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Mexican Restaurants in LA

Golem Jan 11, 2007 02:03 PM

I'm looking for a Mexican restaurant in LA,preferably in the Valley or Westside, that has good food and has atmosphere. Lots of mediocre to passable places in LA, but I'd like to find some place really special. Any ideas?

  1. Das Ubergeek Jan 11, 2007 02:16 PM

    What kind of Mexican food? Are you looking for a taqueria? A sit-down marisqueria? Your standard combo-plate-and-margs type place? Oaxacan?

    1. SauceSupreme Jan 11, 2007 02:25 PM

      My favorite neighborhood restaurant is Las Fuentes in Reseda. Great combo plates and a la carte, and while the restaurant is big, its popularity on the weekends sometimes finds the wait list going out the door.

      1. g
        glutton Jan 11, 2007 03:09 PM

        At some point, someone is going to boot me from this board for repeatedly making the same recommendation, but I am going to take that risk... go to Monte Alban. Your request is a bit vague, but I am quite confident that whatever Monte Alban lacks in your eyes, it will not be the quality of the food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: glutton
          wilafur Jan 11, 2007 05:43 PM

          i'd boot you but i wholeheartedly agree with your rec of monte alban. definitely the place to go to satiate an oaxacan craving.

        2. Golem Jan 11, 2007 03:28 PM

          I'm looking for upscale but not something to break the bank. I'd like to find a place that's pleasant, where you can linger for a while if you want, and not feel rushed. I would especially like to find a "destination" Mexican restaurant, one that you want to return to, to bring a date to. There's lots of upscale steak houses, grills, etc. in LA. But as for Mexican?

          Once upon a time there was Lawry's California Center. Amazing food. Strolling mariachis. Great margaritas. And a beautiful location. Lawry's California Center is long gone. Anyone know of something nice like that?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Golem
            Das Ubergeek Jan 11, 2007 04:02 PM

            I have no idea what Lawry's California Center is now, but why don't you take them to La Serenata de Garibaldi, on First Street in Boyle Heights? Nice, fairly upscale for a Mexican place (in one of those "rustic hacienda" type rooms), great Mexican mariscos.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek
              Golem Jan 11, 2007 07:15 PM

              I was there a few years ago and it wasn't good, but I've heard since then that it has improved quite a bit. I'll consider it next time we're in the downtown/J-town area.

              1. re: Golem
                Das Ubergeek Jan 12, 2007 02:26 PM

                I was there a little while ago. The "liquor" is depressing -- no full liquor license so you get soju margs -- so stick to beer. The food, however, is excellent.

          2. b
            Bria Silbert Jan 11, 2007 03:51 PM

            You could try Frida in Beverly Hills:

            fridarestaurant.com

            1. m
              mattesq Jan 11, 2007 03:55 PM

              While not in the location requested, El Paseo, in Santa Barbara is a great destination Mexican restaurant. While the food is decent, the margaritas are great and the ambiance is even better. Open air restaurant in an out of the way area of Old Paseo off of State Street. If you get up to Santa Barbara check it out.

              1. martyR Jan 11, 2007 05:40 PM

                It's not where you asked to go, but Babita in San Gabriel is wonderful. In my opinion the best Mexican restaurant in L.A. County. Definitely a destination restaurant. You will not regret the extra miles you drove to get there.

                1. c
                  calabasas_trafalgar Jan 11, 2007 05:55 PM

                  No question - La Paz in Calabasas. Order a la carte.

                  1. monku Jan 12, 2007 01:39 AM

                    How about El Torito Grill? I think its a little more upscale than just the regular El Torito.

                    I went to the one in Newport Beach once and it wasn't bad-nice decor and food was decent.

                    There's one at the Sherman Oaks Galleria and in Beverly Hills.

                    http://www.eltorito.com/menus/el_tori...

                    1. Moose Jan 12, 2007 01:48 AM

                      Two westside places come to mind:

                      Lares on Pico (make sure you eat upstairs, as it's much nicer)Good traditional Mexican, but outstanding Carnitas and chile verde burrito.

                      La Serenata on 4th St near broadway in Santa Monica. Nice atmosphere and mex. seafood dishes. Margs are good at both places.

                      Moose

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Moose
                        Das Ubergeek Jan 12, 2007 02:28 PM

                        I wish I could recommend Lares, but ever since the fire, even the much-vaunted chile verde burrito is limp and gross.

                        La Serenata on 4th is OK, but it's much louder than the original in Boyle Heights, a bit more Westside-snobby, and the parking is, well, it's Santa Monica. La Serenata Gourmet on Pico has the same issue. Both are fine, but not the same "experience" of the Boyle Heights.

