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Looking for LA style mexican in SF

l
luckygrlllll Mar 29, 2007 05:49 PM

I am a recent transplant from LA to SF, and craving a good sit down mexican restaurant that also serves margaritas. So far, I have been to Colibri, Mamacita, Tommys, La Barca, and taquerias which dont serve drinks. Although some of these places are OK, none of them are anywhere close to the LA style cheesy, gooey delicious mexican restaurants I miss so much. If you know what I am talking about, please let me know of ANY restaurant in the ENTIRE bay area that might have something close to LA style mexican food.

Thanks!

  1. Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2010 01:37 PM

    Mexicali Rose.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641236

    1. a_and_w Dec 18, 2009 05:10 PM

      Please. The burritos in LA are a joke, so much so that Taqueria San Jose is always my first and last stop in SF. I assume you've tried one of the vast majority of Mission taquerias that DON'T steam their tortillas?

      1. t
        trespinero Dec 3, 2008 10:09 PM

        I was at El Cholo on Wilshire last Saturday, only had marg's and nachos. I grew up in LA but have lived here for 20 years. I think the Tia Margarita's rec. is a good one and is similar to what is found in LA. I also would have to mention Puerto Allegre on Valencia, not great but after 2 pitchers it don't matter too much. There is also a place on 11th Street and Howardish, Don Ramon's I think it is called, an LA friend liked to eat there a lot, I think it is a bit overpriced American Mexican fine dinning.

        4 Replies
        1. re: trespinero
          Xiao Yang Dec 4, 2008 11:28 AM

          I did time (work) in LA 25-30 years ago and our office was on Wilshire by the tar pits. It seemed like El Cholo was the only Mexican restaurant anybody in our LA Office knew, and I thought it was gringoized even then.

          1. re: Xiao Yang
            t
            titirico Apr 21, 2009 07:22 PM

            Indeed there are landmines, but I can say with certainty that the shredded beef chimichanga is quite good. I enjoy the complementary chips and salsa (is there anything that complements Margaritas better?) and the salad with tomatoey dressing that comes with any entree.

            1. re: titirico
              s
              saffrongold Apr 22, 2009 08:59 AM

              I haven't been back to Tia Margarita since the time I asked the waitress if they had drink specials during Happy Hour (we were there at 5 p.m. during the week). She looked at me uncomprehendingly, I repeated myself, and she said she didn't know what Happy Hour is, never heard of it, is that some kind of joke?

          2. re: trespinero
            Robert Lauriston Apr 22, 2009 10:01 AM

            That's a good plan for Puerto Allegre, don't order any food until after the second pitcher of margaritas.

          3. t
            troyski Jan 28, 2008 07:18 AM

            Hi Luckygrl,

            These are my favorites:
            "La Quinta" - Mission between 20th and 21st, if I can remember right. (Killer cheese enchiladas and some of the best salsa you'll ever have, albeit rather hot)

            "La Perla" - Luz St in SSF (Killer home-made tortillas and again, "la Salsa es la bomba!")

            "La Primavera" - Martinez CA (Their taco truck off the Pacheco exit - look for the Truck box store's parking lot - is just as good, if you need truly fast food) Their enchilada sauce is divine and their chips are REAL. "La salsa bien sabrosa")

            I'd put any of these 3 up against any Mexican restaurant and I have also lived in AZ, which next to LA and San Jose, CA, where I was born, is probably the OTHER Holy Grail of Mexican restaurants.

            Since I don't drink I'll leave that Depto to the other 4000 replies you got. (Now I know why you call yourself Luckygrl.)

            1. n
              NickyPicky Jan 25, 2008 11:21 PM

              CELIA'S on Judah Street (46th Avenue cross street) in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district has old school California style Mexican. I also like EL ZOCALO - Mission Street (cross street 30th Street and it's sister location in Daly City .....also called EL ZOCALO located in strip mall at intersection of Hickey and El Camino Real. The place (if it is still in business) had really tasy food and very low prices. Dual menu ao Salvadorean and Mexican options.
              EL TOREADOR on West Portal Avenue near the muni tunnel station is another traditional gooey cheesey plate Mexican restaurant. It is fairly small and busy at mealtimes, pricier than than Celia's or El Zocalo too.

