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Mexican Restaurants in Echo Park/Silver Lake: why can't I find what I'm looking for? (long)

I've lived in Silver Lake for three years and been exploring the area for longer... and yet my favorite Mexican eaterie is La Cabanita in Montrose. Why can't I find something similarly satisfying in my neighborhood--fresh ingredients, home-made tortillas, good lunch specials, pleasant sit-down area, open from lunch 'till dinner for late afternoon eating? Here's my take on the places where you can sit down along Sunset Blvd. from Downtown to Virgil. What am I missing?
El Compadre, 1449 Sunset: Do you like your food slathered in melted cheese? Do you like insipid margaritas from mix? I don't, which is why I don't go back. Maybe OK for a group dinner where food is not important.
La Esquinita, 1261 Sunset: The place I frequent this place the most, and the food is a bargain and better than most of the other taco stands in the area. But the cooking is pretty basic and I'm getting tired of it.
Barragans, 1538 Sunset: I've tried standards here like tacos & enchiladas, as well as specials like pozole and chilaquiles, and it was all mediocre food served in a depressing setting. Plus my credit card number was stolen here the last time I went. Ouch!
Rodeo's Grill, 1721 Sunset: basically fast food with semi-decent sopes but for me, only viable if I need something fast
Happy Tom's Burger, 1807: See Rodeo's Grill. Interestingly, I've never seen anyone order a burger here.
Costa Alegre, 1901 Sunset: the appealing patio doesn't make up for the wildly inconsistent food and cheap ingredients.
El Siete Mares, 3131 Sunset: I don't like the restaurant, and I OD'd on the fish tacos after eating them 3 times a week when I first moved in.
La Parilla, 3129 Sunset: Probably my favorite in the neighborhood for grilled meats and fresh guacamole. But I still prefer La Cabanita... maybe it just feels like less of a chain than La Parilla.
Allegria, 3510 Sunset: I've never had a good meal here, and have had one downright bad one, so it's off my list of places to go.
El Conquistador, 3701 Sunset: Cute patio, friendly vibe, food that's a cut above El Compadre. I haven't been at night when it gets pretty busy.
Tacos Delta, 3806 Sunset: To me, just OK. I think that the sopes, tacos and tostadas are better at La Esquinita
Malo, 4326 Sunset: I haven't been yet because it seems too much of a hipster place for me... but lots of Chowhounds seem to like it, so maybe I'll give it a shot.
El Chavo, 4441 Sunset: The best thing about this place are the pictures of Dolly Parton above the bar. IIRC better margs than El Compadre.

Here are places I haven't tried (found on the la public health website):
El Autentico, 1400 Sunset
Mariela's Tacos, 2501 Sunset
Los Cobans, 2927 Sunset
La Playita, 3143 Sunset

What else am I missing? Why can't I find the happy mix of good food & inviting setting of La Cabanita in my neighborhood? Or should I stop whining & just try to enjoy what I've got?

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  1. The original La Parilla on Cesar Chavez or the Wilshire Bl have better food than Sunset location and and they feel more unique, historical and less chain-like

    You are so close to downtown so definitely check out Mercado La Paloma for Yucatecan at Chichen Itza or maybe carnitas with fresh tortillas at La Luz Del Dia on Olvera St

    1. Fwiw - El Chavo has been sold, and is soon to be operated by Melanie Tusquellas and friends. Her family owns the Bob's donuts and the fish place in the original farmer's market on 3rd St. and they have been doing food here in LA seemingly forever. Hopefully will improve a dreadful place. Maybe they could even lighten up the place.
      And El Conquistador is no better than Compadre or any of the others for dinner.

      1. Hopefully indeed, except that she also owns Edendale Grill, so...

        I feel your pain. And I don't think you're missing much, even if you added Mexico City and Casita del Campo to your list. However I don't understand why a true Chowhound wouldn't go to Malo and see for himself whether he likes it -- what do you care who the other patrons are?
        For what it's worth, it's the only place I go to consistently of all the places you've listed except El Siete Mares for quick tacos.
        I do like Barragan's but I always get the carne asada tacos. I have a friend who always gets the short ribs soup(?) something like that. I think it's the kind of place that can be ok if you find the one thing you like and stick with it. Too bad about your credit card, though!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chowpatty

          I'm with you on the Edendale Grill, I find it mediocre and over-priced. I do however find the bar very charming and they have bartenders who know how to properly make a drink.

          That said, Melanie Tusquellas has done a pretty good job over the years of gauging the neighborhood's needs. The Edendale is a successful neighborhood spot, and was one of the first semi-ambitious restaurants in Silverlake. It could be a lot better, but they did a beautiful remodel and showed great respect for SL history in restoring it so lovingly. She was also one of the founding partners of Millies, which she sold to start the Edendale. I'm hoping that El Chavo can be the Mexican spot we are all hoping for - they would do great business.

        2. marielas isn't pleasant or cute, but it's got great tacos!

          1. I also love La Cabanita in Montrose especially for their chile rellenos, but I hardly ever get over there. H'ever, right down the street from me in Highland Park is El Arco Iris which is pretty great. Yes, we are friends with the owner (we became friends with him by frequenting his restaurant so often). It's on York at Ave 57 (not far from Silver Lake). My favorite is the calabasistas (since I'm a mostly vegetarian). The homemade mole is delicious and my hub and friends RAVE about the carnitas and chile verde. They just remodeled at the beginning of this year and it's super comfy and satisfying. Not at all like a chain, not a scene (but often crowded and hopping), very good food, full bar. Open all day, from breakfast through dinner. I would definitely give it a try.