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Tlapazola or Monte Alban? Or El Cholo?

For a group, Monday night, not too $, not too grotty a place.

Which has the best food? (Haven't been to any lately.)

Thank you!

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  1. have never been to monte alban, so i can't comment on that.
    between tlapazola or el cholo, clearly tlapazola serves better food.

    1. I have never been to El Cholo or Tlapazola, so can't comment about them. But the food at Monte Alban is dynamite, it is not expensive, and it is far from grotty (despite its strip-mall location). I am a big fan of the goat, but I have enjoyed everything I've ever had there. Terrific moles, particularly the red and yellow.

      1. Been to all 3 and Monte Alban is the winner in my book. I also really like Tlapazola. El Cholo... kind of a different animal.

        1. El Cholo is expensive. Monte Alban is super good. Tlapazola is good, but not as good as MA.

          1. "Or El Cholo?"

            NOT. Monte Alban is your best of the three.

            1. They're all very different in terms of food and atmosphere.

              El Cholo - serves standard, familiar Mexican food i.e tacos, lots of rice/beans, cheap prices, lively atmosphere.

              Monte Alban - serves authentic Oaxacan i.e. various moles, braised meats. Sorry, no burritos here and price is moderate.

              Tlapazola - the most refined and expensive of the three. They mix Oaxacan with Cal-French; the specials are always outstanding as are the moles and seafood. Chill atmosphere.

              For me, it would be a toss up between Tlapazola and Monte Alban.

              5 Replies
              1. re: vinosnob

                Just have to say, they do have burritos at Monte Alban. Not many, but I know I had one last time I was there : )

                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                  Really? Can you describe what was in it? Could you eat it with your hands, or did you have to use a knife and fork? I would be very curious to try a burrito from Monte Alban, particularly to see if it's the same as El Super Taco's.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Me too; it's the last thing I would think of ordering at Monte Alban.

                    1. re: vinosnob

                      Haven't tried it... but they have a chicken burrito with mole negro.

                    2. re: a_and_w

                      That's what I had, chicken burrito with mole negro. It's not usually something I would order there, but it caught my eye last time. Because of the mole sauce, you had to eat it with a fork and knife. I'm afraid don't completely remember what was in it other than chicken and rice. I'm addicted to their salsa, so I did add some of that to it (I can eat that stuff just with a spoon). Sorry for the less that stellar memory, but I can say I enjoyed it.

                2. Same as everyone else. El Cholo isn't in the same league as the other two. Can't go wrong with Tlapazola or Monte Alban. Great food at both, I lean towards Monte Alban myself. They're both in mini-malls, but each has a different atmosphere. The margaritas at Tlapazola are tasty.

                  1. Monte Alban would be my choice with the lone qualifier that their meats are often a little dried out for my taste. Tlapazola had better quality meat, but the flavors were lacking for me. Tlapazola's margaritas, however, are top notch, particularly if you invest in a decent tequila.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: a_and_w

                      And you can "invest" in very decent tequila! I've never had a margarita at Tlapazola (I get my sugar at the Donut Man), but they offer excellent tequila (at high prices) for sipping. I like that place and don't know why I don't go there more often -- odd location, perhaps.

                      1. re: Mel Gee

                        Something about the atmosphere at Tlapazola is giving me pause. Sort of dreary, no?

                        I realize I want 3 star atmosphere at 2 star prices, and it ain't gonna happen, esp on the Westside... Thanks to all.

                        1. re: isofood

                          I've just realized there are two Tlapazola Grills, and neither of the Websites (Lincoln: http://www.tlapazolagrill.com/ ; Gateway: http://tlapazola.com/Tlapazola_Grill/... ) mentions the other location, according to a google site-search. I've been talking about the one on Gateway, in a little strip mall almost underneath the 10, where something about the tequila flights quickly does "something about the atmosphere" that concerns you. (Actually, as with so many Southern California restaurants, it's quite easy to forget about a bland strip mall, once you get in the door.) The Gateway Blvd. location is open 5-10 on Mondays; the one on Lincoln is closed that day.

