My dad is coming to visit next week. He spends a lot of time in Mexico and I'd like to take him to a good Mexican place in LA (I'm in Laguna Beach). Any recommendations? I'm curious about the Guelaguetzas because he loves Oaxaca. Are they good, and is one better than the other?
re: david dixon
My favorite of the Guelaguetzas is the one on 8th Ave., but it is downscale and doesn't serve beer (you can bring your own). The Palms Guelaguetza, which, I believe, is owned by a sister or other relative of the owners of the downtown Los Angeles Guelaguetzas, has a nice combination of good food and good atmosphere. I haven't been to the newest Guelaguetza on Olympic Blvd. for awhile, but I went a couple of times shortly after it opened, and the food was not as good as I'd had at the other two. I attributed this to shakedown problems after opening, so perhaps they've been fixed by now. The other advantage of the Olympic Blvd. Guelaguetza is that it has live music and traditional Oxacan dancing on the weekends. Check with the restaurant for the current schedule.
LA SERENATA (SORRY IF I CANT SPELL) ON 4TH STREET IN EAST LA OR THEY HAVE OTHER LOCATIONS I HAVE NOT BEEN TO. THE FOOD IS AMAZING!!
La Serenada is a hit and miss restaurant. Some (few) of their fish sauces are good. Also, they will screw around with the sauce from one night to the next and you'll be disapointed if you've had the better one. Their molcajete sauce is always good. Stay away from the burracha (sp) and the huitlacoche. Their milanesa is very good. More often than not their fish is not up to my freshness standard. La Serenada's service can be quite slow, it all depends on the night. The LS Gourmet has "littler" dishes--burritas instead of burritos, more antojitos. They use some of the same sauces. I have eaten at these varied restaurants for 10 years and sadly they are not what they used to be. But, they are good and are similar to a fabulous place in Tijuana called Cien Anos--which is probably the best Mexican food within a days driving.
As for Guelagetza: I didn't know there was a new Olympic location. Hmm. Where is it? There is no difference in the food between the one in Koreatown and west LA. Both are good--The pork spine soup, all moles, clayudas, tamales (althought El Texate in Santa Monica has a better clayuda) are all good. The one in Koreatown has some embellishments that are quite Oaxacan--dried crickets for example--they both have the nice and spicy, fruity chile de agua. The last time I was there they had no beer, only mezcal. Fine by me. The west LA has beer and wine--good stuff--Rhones and Spanish wines.
Both restaurants also sell Mexican cigarettes. Yeah, smoking is bad but Los Farros cigarettes are pure tobacco and taste pretty good at night after a good dinner.
My favorite mexican is Alegria on Sunset in Silverlake. Also, buy "Counter Intelligence" by Jonathan Gold for descriptions of all these places and other ideas.