The Dish List: La Sirena Grill

Courtesy of Yelp

The words “healthy” and “Mexican food” are seldom seen next to each other, but at La Sirena Grill, it is common vernacular. Mexican food can be found in almost every mall, shopping center or street side in Southern California, but few provide you with items like calamari (squid) burritos, blackened wild salmon salad and watermelon-strawberry juice.

The quintessential “hole-in-the-wall” La Sirena Grill in Laguna Beach hardly has space for a line to form, but there always seems to be one. Aptly named, the restaurant lures its customers in with tempting aromas and keeps them there with luscious traditional and Baja-style Mexican dishes. The tiny place prides itself on fresh, organic ingredients that are prepared to the peak of their flavors.

La Sirena Grill in Laguna Beach has been open since 1999, and other than specializing in all organic Mexican cuisine, the small chain aims for the humane treatment of the animals they use and strive for zero waste. The Laguna Beach location is the first of the chain that also has restaurants in South Laguna, El Segundo and Irvine.

A special menu item, the calamari burrito, stands as a customer favorite. I will admit that when I pointed to the chalkboard menu and ordered, I had my doubts. I had never tried calamari in burrito form but enjoyed a new choice from the typical steak, chicken or carnitas. The calamari burrito is filled with two fat strips of lightly battered squid, thinly shredded cabbage, chunky guacamole, fresh pico de gallo and rice.

The calamari is doused in an aioli sauce comprised of lemon, garlic, olive oil and egg yokes, and it is what really boosts La Sirena’s crafting up a few notches.

Drinks are, of course, extra and there are no set meals or student discounts, but their homemade drinks are a treat. Watermelon-strawberry juice, lemonade, jamaica and horchata are all beverages made on-site and the taste is noticeable.

Another unusual ingredient this place offers is the wild salmon. It can be served blackened next to a tuft of shredded white cabbage and fresh salsa in a soft corn tortilla to make for an exotic fish taco. The grilled fish can also be found in their frequently-ordered avocado-lime salad. This healthy plate has the blackened salmon on a bed of mixed greens and is topped with La Sirena’s guacamole and decorated with strings of lightly fried onions.
La Sirena Grill is barely recognizable as a restaurant if one drives by quickly. It is minute and there is no indoor seating. There is only room for the cashier and the narrow salsa bar. And the outdoor seating is not one for big parties or soccer teams. Orders can, however, be placed ahead of time and taken to-go.

Laguna Beach is not typically a place a student on a budget would dine in, but all the La Sirena Grill locations are priced to proper affordability. The food, again, is organic and is going to be more expensive than a $5 burrito the size of your forearm from Del Taco. Tacos range from $3-4 and most dishes are priced from about $8-10. But the extra bucks are worth it. The beach atmosphere and various ingredients make La Sirena Grill an excellent place for tasty, healthy Mexican food.