                          Tlapazola Grill
                          4059 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

                          Tlapazola Grill
                          11676 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                      2. re: a_and_w

                        Their chicken has always been incredibly moist for me, though I recall the cecina being a bit dry. I've never been to Tlapzola, but I would def. rec MA over El Cholo. But, I have to admit that I still haven't been "wowed" by MA, though the food is consistently good. My favorite is still probably their clayudas.

                      3. Is there really any question? There is no way El Cholo or even Tlapazola should be mentioned in the same breath as Monte Alban. The only thing El Cholo is better at than MA is cheesy kitch. The only thing Tlapazola can beat Monte Alban is catering to the World War II generation.

                        20 Replies
                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          "The only thing Tlapazola can beat Monte Alban is catering to the World War II generation."

                          Which, of course, means absolutely nothing.

                          Tlapazola is for those who like more complex sauces which don't slam you over the top of your head with their flavors. Some prefer that approach. Some don't.

                          They also feature some very nice seafood entrees and a quite nice tortilla/chicken soup.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            I appreciate delicate flavors & refined approach... Tlapazola is lame... what they have done is dumbed down Oaxacan cuisine rather than rift on its most refined traditions.

                            I realize there are some people who will like Tlapazola... I can imagine the Chart House crowd being their target market... but I think most on Chowhound would not rave about Chart House... so why promote a place with no identity like Tlapazola?

                            Its not Alta Cocina Mexicana because it is no where near the league of places like El Naranjo or Los Danzantes in Oaxaca city... neither in concept, ideas, decor, style, service, ingredients or execution.... and it clearly lacks the deliciousness of the low brow places so what is then?

                            A place where people can have mediocre wine & dumbed down cuisine in a "safe" environment. Its not Haute, its not Specialty, its not Traditional.. its not nothing, its bland, it has raison d'etre... its the Chart House of Oaxacan cuisine in L.A.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Dude, seriously, you could have said, "I don't like it because it's not like alta cocina in Mexico," and left it at that.

                              I don't mind the place at all. Do I think of it at all as Oaxacan? Hmmmmmmneh. Not really. Is it alta cocina like in Oaxaca? I don't know. I've never eaten alta cocina in Oaxaca. And neither have 90+% of the people who eat in Los Angeles, I'd wager.

                              But it's different, which is nice. It has vegetables. You would never know, from eating Mexican food in Los Angeles, that vegetables (other than corn, chiles and black beans) make up a lot of the bulk of the Mexican diet. When you do get vegetables, it's usually grilled peppers or chiles. Even the amazing and much-vaunted Mariscos Chente doesn't serve a damn vegetable (except for the cucumbers that garnish any cold dish).

                              If you ate Mexican food in Los Angeles 100 times, you probably would never eat a mushroom. You'd have nopalitos maybe once or twice. Squash would be the main vegetable you'd eat (unless you count salsa cruda).

                              Tlapazola serves vegetables. They serve a minimum of antojitos (tacos, burritos, etc.) It's nice. I don't give a damn if it's like Oaxaca or not, I don't give a damn whether it's full of Formal Aunt Bettys and Rich Affable Old Uncle Dons.

                              I had a really good pork guisado there once. (I've only been three times.) Really good pork guisados are hard to come by for people who don't regularly haunt the 110 and 710 and 105 corridors. I had a really awesome capirotada there too. Also not something you see on menus outside of South and East LA (and when you do, it's usually execrable).

                              I don't know the Chart House well enough to know what you mean, so I'm skipping that entirely -- but seriously, man, please stop complaining about how terrible it all is. The best thing you could do -- seriously -- to advance the cause of real Mexican cuisine on this board would be to do a thread on "if you like (fill in place you don't like here), try (place that is better) instead". If you like Tlapazola, go to Babita. If you like Monte Alban, try Moles La Tia, that sort of thing.

