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boyfriend requests mexican

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hello fellow chowhounders -

i'm on a mission to find a great mexican restaurant for my boyfriends 28th birthday and would appreciate some advice. we plan on having dinner before watching a show at the pantages in hollywood & i am definitely willing to drive around for dinner.

i don't know much about mexican restaurants and the places i have gone to in the past were soso/ok - el cholo, mexico city in los feliz, taxco, la serenata in santa monica. i am looking for restaurant that serves great tasting fresh food, good service, & interior/coolness factor isnt important but no taco stands since it is a special occasion.

ive looked at former posts and have considered the following places but would like to know if any chowhounders have better recommendations/and their opinions. thanks!
-la serenata de garibaldi in boyle heights
-la parilla in east la
-la cabanita in montrose

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  1. I would go with La Serenata de Garibaldi in Boyle Heights.

    1. Not a bad list by any means. To it, I would add Babita in San Gabriel (on San Gabriel Blvd.) - it is by far the best, gourmet, interesting Mexican place in town. You'd have to go early though to get back to the Pantages in time for a show. Also La Casita in Bell is great, but even a bit harder to get to and fit in the Pantages as well. Lastly, and possibly the easiest of these three to fit in with the Pantages, is Chichen Itza on 6th street near the west end of Macarthur Park - excellent Yucatecan food, unusual, interesting, very fresh, good service, etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: estone888

        I second Chichen Itza, it's not too far, has excellent food, and the service is very good.

        But if you'd like to drive all around town Babita is also a good suggestion.

      2. Babita in San Gabriel

        1 Reply
        1. re: adevejian

          +1

          This is a no-brainer.

        2. El Compadre is a good, authentic, place. But they don't take reservations for small parties. If you don't go on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday night, then you shouldn't have to wait long (if at all). 7408 Sunset Blvd. LA, CA 90046.
          Sonora Cafe is mexican-ish. It's more like upscale Southwestern food. They take reservations. It's a nice restaurant...so it's a nice step up for special occassions. 180 S. La Brea. LA, CA 90036.
          La Cabana is on Lincoln in Santa Monica. It's awesome. But's on the opposite side of town as the Pantages.

          2 Replies
          1. re: stollingrone007

            I second El Compadre. Used to go there with my bf ALL the time when I lived in the area. Even when we'd go on a busy night and have to wait half an hour to sit down, it was still worth it, it's a fun dimly lit atmosphere and the food is great and they often have live music at night. I don't like how they stuff lettuce into the guacamole though, but the guac is still good, and everything is very inexpensive.

            My bf also LOVES La Parilla. I think it's okay, but I do think they have much better guac than El Compadre. We've only ever been to the downtown location, so I can't speak for the East LA location...

            1. re: LisaStitch

              The flaming margarita is a must at El Compadre.

          2. I recommend Frida or Babita... from an offering & logistical perspective. At Frida... I like the Soups to start... the Fish or Steak (usually served in interesting sauce like Huitlacoche or Squash Blossoms etc.,).... and the Crepes in Cajeta Sauce.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Gardens of Taxco (weho) has a private room -- we went last night and the foods still good & place fun. i've also been to many a party there -- in fact, had one of my own.

              1. re: Silverlaker

                i strongly disagree with silverlaker's -- Garden's of Taxco is in no way Mexican food. it's also just plain terrible. One of our dishes was smothered in velveeta. Completely revolting - and expensive too. I felt like we were eating reheated microwave frozen dinners. I can't think of a restaurant experience I liked less than this.

                1. re: tkemeny

                  Expensive!!?? It's four or five courses for around $20/person. I've been going to Gardens of Taxco for over twenty years and have never had a bad meal. Velveeta? Please. I can't think of a single dish that is covered with cheese there. What was it that you ordered? True, it isn't a place where one can get tacos or burritos, and maybe you weren't expecting that, and maybe you weren't expecting an unwritten menu. I have friends who were taken aback by the uniqueness of the restaurant - it wasn't what they were expecting.

            2. Antonios on Melrose prides themselves on fresh ingredients. I've had a few birthday dinners here, i don't think you'll be dissapointed.

              www.antoniosonmelrose.com

              1. El Compadre or La Serenata are definitely good choices - plus El Compadre is fairly close to the Pantages.

                5 Replies
                1. re: chris1621

                  Based upon what was posted, my wife and I went to El Compadre last night. Nice and dark, great band, wonderful margaritas. However, absolutely the worst food I have been served in any restaurant in at least 5 years. Almost inedible. Beans were al dente, burrito was so salty it burned, sauces were like glue. It was so bad it seemed like they must work at it. Currently, I am waiting for some type of food poisoning to kick in. DANGER!!!

                  1. re: rnp0123

                    Oh no! I saw this thread too late and cannot believe someone actually suggested El Compadre. You have to be very, very skeptical of Mexican recommendations west of Western Ave on this board, unless it is one of the better Oaxacan places

                    1. re: Ernie

                      There are a number of good Mexican restaurants west of Western Avenue; e.g., Mi Ranchita and The Talpa. El Compadre is in a class by itself. I have had much better Mexican food out of a vending machine.

                      1. re: rnp0123

                        The Talpa is bleh... they are okay in a pinch. I can't believe no one has seconded Frida.... eons better than most Westside locations like Lares, Talpa, Tia Juana's etc.,

                    2. re: rnp0123

                      Sorry to hear that! I've had their chicken enchiladas before and thought they were really good. And of course the margaritas are always good there.