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El Torito or Acapulco for "Americanized" Mexican Food

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Two of us are going to either El Torito or Acupulco for dinner this Friday. I realize neither of these restaurants is either "authentic" or "gourmet", but since we want to enjoy a few Margaritas before and during dinner, there isn't much choice in this area (Sherman Oaks, Studio City, etc.). Therefore, we'll have to choose between them. Although this is a truly pedestrian request, I'd deeply appreciate any suggestions as to which is better and why.

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  1. I think el torito is better.

    1. To jlq3de

      Thank you. Would you mind relling me why?

      1. No, No, a hundred thousand times NO!

        I couldn't read your post and remain silent! Both are poor to BAD and you do have other options in the area; such as:

        Senor Fred - Sherman Oaks (with happy hour)
        http://www.senorfred.com

        These posts should help cleanse your mind:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/74989

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/73823

        3 Replies
        1. re: JBC

          Hi, JBC

          I guess you're telling me that you don't think too highly of either. (joke!). I've heard bad reports about Casa Vega. Do you consider Senor Fred to be better? How are their prices. I don't want to spend my entire social security chack on one meal for two. Does it have a full bar or is it limited to just wine and beer? Thank you.

          1. re: jwrites4u

            Yes they have a full bar and if you read the first CH link, there is advise on ordering margaritas. They have a happy hour till 7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. & the chips & salsa are free.

            Prices are similar to those 2 chains (my pricing info is 12 to 18 months old):
            ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Dinner Combos (with rice & beans) - $8.50 to $11.95 - 9 choices, 3 more higher.
            House Specials - Conchinita Pibil $15.50 to NY Steak $22.95
            Salad (Entree sized) with chicken $8.50 (I think).

            Therefore, based on the above, you can have dinner for under $10 - but don't be shocked if they've raised them some recently. What the happy hour deal is I don't know, but a simple phone call would fix that. Again, read the 2 linked CH posts above to get a sense of the quality of the food served.

            I don't know anything about Casa Vega.

            1. re: jwrites4u

              I went to Senor Fred once..hated it, and have never returned.

          2. seis de uno, media docena del otro

            1. What's the diff? Go for whichever one you can find a coupon for.

              1. El Torito is marginally better... but, honestly, go to Ernie's Taco House on Lankershim and Moorpark if you absolutely can't live without your Mexicombo plate.

                1. (This'll probably get moved to the "Chains" board at some point.)

                  I've actually eaten several times at both of these places, so here's my impressions:

                  I'd chose El Torito over Acapulco because of the larger menu/options and for their "regional" menu (it seems to change every couple of months, highlighting the foods of a specific Mexican region - can't speak to the authenticity of the food, though). El Torito also has more variety beyond the typical "combo" plates and I think that their sides taste fresher than those at Acapulco.

                  However, Acapulco is somewhat less expensive and I've had better service at Acapulco (which may be a reflection of the specific location and not true across the board).

                  As far as the food goes, I think that El Torito has better (overall) flavors - if something's spicy, it's a complex flavor, whereas spicy as Acapulco seems to be more about the one-dimensional heat (especially in their fajitas).

                  Here's a link to Acapulco, so you can see their menu: http://www.acapulcorestaurants.com/
                  And here's a link to El Torito: http://www.eltorito.com/menus/el_tori... (their online menu is not particularly user-friendly, you'll have to click on the links on the left side of the page to see the options in each sub-section).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    I'd also like to add that, if you're somewhere that there's options beyond these two (and I see from the above posts that you do have options), I'd go for a local, non-chain restaurant LONG before either of these places.

                    (I keep getting dragged to both thanks to a client who thinks that they're "adventurous" - not my choice!)

                  2. They really aren't that different from one another. If you don't have the option to go to a local, non-chain Mexican restaurant (I've been to both Senor Fred and Casa Vega, and would pick either of those two over Acapulco or El Torito), I would pick the one whose menu appeals to you the most and enjoy your time with your friend.

                    1. (((sigh))) If you must pick one of them - go to the El Torito. Food choices seem to be seasoned better and a little more adventurous.

                      1. How about Red Onion? Seriously, with these limited choices the coupon rationale makes sense.

                        1. Casa Vega, come on, it's a Valley classic!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jcwla

                            Compared to Acapulco and El Torito, Casa Vega's food is probably comparable. (I'm not much of a fan of any, though I do like El Torito's salsa in a pinch.) The drinks are where Casa Vega is vastly preferable.

                            What about Tequilas on Victory at Woodman? I've never been, but there have been some positive posts here and they do have a bar. Here's a link to a thread on Tequilas: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/70228

                          2. I second Das.............Ernie's is the way to go(Skylab burrito) good margs, Acapulco use to be so much better when it was Los Arcos . Casa Vegas is fun if you can get in!

