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Authentic Mexican with bar in SouthEast Valley

Please forgive what certainly must be the most pedestrian of pedestrial queries on this web site. I'm looking for an authentic Mexican Restaraunt with Bar, in or near the South East Valley with prices that won't use upo my complete social security check for two people. I've heard much about El Torito in Sherman Oaks as well as Acapulco on Olive in Burbank, but having never eaten at either, don't know which is considered better. I would appreciate any comment. BTW, last night I was turned on to a restaurant in Topanga called Abuelitas. Sounds lovely. Any comments? Your help will be deeply appreciated.

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  1. I wouldn't call either El Torito or Acapulco "authentic Mexican", as it seems just more "gringo-ized" chain Mexican food to me. You might try "Las 4 Milpas" on Burbank Blvd. just east of Vineland (we haven't been since the recent change of management, but previous trips were pretty good and their Siete Mares was excellent).

    1. Thank you for your response. Once again being pedestrian, what is the difference between "authentic Mexican" and the chains such as El Torito andAcapoulco?

      3 Replies
      1. re: jwrites4u

        I tend to define "authentic" food or whatever ilk as what you would get if you went out to dinner with a member of whatever group/area the food originates with. Most of what's on the menu at chains like El Torito doesn't fall into that category. It's been toned down, anglicized, fused with California cuisine, or some other dilution.

        There are also a lot of different regional cuisines in Mexico, with different ingredients featured and different cooking styles and spicing. Oaxacan cooking is very different than Yucatecan. It's like the difference between Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Hunan cooking. Same country, but very different food.

        1. re: GVDub

          In this case, both Acapulco and El Torito serve what I call "Mexicombo plates", which are some combination of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, chiles rellenos, enchiladas and tamales, with rice and beans, often with better than a half-pound of cheese in or on it.

          An authentic place would tend to serve things like San Fernando-style tacos, which are just small tortillas with a bit of meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa. They may serve burritos (which are kind of a gringo invention anyway) but will probably have things like pozole (a hominy and pork soup), birria (goat soup), and menudo (tripe stew). There are also authentic marisquerias which sell seafood in various preparations.

          Southeast Valley's a bit of a Yuppie hangout...not much in the way of authentic places. Las 4 Milpas is a good suggestion. Ernie's Taco House is a Mexicombo place that's better than El Torito, Acapulco or Don Cuco's.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            What's your take on Mucho Mas? We've eaten there once, but it was a few years ago, and it seemed alright, but for some reason, we've never gone back.

      2. IHO the chains mentioned above will somewhat 'americanize' some of the mexican dishes to make them more pleasing to the american palate. for example sour cream instead of queso fresco as a topping. For me, the term authentic is used excessively almost to a fault. I mean, what is authentic food really? Is is possible to eat 'authentic' regional cuisine outside of that specific area? If you aren't using chili peppers or corn grown in your native country, is your food still authentic? If you're using canola oil instead of lard, are those beans authentic? Where is the line drawn?I think a lot of mexican restaurant will use mexican inspired recipes and have the chef put a contemporary twist on them to set them apart for other restaurants. Is this authentic? i guess not. But it also doesn't mean that the food is sub-par. Anyways, I'm not supporting chain grub cause I think most of the time food is blah, but just throwin in my 2 cents...

        ~rZa

        1. If Burbank and Victory is Southeast enough, Granadas may be a good pick. The best and strongest house ritas anywhere and IMHO pork dishes that are hard to beat. Lots of longtime regulars cant be wrong.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bigdoghh

            Hi Bigdoghh,

            Area you mentioned is perfect. Can you tell me something about Granada. This is one restaurant no one has mentioned so it interests me. How is the food, the Margaritas? Does it have any ambience?

            1. re: jwrites4u

              It's got kind of that faux-Mexican-village ambiance, the ritas are quite strong, the food's good but again, a Mexicombo type place. Good for what it is, though. DON'T go to Barragan's on Victory -- icky food and worse ritas.

          2. And how are the prices?

            4 Replies
            1. re: jwrites4u

              Carnitas dinner used to be around 11 bucks but the portion is quite large and very tender. Ritas are 5.95 and 2 will be all you will need. They are smooth and strong, always very consistent too. I agree with Das Ubergeek that they are somewhat of a combo place but their pork dishes, carnitas, chili verde tostada verde etc are the best.

              1. re: bigdoghh

                Much Thanks, Big Dog. Of all the suggestions I had had (and I appreciate them all) yours suggesting Granada is trhe one we will try tomorrow night. One more question, please. Do they take reservations (for 2), and if they do, is it wise to make one. Again thank you. Jeff (jwrites4u)

                1. re: jwrites4u

                  not sure if they do or not, can get crowded but they seat both up front and in the bar

                  1. re: jwrites4u

                    I wouldn't imagine you'd need one... may be a small wait but you can always knock back ritas in the bar.