              3 Replies
              1. re: NickyPicky
                m
                Morticia Feb 17, 2008 04:32 PM

                I haven't tried El Zocolo yet, although I go past the Mission location pretty frequently...but Celia's in the Outer Sunset was perhaps the most dismal Mexican experience I have yet to endure. Have they gotten any better since I was there in 2004? Because it was seriously bad - half-dried-out microwaved refried beans that also tasted like they had been made from powdered beans, iceberg lettuce salad with rusty spots, and just no flavor whatsoever in the cheese enchiladas!

                1. re: Morticia
                  s
                  sugartoof Dec 4, 2008 10:15 AM

                  Celia's is awful now.

                  It's a great as a time capsule, and it's exactly the kind of Americanized Mexican that predated the burrito culture, serving the glob of refried, the pile or orange rice, the tamale sauced heavy combo platter formula.... but Celia's in the Sunset is lousy now. Southern California is filled with these places frozen in the 1950-60's, but ours mostly died out with burrito culture.

                  1. re: sugartoof
                    a_and_w Apr 22, 2009 07:45 AM

                    LOL...a devastating but apt description.

              2. Mr. S Dec 11, 2007 10:02 PM

                Not to beat a dead horse, but I just made the move, and if anyone knows where to get baja style fish tacos (LA'ers think Tacos Baja Ensenada) or Oaxacan style (Monte Alban) food, please divulge...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Mr. S
                  p
                  pfffft Dec 2, 2008 10:51 PM

                  La Familia on Shattuck in Berkeley serves up baja style fish and shrimp tacos with a minor modification-- they add a small amount of rice. I used to frequent Los 7 Mares on Sunset in Silverlake often and miss fish tacos a lot since moving up here. But La Famillia does a pretty good job. I've heard of another place in the Mission that's great for fish tacos but need to track down the name. Will post if I receive it.

                  1. re: pfffft
                    wolfe Dec 3, 2008 07:51 AM

                    Have you tried daveola's list?
                    http://daveola.com/Fish-Tacos/

                2. m
                  Morticia Nov 13, 2007 07:41 PM

                  Growing up on the East Coast, I never tasted Mexican food (outside of nachos made from Doritos - which we called "tortilla" chips - pronouncing the L's) - then took a trip to California to visit and house-hunt with my family. We visited both SF and LA, and I fell in love with the Mexican food we experienced nearly everywhere down south. Upon moving to the Bay Area, I could not find the same food here. Every chance I could, I would enter a promising-looking or sounding restaurant, and every time, I left disappointed. I finally gave up. If you can stand the noise and the unbearably long wait for a table, go to Puerto Allegre in the Mission. Otherwise, save up your appetite for your visits back home...

                  1. c
                    caseycm Nov 12, 2007 09:38 PM

                    I found this thread really interesting. Everybody from LA knows exactly what you are asking and the others don't. I appreciate the appends from those who do, and I'll sure check out the recommendations. I've lived here 25 years and still say the same thing about missing LA (and Arizona) Mexican food. I usually stop at King City when I drive South where I can find what I miss. It really doesn't make much sense that it wouldn't be here; I just never found it. Like others who posted, I was appalled the first time I was served a pre-fab taco shell at Trini's in South San Jose? I asked another LA transplant, a Mexican-American, where is there good Mexican food. He said Sinaloa in Morgan Hill was as close as we could get. In those days, it was really funky, with Mom and maybe Grandmom, in the kitchen and they did know how to fry up a taco shell. It's since gone fancy, moved to downtown, and has lost its funk, but it's still a bit like the LA style. Oh, there is a really good place that might come close on California Avenue in Palo Alto, called La Taqueria Azteca, in Antonio's Nut House, which serves about the best I've had up here in all these years.