                        None have full liquor licenses.

                        1. re: Moose
                          j
                          JimN Jan 12, 2007 04:36 PM

                          Lots of negative comments on Lares in the past year or two. It's my go-to local Mexican place, and I still enjoy it. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to their menu, though, so I've probably not tried the dishes that regularly miss the mark. What I can recommend...

                          Albondigas: Surely one of the best renditions to be found on the Westside. Rich beefy broth with lots of meatballs and non-mushy veggies. I've ordered it many many times and can think of only one instance when it was a little on the weak side. You can ask for a complimentary side of lemon wedges, chopped onions, jalapenos and cilantro. Load it all on and enjoy.

                          Carnitas Tacos: I think you'd be hard-pressed to find better ones anywhere in the city. Yeah, the tortillas get soggy quickly, and they're greasy, but that's because they're so chock-full of tasty, succulent carnitas. I love 'em.

                          Chicken Chipotle con Papas: Chunks of chicken and sliced potatoes in a spicy sauce. Actually, the sauce is more like a broth. It's thin, but definitely not lacking in flavor or heat. Best eaten with a big spoon.

                          House margs are just okay, as they use Sauza Gold and bottled margarita mix. At least they pour a decent ratio of tequila. I've never ordered a premium margarita at Lares because I think they pour that bottled margarita mix in all versions.

                          I've only made one visit to La Serenata De Garibaldi on 4th. They do indeed have a full liquor license, unlike the other two locations. I remember the margaritas being very good. Can't remember what I ordered for food, but I do know that I wasn't overly impressed. Been wanting to give it another try.

                        2. Ciao Bob Jan 12, 2007 02:22 AM

                          Does La Serenata on 4th have real Margs or wine Margs, like the other La Sernata Branches?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ciao Bob
                            Moose Jan 12, 2007 06:43 PM

                            La Serenata on 4th in Santa Monica does have a liqour license and serves real margs - they're pretty good.

                            Moose

                            1. re: Moose
                              Das Ubergeek Jan 12, 2007 08:36 PM

                              I stand corrected -- I haven't been to La Serenata on 4th in years, they appear to have got a liquor license since I went.

                              Isn't it nice that they can actually do it, unlike Pennsylvania which has a set number of liquor licenses by population and you can only get one if an existing one closes?

                          2. m
                            Mother Hubbard Jan 12, 2007 03:19 PM

                            Seranada on Pico near the Westside Pavillion-Mexican seafood
                            Tia Juana- Olympic between Barrington and Bundy
                            Casa Vega- Sherman Oaks, Ventura near Woodman

                            1. m
                              moleinajar Jan 12, 2007 03:50 PM

                              this is great info. i'm going to be in santa monica next week (with a car) and am looking for something upscalish or kinda trendy mexican - think something like the range from pujol in mex df...topolobampo in chicago...lima in dc (latin american not mexican but you get the idea). awesome if it has a mexican wine list. gracias

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: moleinajar
                                g
                                glutton Jan 12, 2007 05:49 PM

                                I don't think any of the places listed on this posting will compete with Topolobampo. Rick Bayless aspires to cook Mexican food of much higher quality with more classic/traditional recipes. Lares and Tia Juana are serving burritos and some tacos that don't even rank among the top burritos and tacos in LA. I think your better bet is to go to more authentic -- and cheaper -- places. Think Monte Alban for Oaxacan, La Playita for ceviche, the Rose/Lincoln taco trucks, Tacos Por Favor, etc. Those are definitely hole-in-the-wall places, which seems to be the specialty of LA.

                                1. re: glutton
                                  r
                                  rjw_lgb_ca Feb 16, 2007 07:39 AM

                                  What Rick Bayless aspires to is noble and wonderful. However, my last experience at Topolobampo was an expensive disappointment. The preparations sounded interesting, but what arrived was insipid, dull, overcooked and just plain off. Maybe the LA-area eateries listed here won't have that same "Güero Mexican in Colorful, High-Rent Urban Room" vibe-- but each and every one will serve better food. And much cheaper to boot. If you want that same yuppie-gringo fun, go to Border Grill; somewhat better food than Topolobampo, but the boiler-room noise gets to you after a few margaritas.

                                  My go-to is Enrique's in Long Beach. No fancy, overpriced margaritas, just awesome cocina jalisqueña. I'll take superb food and service over Patrón-and-lime-juice slushies and Day-glo ceramic toucan decorations anyday.

                              2. Golem Jan 12, 2007 05:51 PM

                                Torito Grill in Sherman Oaks (Galleria) is good, with homemade tortillas, and very tasty steak fajitas. The salsa was out of this world -- a smoky, very flavorfull mix. The margaritas are also very good. And the service was amazing. Now the bad: the location is only so-so. It's pretty inside the restaurant, but really, who wants to go to a mall for an evening out?