                            1. I really like Don Cuco's, its a little east in Toluca Lake but worth the drive. The margarita's are huge and strong, and the food is great. You can wait at the bar to be seated with free chips and salsa that are yummy! http://www.doncuco.com/

                              Don Cuco's
                              3911 W Riverside Dr
                              Burbank, CA 91505
                              (818) 842-1123

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: CarlieInLA

                                I agree with everything you just said about Don Cuco's. Used to live up the street from there and it was a fun place to go.

                              2. I already posted alternatives, but if you are wedded to El Torito and Acapulco, I would lean in favor of El Torito. The salsa is better, there is more spice, and they have a few dishes that are passable, particularly the steak fajitas and the carnitas. Unfortunately, I suspect the branch you are considering is the Van Nuys/Ventura branch. It is a zoo, noisy, and lacks parking (they have a valet because there is not enough parking in the lot).

                                There also is an El Torito Grill at the Galleria (Sepulveda/Ventura). The food is not significantly better, though I have friends who love the honey butter and flour tortillas that are served in place of chips (if you want chips, just ask). But there is more parking in that center than at the other El Torito.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Jwsel

                                  There's also an El Torito in Burbank/Toluca Lake, on Riverside near Pass Ave.

                                  1. re: Jwsel

                                    I had the carnitas at El Torito in Torrance a couple of weeks ago - pretty good. Also enjoyed the melon cadillac margarita.

                                  2. El Torito is better, but Casa Vega is much better than either one, and I'd think the people who don't like Vega would still agree it's better than either of those two. Plus, the margaritas at Vega are awesome. And dangerous.

                                    El Torito does have an acceptable happy hour.

                                    1. If I had to eat gringo mexican food, I'd go to Casa Vega for the atmosphere. That and the strong drinks will make up for any misgivings about the food.

                                      1. El Torito by far

                                        1. Casa Vega. Much better atmosphere and margaritas. good old sloppy combo plates. I liked the crab burrito thingy

                                          There's always la Fogata (sp?) on Van Nuys in SO

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Diana

                                            I don't recall La Fogata having a bar. You order at a counter and they bring your food out.

                                          2. Mexicali (Ventura and Laurel Cyn) or Senor Freds are better bets and won't break the bank. Never been to Casa Vega b/c it is always such a pain to wait.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: FIFO22

                                              Mexicali is great for the scene (fit, black-clad twentysomethings drinking at the bar) but even the waiters hate the food and aren't shy about saying so.

                                            2. I'd say Acapulco is much more "Americanized"(bland, mediocre) than El Torito. Acapulco is like a Denny's with a "Mexican" menu. El Torito, however, isn't that much further behind.

                                              1. In response to your question on another thread -- I think you'll have a better time at Granada.

                                                1. RE: Acapulco
                                                  Don't discount the food. Talking to a Mexican bus driver one day asking what he thought about La Parilla and he downplayed it and said he was going with his family for a holiday dinner at the Acapulco in Montebello.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: monku

                                                    This doesn't shock me. The owner of Naja's Place told me all the German tourists he gets order Miller or Budwieser and love it.

                                                  2. I like El Torito better than Acapulco. Ingredients seem fresher...
                                                    There was an El Torito Grill in Fashion Island (Newport Beach) that used to be pretty good. It might still be good. Hand-made gordita tortillas and everything. Pretty tasty.

                                                    1. If it's between those two places, I say go with Acapulco. They usually have some crazy special item on their menu like Buffalo Barbecue Chcken Fajitas. If you're going for the un-authentic, you might as well go all in.

                                                      1. Why has no one mentioned Chevy's? I love their food. I find it way better than both Acapulco's or El Torito's

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: bkh238559

                                                          Urkkkk . . .

                                                          I like Chevy's thin chips, but that's about all. The salsa is sickly sweet and most of the food is pretty bad. They used to have a good chicken salad, but took it off their menu.

                                                          1. re: bkh238559

                                                            Because it's so BAD. I like the chips, and I like the sweet tamale stuff that comes on a combo platter... but the rest of the food is so terrible... I mean, their "chixadilla" or whatever it is, resembles nothing so much as a Midwestern hotdish in a steamed-and toasted flour tortilla.

                                                          2. my votes are:
                                                            -casa vega
                                                            -mexicali
                                                            -el torito GRILL (not to be confused w/ a regular el torito)

                                                            1. Totally by coincidence a (Mexican) friend suggested stopping at the Acapulco in Downey (Stonewood) instead of my choice Gallo Giro in South Gate. The food was just edible but the happy hour prices in the bar can't be beat. Especially the (watered down) margaritas at something like $2.50, tacos at $1 includes a pretty good choice of salsas, freshly made tortillas (choice of soft or hard), and really fresh veggies. I can't say the carnitas (tasted old) were good, stick with the beef (friend liked Piccadillo best, I didn't try those). You could do worse. M-Th (4 to 7) not sure about F-S. Service was good, chips and salsa free, they let us start drinking at happy hour prices before 4pm. Can't complain, really.