, and even hot dogs. Yes, you read that right. Hot dogs at a Mexican restaurant. I bet you have never had a hot dog before with short rib, cilantro, queso fresco, and chicharron.
By now you can tell that this isn’t your typical Mexican restaurant.
Amor Y Tacos also offers a happy hour Monday thru Saturday. Be sure to double check the hours listed above and below as the times are a little confusing.
On the happy hour menu were deals on tacos, corn, guacamole, taquitos, nachos, mole tots, ceviche tostada, and brussel sprouts. Those who are thirsty will find discounts on drinks including beers, wines, margaritas, and liquor.
I missed happy hour on my visit. I definitely will have to return.
Amor Y Tacos also offers a brunch menu on Sundays from 10:00AM to 2:00PM.
Modelo Beer Battered Fish Tacos
First up was the Modelo Beer Battered Fish Tacos ($13.00).
These trio of tacos were made with Modelo beer batter, true cod, chipotle remoulade, salsa de arbol, shredded red and green cabbage, mint, cilantro, and red onion wrapped inside a handmade corn tortilla.
The star of the dish was the true cod which was dipped in Modelo beer batter and fried until golden brown and crispy. True cod is a large flaky white fish with a mild and slightly sweet tatse. The thickness of the batter was perfect, not too thick or thin. The crispy crust was salted to perfection and still had a slight taste of beer in every bite.
On top of the fish was a slaw with the perfect combination of shredded red and green cabbage, mint, cilantro, and red onion. This wonderfully fresh slaw added a much needed crunchy texture to each bite.
The chipotle remoulade brought the dish together. It was slightly sweet with a bigger kick of heat than I was expecting. The chipotle remoulade was much more spicy than the burnt habanero crema found inside the short rib tacos (see below).
I really enjoyed the level of flavors found inside the Modelo Beer Battered Fish Tacos. I was able to taste every compotent of the tacos from the salty, perfectly fried fish, to the crunchy slaw, and the sweet and spicy chipotle remoulade.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
When I put my order in for fish tacos, my server successfully convinced me to add a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup ($2.50) on the side. You also have the option of ordering an entrée size bowl for $8.50. For the price, the bowl on the side was a great value.
This chicken tortilla soup was made with fancy sounding ingredients such as guajillo pasilla broth, picadillo de pollo, onion, cilantro, avocado, queso, and crispy tortilla.
The broth, made with guajillo and pasilla chiles, had a rich and unique stew like flavor. The flavor was different from other chicken tortilla soups that I have tasted in the past. I really didn’t get a lot of heat from the chiles, but the broth was salted perfectly.
Mixed into the soup was a generous amount of picadillo de pollo, which was simply tender shredded chicken. For the price, I was surprised with how much chicken was in the soup. Too much meat is never a bad thing.
Topping off the chicken tortilla soup was the usual onion, cilantro, avocado, queso, and crispy tortilla strips. This combo added a great crunch to each bite. My only complaint was that I wanted more crispy tortilla strips.
Short Rib Tacos
Finally, a trio of Short Rib Tacos ($10.00).
These tacos were made with burnt habanero crema, caramelized onions, queso fresco, micro cilantro, and pickled radish on top of a fresh, homemade corn tortilla. Nothing beats handmade tortillas.
If you love tacos as much as I do, then you know that a good taco has to be filled with a lot of meat. These short rib tacos passed the test. Even though the tortillas were small, each taco was surprisingly filled with a generous portion of tender, fall apart, melt in your mouth meat. If you love pulled pork, then you will love these short rib tacos.
Topping the tacos was a great mixture of habanero crema, caramelized onions, queso fresco, micro cilantro, and pickled radish.
To be honest, I ordered the tacos because of the habanero crema. Unfortunately, the crema was all but missing. With habanero, you expect a kick of heat. There was no heat at all and without crema, the tacos were on the dry side. Next time, I will ask for a side of the habanero crema.
Other than that, the “slaw” on top of the tacos was great. The caramelized onions were delicious and sauteed to perfection. If you love the pungent taste of queso fresco, then you will enjoy the generous amount of cheese sprinkled on each taco. The pickled radish was sliced super thin and tasted like it was pickled with red wine vinegar.
On the side was a simple, yet filling bowl of rice and beans.
The service on my visit was absolutely fantastic.
I heard from others that service can sometimes be slow, but this was not the case for me. My first impression with the hostess, and servers, was better than expected. I was also pleasantly surprised when my table was ready within five minutes, even on a busy evening.
Service only got better. My server was very attentive, personable, and offered food recommendations. After ordering, she came by the table many times to check up on me and refill drinks. Even with a busy restaurant, the server did a great job making sure every guest felt important.
Amor Y Tacos in Cerritos, California is a solid choice for unique and fresh Mexican fare, especially for those bored with their run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants.
Everything was great on my visit. The hostess, the servers, the food, the casual environment, the bright decor, and even the taco lady were great.
With an exciting menu, and a great happy hour and brunch, I will find myself returning to Amor Y Tacos many times in the future.
- Unique twists on typical Mexican dishes
- Handmade tortillas made fresh by a lady next to the front door
- My table was ready quickly even on a busy evening
- Friendly and quick service
- Happy hour specials
- Entrées are slightly pricey
- The restaurant can be loud with guests talking and with music playing in the background
- Short rib tacos could have used more burnt habanero crema