                    1. s
                      smugbunny Apr 2, 2007 04:34 PM

                      hi luckygrlllll,
                      i'm originally from la, too (yes, i can now admit it). at first i was really into the taqueria's in the mission when i moved to san francisco. the huge burritos with everything but the kitchen sink included. but, when i would go down to visit, i would eat at the burrito king on alvarado (taqueria style), and el coyote (sit down style) on beverly. oh the great cheezy film biz conversations you can overhear while dining there! you're not going to get much of that here, but you can get good mexican food in the la style if you know where to look. i would recommend puerto allegre (http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/889318) for a fun sit down atmosphere. it is a great place to go with a big group (you can book a table) and it ends up being really inexpensive, even when everyone is ordering another margarita pitcher. i had always heard of people going there for the margaritas, which i'd taken to mean that the food was bad, but the food is actually pretty good. and definitely reminiscent of la-style sit down mexican. they also serve brunch. then there's los jarritos (http://www.losjarritos.com/) on south van ness. this place is awesome for brunch, as well as dinner. they serve plates of food. their enchilada plate is excellent, as are their huevos rancheros, which i get about once or twice a month. a little more expensive than your average mexican food restaurant, but good quality, tasy food. i know they serve mexican beer, and they have a lot of traditional mexican drinks (horchata, agua fresca and the like), but now i can't remember if they serve margaritas, maybe not. if you're craving the yummy no rice style of la burrito you get at burrito king (on sunset and alvarado), my personal favorite, go to la taqueria on mission near 25th. they have really quality ingredients, but it is still very traditional, not chevy's style. anyways, hope i've helped. good luck. there's always looking forward to visiting your old hangs when you go back to visit. i always say, it is a great place to visit, but i wouldn't want to live there.

                       
                      11 Replies
                      1. re: smugbunny
                        l
                        luckygrlllll Apr 3, 2007 02:28 PM

                        Thanks to all who have posted. Just for edification...Celias is not like LA mexican. There would never be coleslaw on the menu nor a pre-made taco bell style taco shell for the tacos. In LA, It would be a homemade deep fried corn tortilla which is usually soft and juicy where the meat is and crispy at the top where the cheese and lettuce is. I had a taco on my combo at La Barca and it was terrible with a pre-fab tasteless shell with hamburger meat. Yuck. Regarding El Coyote...it isnt the best in LA, but is still better than anything I have had so far in SF. I am going to LA this weekend to see family and my plan is to have mexican on friday night, and brents deli on sat night.

                        Based on rec. from here, I think we will try Puerto Allegre in the mission next. We will have to plan it...with ordering a taxi so we dont have to worry about parking, and go when we arent completely starving due to what I have read is an hour wait for a table. Is it possible to get chips/salsa and drinks while waiting for your table?

                        We were going to go there the other night, but got too hungry, and I was concerned that we would have to wait too long for a table. Ended up going to La Barca instead since we knew we could park in the lot across the street and get a table right away. Unfortunately having to settle for a below average meal.

                        1. re: luckygrlllll
                          Lori SF Apr 3, 2007 02:55 PM

                          luckygrlllll, I lived in LA for 17 years and I always thought El Coyote was just a fun place to go with a big group and sit out on the front patio.. but seriously never liked the food and it would be the last place I would go to for mexican if I was to visit LA, so to each is own. El Coyote is California Mexican not LA Mexican there are many places across California that make this type of food, some better- some worse. Sorry you have not found something like it here but I think if you stepped outside of San Francisco you will find something.

                          However, I was just on 24th Street in the Mission and saw Velvet Cantina and checked out their website. Maybe it might be a place for you to try. Otherwise, see wiseguy7 recommendation Rancho Las Trancas menu looks close and I think I have been there. I recall having enchiladas that were similar to El Coyote, method- where the tortillas are dipped into sauce uncooked and then fried and filled..