                              Mexican food will change for the better (especially the alta cocina) when people demand that it change for the better. You stand a better chance of that happening by introducing people nicely to places that are better than by standing on a soapbox and railing against the spread of the "carne asada" taco. People will go to a place when it's recommended by someone who seems like they're trying to help, rather than judging them for the restaurants they patronise. (I do it too sometimes, and I hate it.)

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                As is so often the case, Ubergeek gets right to the heart of it.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  I reread my comment and while I understand it can be interpreted as incendiary... I think it DOESN'T cross the line and I stand by it, and my observations of what I perceive to be the Tlapazola crowd. Just like every other Chowhound has & takes the right to comment on people that eat at X chain place etc., I have the right to make my observations as well. What this crosses the line because its Chowhounds and not just Yelpers that are pimping this place?

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    I think the geek is right. Just be nice.

                                    Tlapazola doesn't deserve "lame" and "dumbed down" - they're nice people who put out a very decent product (when they were on Lincoln they were one of the best in the city, but I think the city has caught up since). Whether you intend it or not, it seems that you're trying to hurt them. And a post like that could hurt them.

                                    They're not trying to rip you off. There is a difference between a restaurant which is trying it's best to put out good food, and one that has become either lazy or exploitative or both.

                                    1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                      They are absolutely nice people and there was a gentleman there years ago when I last went who was very helpful with mezcals. They're absolutely committed to their product, sincerely.

                                      Tlapazola like most restaurants that have been around for a while have a solid regular customer base, and also are local patronized by their locals. Those people go because that's what they like. We can influence some here looking to go to places they haven't been to, but the customer base that has supported Tlapazola for years aren't worried about our opinions here. This should be a forum to express our views and find the best restaurants.I believe they are well rated in ZAGAT, and people who follow those sources will become new customers.

                                      But, yes, nice is good.

                                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    From Eat Nopal's post
                                    "Its not Alta Cocina Mexicana because it is no where near the league of places like El Naranjo or Los Danzantes in Oaxaca city... neither in concept, ideas, decor, style, service, ingredients or execution.... and it clearly lacks the deliciousness of the low brow places so what is then?

                                    A place where people can have mediocre wine & dumbed down cuisine in a "safe" environment. Its not Haute, its not Specialty, its not Traditional.. its not nothing, its bland, it has raison d'etre"

                                    I though this was the part you folks might have paid attention to over just saying well "that's what you think".

                                    DU, when you do care and understand a cuisine, you are just as passionate as Eat Nopal, which is why you are a respected voice here. And, I might ad, you just like many of us here do our complaining when we feel it.That was the point, a bland restaurant that represents nothing.I thought it clear, all cultural references aside. What would do Mexican cuisine good would be for people like yourself who are experts in many cuisines or at least enthusiasts of great cuisine would stop going to places like Tlapazola Grill, etc.

                                    Mariscos Chente plates just like most Nararit/Sinaloa and other Pacific Coast states, some fresh vegetables that do the trick just fine. The people in those states grab an aguachile or a ceviche in the morning, and have vegetables in the many other foods they eat throughout the day.The inclusion of vegetables at Tlapazola is no consolation to its completely uninteresting food, and has nothing to do with Nayarit style mariscos.

                                    So yeah, Monte Alban if it be between the three , Tlapazola and El Cholo are just silly places.

                                    Would you really not go to a place because you thought someone was not being "helpful"? Who cares, a good rec is a good rec. Saludos.

                                    And right on Noshie! El Texate is another fine option.

                                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                                      SGLA -- it doesn't matter to me whether it's haute cuisine, or speciality, or traditional. I care about whether the food tastes good enough to eat there. Tlapazola tastes good enough to eat there, and it's different enough that if I lived on the Westside it would pop up in my mental list of "places that are decent Mexican and slightly different".