                                I am still looking for a Mexican restaurant, in a nice location, with good food, margaritas (not wine margaritas, please!!!), that is not ruinously expensive.

                                And yes, the Paseo in Santa Barbara is pretty good. But who needs to go for a two-hour drive, just for Mexican food?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Golem
                                  p
                                  pleasedonttakemetobucodibepo Jan 12, 2007 07:23 PM

                                  I got your place.

                                  Tlapazola Grill (on Gateway, just off of Barrington by the 10 overpass). I've only been there once, but I went there with my wife and another couple, and everyone really enjoyed it. They have a terrific tequila selection, and the food was really good. The restaurant is nicely appointed, but is in a strip mall (aren't all good LA restaurants?). The price might be a bit higher than you want ($40-$50 pp w/ drinks & apps). If that is too much I'd probably join in suggesting Monte Alban, very good value.

                                  1. re: Golem
                                    c
                                    chowmominLA Feb 16, 2007 02:28 PM

                                    If the only reason you don't like El Torito Grill in SO is because of the location, maybe you should try the one in Beverly Hills. I've never been but I would imagine that it would be at least similar. I know the one in Newport Beach is good.

                                  2. p
                                    pallas810 Feb 15, 2007 04:04 PM

                                    La Casita Mexicana
                                    4030 E Gage Ave. Bell CA 90201

                                    I know this is far, but it is worth the trip. I even venture that it is the best Mexican rest in LA.

                                    They have the most delicious 46 ingredient mole negro that is divine.
                                    Chile Rellano con hongos y nopales (mushroom and cactus)

                                    http://www.casitamex.com/home.html

                                    1. Local Feb 15, 2007 04:46 PM

                                      Hadn't heard of this place until just recently, your post reminded me its on my list.

                                      A week or so ago when the Mexican and US soccer teams were paired off, the morning crews at KTLA 5 and KMEX made a bet that the loser would provide the winner with breakfast. Mexico ended up losing the game, so KMEX delivered a spread from La Casita Mexicana the next morning to the KTLA doorstep- Michaela, Carlos, Mark, and friends were served with incredible looking food - the Chilaquiles Divorciados with both red and green sauce plus scrambled eggs are supposedly one of their signature dishes, but they had other items from the breakfast menu including that 46# mole. I was wishing I had smell-o-vision.

                                      1. s
                                        sel Feb 16, 2007 09:24 AM

                                        I can't help you with the westside when you are asking for best food and atmosphere. If you want really good food with atmosphere my current favorite is La Huasteca, a large restaurant in Lynwood. I want to try Malverde that was in the same shopping area, a place opened by a Rick Bayless alum that some on this board like, when they reopen. La Casita Mexicana is a smallish space with excellent food. Babita Mexicusine is a long time favorite fairly small, sit down restaurant. All of these are worth a special trip!!!

                                        http://www.casitamex.com/home.html

                                        http://www.lahuasteca.com/

                                        http://www.gayot.com/restaurantpages/LosAngelesInfo.php?tag=LARES001010&code=

                                        http://www.malverderestaurant.com/

                                        1. c
                                          chowchi1 Feb 16, 2007 09:25 AM

                                          La Cabanita in Montrose/Gendale is very good and authentic. Lares is average -- any mexican restaurant serving fries with meals is not authentic. Casa Vega is americanized mexican - again very average. You may wish to read recent posts on La Cabanita a few weeks back:
                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36672...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: chowchi1
                                            m
                                            Mr. Cookie Feb 16, 2007 03:40 PM

                                            I second this recommendation. La Cabinita is small and almost intimate but it is definitely a cut above the typical Mexican restaurant, decor and ambiance-wise

                                          2. Veggietales Feb 16, 2007 03:29 PM

                                            Amaranta will be opening in the Westfield Topanga Mall. Consulting Chef for the rest. was the chef for former Mexican President Vicente Fox. The concept is meant to be more upscale Mexican, with local ingredients, fresh fruit margaritas, cazuelas, and extensive tequila bar. There will be a DJ and such for after-hours entertainment.

                                            Soft opening is slated for the 15th of March.

                                            1. Veggietales Feb 16, 2007 03:31 PM

                                              I didn't mean for it to sound like a advertisement, but I really think it will become a "destination" Mexican restaurant, like the OP inquired upon.

                                              1. b
                                                balmydays Feb 16, 2007 04:29 PM

                                                i've always really enjoyed Don Antonio's on Pico Blvd., and recently found a place called Tlapazola Grill on Barrington and Gateway which was very good.

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