                          anyway, have a fun visit in LA

                          1. re: Lori SF
                            l
                            luckygrlllll Apr 3, 2007 11:00 PM

                            I rarely ate at El Coyote in LA unless I was meeting people for drinks in a big party. My main mexican restaurants where I ate regularly (1X per week) are Don Antonios on Pico/Bundy and Pacos in Westchester. Occasionally we ate at Gilberts El Indio in Santa Monica. Pacos was really our most regular restaurant. They makethe best homemade tortillas...both flour and corn. They also have good combos, albondigas soup, and nachos.

                            I will check out Velvet Cantina and the place in S. SF mentioned above.

                          2. re: luckygrlllll
                            a
                            Agent 510 Nov 12, 2007 10:21 PM

                            Disclaimer: I've lived in LA and think I have a handle on the kind of place you've got in mind, having eaten at a few myself. Get me a chimichanga combo plate, stat!

                            I would suggest a visit to Fremont. La Casita, Los Kompadres, and El Burro fit the bill. I haven't been to Casa Robles but it sounds similar. In general, Fremont and San Jose may be better places to find this stuff than the city.

                            (This is because in SF, people generally gourmet-ize and tweak stuff like "LA Mexican" and "NY pizza" and "NY bagels" and "Southern barbecue" but nobody just tries to replicate them, to my consternation)

                            1. re: luckygrlllll
                              m
                              Meredith Nov 13, 2007 12:25 PM

                              Try Tia Margarita on Clement around 18th. The margaritas are great and I think the food is the style you are looking for. Los Jarritos is also good, but I not quite what I remember about LA mexican food. I am 99% sure they don't serve mixed drinks, but they definitely do have mexican beers.

                              1. re: Meredith
                                wineguy7 Nov 13, 2007 05:36 PM

                                One time at Tia Margarita after our waitress brought out a bowl of chips I shook some salt on the chips. The waitress actually SLAPPED my hand and told me to "Stop that. Salt is bad for your heart." I haven't been back since.

                                1. re: Meredith
                                  r
                                  rln Jan 21, 2008 03:04 PM

                                  Tried this place Friday night-- and yes, having grown up in LA going to Barragan's, El Chavo, and various places in Silverlake area, this place is old school feeling with lots of spirit. Food is not terrific but comforting. Maragaritas are strong, and I did see people order cosmopolitans this Saturday night. We sat at the bar and had a fun time.

                              2. re: smugbunny
                                Skunk2Racer Jan 21, 2008 04:03 PM

                                Hi! I'm from LA and visit quite often to Fremont. I'm a Big fan of the Hollenback Burrito from El tepeyac in East LA..Are the Burrritos from Mission like this? i too have had trouble find decent mexican food. I've usually resorted to cooking myself.

                                1. re: Skunk2Racer
                                  r
                                  rln Jan 21, 2008 04:27 PM

                                  My family and I are big El Tepeyac fans (taquitos!) -- I have to say most of the burritos I've eaten in the Mission are from the trucks, but, no - I haven't had or seen anything like the Hollenbeck or Oki (I think I used to get this at El Tepeyac.)

                                  I also really like the machaca at El Tepeyac. Haven't found a place here.

                                  1. re: Skunk2Racer
                                    c
                                    Calvinist Jan 22, 2008 11:40 AM

                                    Ah, the Hollenbeck. Named after the police station near Tepeyac.

                                    It's a diffferent deal up here, with the Mission burrito's main distinguishing factor being that rice is included. But they do not have the heft of the Hollenbeck, which is about the size of a police sub-station.

                                    However with El Delfin (where I ate Sunday night) and Pastores, I have finally achieved my quota of good local Mexican.

                                    On Sunday I had a special, that I believe was called a Camarones Torta. However it was not a sanwich-style torta, but something completely different. It was essentally two meatballs made out of shrimp, with a heavily reduced red chile sauce. I've never had anything resembling it. It was very good!

