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Good Highland Park Mexican...with Margaritas?

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Friday nights just haven't been the same since Pepe's in La Canada closed its doors. We're looking for a dark, comfortable place that has good Mexican food with margaritas. We like big burritos, carnitas, asada...the basics. We live in Silverlake, but are willing to travel for the right combination of tasty and fun.

What we've tried so far, with comments:

La Cabinita - very good food, but the room is cold and uncomfortable. Service is harried.

Los Compadres - Flaming margaritas are fun, carnitas are quite good, but the rest of the food is pretty marginal. Service is poor. Some bonus points for non-roving mariachis.

El Chavo - I love this room, but the food just sucks.

Malo - The food here is tasty, but we'd rather not have to make a reservation for down and dirty margarita night. Waitstaff has that haughty Steven Arroyo attitude that makes me want to kill someone. Shouldn't cost this much either.

Casita Del Campo - really bad food. strange room.

La Golondrina - Olvera Street. actually kind of like this place, but it is a pain in the ass to get there. Pretty decent cochinito pibil.

El Cholo - too chain-y. Feels like Disneyland.

Lucy's El Adobe - crappy food & really expensive for what you get. The rooms are super cavernous since they expanded.

Margarita's - in Pasadena. Sister restaurant to Pepe's. Food is great, but the space is too bright...not cosy.

El Coyote - soft spot for this place since they would serve us booze back when we were kids, but the food is serious gutbomb material. Would love to find a smaller, tastier clone.

These are the next stops on the list. Would love input, or any other places you suggest:
Villa Sombrero - Highland Park
El Arco Iris - Highland Park (do they have margaritas?)
El Cid - Silverlake
The Mexican Village - Silverlake
Casa Vega - in the valley

Help please

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  1. The Pasadena El Cholo is pretty Disney-ish, but the Western Ave version is much less so. It's certainly big and sprawling, but draws an interestingly mixed crowd and is dependable for the down-and-dirty experience you describe. You're guaranteed to wait for a table on Friday night, however.

    1. When did Pepe's close??!! That saddens me!
      El Cid is dark, but food is not that great.
      La Parilla has great food (not sure about the margaritas, tho). It is okay - I would not necessarily call it cozy.

      1. La Parilla has a full bar at 2 of its locations.
        http://www.laparrillarestaurants.com/

        1. IMHO, Highland Park's Arco Iris falls somewhere between El Chavo and La Cabanita: Decent, affordable Los Angeles-style Mexican food. A fun place when the room is packed.

          However...

          Huarache Azteca is the best spot in that neighborhood, and a fave on the LA CH board.

          El Sombrero blows. Decent margs, but spotty food.

          1. El Arco Iris has the best green chile burros anywhere! And, yes they do have margaritas.
            Huarache is good too but can't beat Arco's burritos.

            1. I actually think the food at Mexican Village is quite good -- good seafood dishes and very tasty guacamole, chips and salsa. Good margaritas as well. It would probably rank among my favorite Mexican places in Silver Lake for traditional LA-style Mexican food but for the following: it has a bit of a sports bar quality and can be loud when all the televisions are on. Also, it turns into a nightclub of sorts in the evenings, including a cover charge.

              1. If you're in Highland Park, take 7 mins extra to get to Caramba's on the border of El Sereno & Alhambra. Great Salsa, great, Chile Colorado burrito, great enchiladas, GREAT Margaritas.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cabrunet

                  Do you have an address? Sounds great, but the only Caramba's I see are in Pico Rivera and Industry.