                                    1. re: Calvinist
                                      Skunk2Racer Jan 23, 2008 03:58 PM

                                      Actually the hollenbeck has rice, beans guacamole, carne de purco, sauce......

                                2. n
                                  Nancy Berry Mar 31, 2007 04:26 PM

                                  I like La Perla in South San Francisco. They make their own tortillas and serve some really good plates. Many of these are daily specials such as the Wednesday lengua plate (my favorite.) But they serve good enchiladas every day.

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/46126?query=la%20perla
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37600...

                                  1. Carrie 218 Mar 31, 2007 07:47 AM

                                    I lived in San Diego for 25 years and then Los Angeles for almost 15 years. Sadly, the further away from the border you get, the more you lose what tastes like real Mexican food. I have yet to find anything in the Bay Area that is comparable to what is down south.

                                    Yes, there is Mexican food here - but it just isn't the same and I can't exactly put my finger on why, but I'm spending a week in LA next month and not only look forward to eating a lot of Mexican food, but also Zankou chicken!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Carrie 218
                                      Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2007 08:13 AM

                                      I've had Mexican food here that is pretty much exactly like what I eat on my regular visits to Guadalajara.

                                      That's clearly not the "LA style cheesy, gooey" that the original poster is looking for.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        Lori SF Mar 31, 2007 10:54 AM

                                        Except Guadalajara has more of this style now because of the ever increasing American migration just like you can get this style of cooking in the other popular places Americans visit, Cancun, PV, etc.. Did not see this anywhere in Guanajuato (except a couple of places in San Miguel Allende, Michoacán (except one place in Morelia) nothing in Querétaro.

                                        The poster might try a few places in the upper Haight, I have seen the platter combos in one of the Mexican places cannot remember the name, near Wastelands.

                                    2. Debbie M Mar 30, 2007 07:20 PM

                                      Never eaten Mexican food in LA, but if you're around the Financial District during weekdays, you might want to check out Orale Orale, on Sacramento between Drumm and Davis (beer only), or Mercedes, on Commercial between Montgomery and Sutter (full bar). Orale Orale is pretty basic food and decor-wise, but good Mexican-American. Mercedes is a little more upscale, but not too much. Their Top Dog margarita is good. They're both mainly lunch places, but Orale Orale is open until at least 7:00 pm.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Debbie M
                                        Lori SF Mar 30, 2007 08:07 PM

                                        Mercedes is fine for the work day lunch rotation like many of the other work persons lunch spots. I would not say worthy enough for a trip over there unless your office is walking distance.

                                      2. michele_corum Mar 30, 2007 03:35 PM

                                        I know exactly what you're talking about....the kind of place where they bring your plate to you wearing hot mits and warn you that the plate is hot? With beans and rice and salad and such? Cheesy gooey enchiladas and tamales and a nice crisp taco on the side....yum. Just the kind of Mexican I grew up with but so few left here in the Bay Area.

                                        How about New Mecca in downtown Pittsburg? They definitely have Mexican beer, not sure about Margaritas.

                                        I'd also suggest Los Pancho's in Pacheco or San Ramon, but they're strictly take out only. But the food is similar, if not identical to New Mecca (the owner used to work at New Mecca).

                                        And how about El Charro in Lafayette?

                                        Or Juanita's in Alameda?

                                        And I've been to Celia's in SF several times and IMHO it really sucks. Drinks were good, the food, ick. I make better at home...and believe me, I know how to cook Mexican! It's my favorite of favorite ethnic foods.

                                        Oh and there is a really excellent place in Blythe but then that's a long long ways away from here!

                                        1. f
                                          Fig Newton Mar 30, 2007 09:51 AM

                                          I am a 7-year transplant from LA to the Bay Area. I personally don't think you'll find that here. It took me a good year or two before I simply gave up and gave in to the different style of Mexican food that is up here. At first it was depressing, but now I'm kind of used to it - and it gives me something to look forward to when I visit my family.

                                          I still devour my cheesy enchiladas and combination plates when I am in SoCal, but when here I love and appreciate places like the taco trucks around town, Otaez (come to think of it maybe the closest to what you're looking for) in Oakland, Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, Tacubaya and Dona Tomas, Mi Lindo Yucatan, and the Primavera booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market.

                                          Of those, Dona Tomas has a full bar and Otaez, Roosevelt, Tacubaya, and MLY serve beer only. Primavera and the taco trucks you're out of luck.

                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: Fig Newton
                                            l
                                            luckygrlllll Mar 30, 2007 01:47 PM

                                            That is what I am beginning to realize about SF. The food is either "gourmet" mexican like Colibri or Mamacita (which is much blander than Colibri) or a taqueria in the mission, but nothing in between of any quality, like what you can get in LA.

                                            My local favorites in LA (close to my house) were Pacos Tacos which had 2 locations: Westchester off Sepulveda, and Culver City off Washington Bl. Their homemade tortillas are excellent. I also liked Gilberts in SM, Don Antonios in W. LA also on Pico, and Los Toros in the valley. Again, please note all these places are old school mexican american sit down restaurants with 2 item combos averaging $9-12, and appetizers in the $4-7 range. These restaurants are not authentic regional mexican cuisine, taquerias, or gourmet, upscale.

                                            I will take the recommendation of trying those places outside the city, although I have tried 2 restaurants in the east bay: The Cantina in Walnut Creek, which is the WORST mexican restaurant I have ever been to, and a place in Lafayette, which I cannot recall the name, but it was also below average.

                                            Are there any mexican communities in the bay area?

                                            1. re: luckygrlllll
                                              Melanie Wong Mar 30, 2007 02:05 PM

                                              Yes, many Mexican communities. Here's my post from the other thread.
                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/46125...
                                              Besides Fruitvale and Redwood City, also check out Santa Rosa, Richmond, South San Francisco, Hayward, and San Jose.

                                              1. re: luckygrlllll
                                                Ruth Lafler Mar 30, 2007 02:15 PM

                                                No! There are no Mexicans living in Northern California. Not one. You have to go to SoCal to see Mexican. The question is irrelevant, anyway, because you've made it clear you don't want the kind of food that Mexicans eat.

                                                Actually, people have mentioned several places in the previous thread that are more what you're looking for: Celia's (several branches), Juan's in Berkeley, Alcapulco in Alameda.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                  s
                                                  Sharuf Mar 31, 2007 08:38 AM

                                                  The Celia's here in San Rafael is a 1950's time capsule, which sometimes is just what you want. They have retro-gringo food and one of the few existing cocktail lounges around. (Fifty years ago, cocktail lounges were an important part of our culture.) Celia's watering hole is the sort of place one thinks of when you want to stop by somewhere with your buddies after work.

                                                  I really like their flavorful refried beans, their lava flow of tasty enchilada sauce covering the entire plate and dripping onto the table, and their wonderful steaming hot tortillas for scooping up all the cheesy goo.

                                                  You can get any kind of gut-bustingly excessive combo plates you want. Taco, enchilada, relleno, tamale, flauta combo anyone? Be forewarned however -- their tacos are the sort that Serious Chowhounds might stare at in shocked disbelief. A large crisp pre-fab shell stuffed with hamburger meat, shredded iceberg, etc. Sort of a proto-Taco Bell thing.

                                                  Is this the sort of thing you meant by "L.A. style"?

                                                  BTW, there's a Celia's in Berkeley which is a good match for the one here in Marin.

                                                  1. re: Sharuf
                                                    a_and_w Jan 22, 2008 09:04 AM

                                                    I think Acapulco in Alameda and Celia's in Berkeley are precisely the kind of places the OP seeks. There seems to be some confusion because "LA style" can also connote authentic regional Mexican, which is abundant in LA.

                                                2. re: luckygrlllll
                                                  m
                                                  ML8000 Mar 30, 2007 06:28 PM

                                                  People have mentioned a few places that are like LA Cal-Mex. I grew up in SoCal and I can say Juan's, La Fiesta in MV and Mario's in Berkeley are as good as old school Mexican in SoCal.

                                                  Any way, your questionis sort of analogous to NY'ers asking for NYC egg rolls. You might need to go to SoCal to get it. I was just there and I pretty much ate Mexican food everyday. The Mexican food up here is just as good...but in a different way and you have to drive.

                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                    Robert Lauriston Mar 30, 2007 08:10 PM

                                                    Juan's Place may have food similar to something you get in LA, but it's pretty bad.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      Lori SF Mar 30, 2007 08:13 PM

                                                      Southern Calif. is a big area and there are many places like Juan's

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        m
                                                        ML8000 Mar 30, 2007 09:44 PM

                                                        Yes but that's what he asked for...old school Cal Mex, enchilladas, rice, refried beans, etc. It's like NY'er asking for NYC eggrolls, bagels or an SF'er asking for a Mission burrito - PREFERENCE.

                                                        Any way, at Juan's, if you order the specials (fish, birria, etc.) it's actually pretty good...no, not mind blowing but good.

                                                        1. re: ML8000
                                                          Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2007 12:37 AM

                                                          What I had there was bad enough that I wouldn't want to give them another chance. That has nothing to do with the particular style.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            m
                                                            ML8000 Mar 31, 2007 12:51 AM

                                                            What did you order? Could it have been a fluke or one time mishap?

                                                            Juan's has been open for at least 30 years. Every time I go it's at least 3/4 full even on a week night. Conventional wisdom really suggests a restaurant has to be doing something right to survive that long, particularly in a competitive market.

                                                            1. re: ML8000
                                                              Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2007 07:38 AM

                                                              Juan's was plenty full the night we were there. I don't remember the details except that the food was at best bland and at worst downright bad, like rancid chips. I like old-school Mexican-American done well, but that's not the place to find it.

                                                              Pretty much the same experience at Celia's. Once was more than enough.

                                                              If staying in business for years were a guarantee of quality, there'd be a lot less need for Chowhound.

                                                              1. re: ML8000
                                                                r
                                                                rfneid Nov 13, 2007 07:19 AM

                                                                Toxic Belch, er, Taco Bell, has survived a long time & is frequently full. Those facts certainly say nothing about the quality of the food.

                                                            2. re: ML8000
                                                              Lori SF Mar 31, 2007 05:49 AM

                                                              I fully understand old school Cal. Mex, My comment was Southern Calif. is a big area full of places like Juan's, this type of place is a dime a dozen down in Southren Calif.. But the poster might like it, I don't know. Just because Juan's is old school Cal Mex does not mean it's good. I think Hacienda Grill or Rancho Las Trancas (mentioned) would be a better option for this type of food.

                                                        2. re: luckygrlllll
                                                          rworange Mar 30, 2007 06:56 PM

                                                          You might like Hacienda Grill in Richmond. It straddles the border between Mex-American and Mexican-Mexican. Just great chicken rosemary enchiladas.

                                                          For old-style classic Mexican-American there is Travino's on San Pablo Rd in Richmond. They even have margaritas.

                                                          1. re: rworange
                                                            Lori SF Mar 30, 2007 08:17 PM

                                                            This OP might like this place seems like the style they are looking for and Hacienda Grill fits the bill, heavens much better than Juans

                                                          2. re: luckygrlllll
                                                            j
                                                            Jamie Rudman Apr 2, 2007 10:03 AM

                                                            I think we lived in basically the same neighborhood in LA (I was last in Mar Vista) and I am familiar with all of the places you mentioned. Your message was a wistful reminder of how many good-to-great places there are in a small area there, with nothing equivalent here. I think most of the folks on this board who are criticizing the type of food that you are seeking have never been to the restaurants you list, all of which offer fresh, well-prepared quality food, in a fun atmosphere equally suitable for families, a young crowd looking for drinks and value and casual date night. As I said before, we really have not found anything comparable here, though occasionally go to La Pinata, at least for the drinks. I get the impression that when most folks in the Bay Area hear "LA Mexican", if they think of anything at all, it is El Coyote and its ilk. Which is why you are getting recommendations for Juan's and Celia's, as well as some uncalled for insults. Please report back on what you find, as there are many of us immigrants from LA in the area.

                                                            1. re: Jamie Rudman
                                                              Ruth Lafler Apr 2, 2007 11:10 AM

                                                              Perhaps you didn't see the original posting on the other thread in which the original poster specifically mentioned El Coyote as the kind of restaurant she was looking for. We aren't dissing mexican food in LA -- we're merely trying to help the orginal poster find what she's looking for.

                                                          3. re: Fig Newton
                                                            c
                                                            chemchef Apr 2, 2007 10:23 AM

                                                            Tacubaya also has sangria, which is quite good.

                                                          4. j
                                                            Jamie Rudman Mar 30, 2007 09:46 AM

                                                            What were your favorites in LA? Given the wide range of places in LA, that info might help. We moved here from LA a couple years ago, and had the same problem finding comparable Mexican restaurants. My favorite spot there was Gilbert's El Indio on Pico in SM. Nothing quite like that here. The closest we have found is La Pinata in Alameda, which actually reminds me a bit of El Cholo, in that it is large and loud and has lots of big families. La Pinata has a bunch of east bay locations, but we have only gone to the Alameda location. I suspect that this suggestion will get a mixed response on this board, but it may be what you are looking for. Particularly great margaritas and lots of cheese on everything. If your LA mexican tastes ran more toward the La Serrenta-type of restaurant (which is not really typical LA in my mind), you may like Dona Tomas on Telegraph in Oakland. In fact, you may like it even if you were not a La Serrenata fan. I really love this place. It is much more upscale and uses better quality ingredients than the typical LA Mex, but I can't fault it for that. These two places (along with an ocassional visit to Tamarindo Antojeria in downtown Oakland) hold me between visits south. Now, if I could only find a great Persian restaurant, along the lines of places in Westwood like Shamshiri . . .

                                                            1. m
                                                              mspea Mar 30, 2007 07:50 AM

                                                              Mexquite on Broadway in Redwood City has a huge selection of tequilas, makes a good margarita, and has both "old school" dishes (which is what I think you're looking for) and more modern, upscale items.

                                                              1. sgwood415 Mar 30, 2007 07:15 AM

                                                                You might have better luck in San Jose, which has a large Mexican population. Check out the Willow Glen neighborhood for Puerto Azul and Taqueria Tlaquepaque as a start.

                                                                1. m
                                                                  ML8000 Mar 29, 2007 07:08 PM

                                                                  La Fiesta in Mountain View...decent Cal-Mex and a full bar.

                                                                  1. rworange Mar 29, 2007 06:45 PM

                                                                    Chevy's?

                                                                    That combo of Mexican food and margaritas is not easy.

                                                                    Don't know LA, but having lived in the San Diego area briefly, I feel your pain.

                                                                    Another South San Francisco rec is El Charro
                                                                    http://www.elcharrossf.com/

                                                                    I went there for the Bolivian food (which I HIGHLY recomend) but it is mainly Mexican and the margaritas are killer.

                                                                    The closest to San Diego food I ever found was El Tapatio in Richmond. No margaritas, but a really nice chavinda. Nice mocajete too.
                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/307614

                                                                    Hacienda Grill in Richmond is pretty good too. Again ... no maragaritas ... but a nice sangria
                                                                    http://www.chow.com/digest/2300
                                                                    http://www.chow.com/digest/2112

                                                                    1. wineguy7 Mar 29, 2007 05:59 PM

                                                                      Try Rancho Las Trancas in South San Francisco. It is at 792 El Camino Real. They have a full bar and make excellent Machaca con Huevos, Chile Verde and Carnitas.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: wineguy7
                                                                        Lori SF Mar 30, 2007 10:05 AM

                                                                        I recall liking their enchiladas.

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