                                      Incidentally, yes, there are cuisines I "get" more than Mexican. Italian, for example. I grew up eating REAL Italian food -- Northern (and NOT quasi-Tuscan) from my family and Southern from the people we lived near.

                                      That doesn't stop me from enjoying a red-sauce checkered-tablecloth let's-go-buy-stock-in-Christopher-Ranch Italian-American place. Do I search for the place with the absolutely perfect handmade tagliatelle with a ragu that's made with something besides depressing ground meat? Of course I do. I've still never managed to find any restaurant in LA that does it right, either, which means I get my fill when I go to places with better Italian food and make it at home in the meantime.

                                      But you know what? I still eat Italian food here. I have managed to divorce "Italian" and "Italian-American" food in my palate. Spumoni, for example, in Sherman Oaks is most definitely not a real Italian restaurant. It's an Italian-American restaurant, and I like it better than other Italian-American restaurants. So I say so. It's good, the food is tasty, and the fact that you would never find a restaurant like that in Italy (or at least outside the touristy areas) doesn't make me like it less.

                                      As far as Italian food (actual Italian food) the closest I've found here is Angelini Osteria. Gino Angelini is a good chef, and his food is quite good but his restaurant in Italy would be a neighbourhood restaurant, not a destination. But I eat there happily because it's the best (real) Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.

                                      The idea, though, is that if someone said, "Hey, I like C&O Trattoria," I might reply and say, "I don't like it because everything comes drowned in over-garlicked red sauce, why don't you try Angelini or Sapori instead," but I'm not going off on some rant about how C&O is nothing like Italy. (Unless, of course, someone calls it authentic. If someone called Tlapazola authentic I would absolutely understand EN's rant.)

                                      To your last point -- I wouldn't skip a restaurant because I felt someone wasn't being helpful, my point is more that a couple of paragraphs in, I get a huge hit of "oh God I can't read this thread anymore" and so I wouldn't necessarily see the recommendations.

                                      Tlapazola's not the best Mexican in LA. It's not even the best Mexican on the Westside. I did, as you say, rank them as #1 Monte Alban, #2 Tlapazola, #3 El Cholo (of three). But whether it's authentic is irrelevant -- of those three places, Tlapazola has the second-best food, authentic or inauthentic.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        I dig Angelini Osteria too.An equivalent post would have been," got a group looking for Italian, Angelini Osteria, Spumoni or Little Tony's,where should we go?" I guess our point is that, why people seem to get Italian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. they still get caught up with these jive places.The OP was just looking for a place to, but to us few champions of Mexican cuisine, it was provocative, though I know it wasn't intentional.

                                        I understand Eat Nopal's point completely.If the post was Tlapazola, a decent place to take friends and family in my neighborhood, it would be a whole different deal. But, putting it and El Cholo alongside Monte Alban is outrageous.

                                        I love great rants, whether from you or eat Nopal.Both of you are witty gents.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Alright... so lets review what I people found so offensive... I made a wise ass remark that attempted to convey that Monte Alban is in another league with respect to Tlapazola & El Cholo... which no one seems to really disagree with it.

                                          Did I get argumentative.. when others overracted? Sure... its kind of the operating norm here in Chowhound when its a topic you are passionate about. Does anyone really believe I was trying to insult someone's grand ma? I hope not... my intention was certainly not that. Was my characterization sloppy... probably.

                                          You are calling a spade a spade... C&O is actually THE perfect analogy for Italian on the westside that first came to mind... Tlapazola is kind of like the C&O of the westside (although others in that mold would also include Border Grill & the westside Serenata de Garibaldi)... I don't think anything less of people who like C&O... its just not Chowhound material as Tlapazola is neither.

                                          Regarding Tito's... YES we have way too much clutter & noise on Chowhound these days. I know you think of me as the perennial whiner on the L.A. board... but I have to say that the Chow discussions on the Bay Area board are more in the vein of the Chow manifesto. I know a lot of people are frustrated at alot of the noise as well... but they seem to be a little more successful out there.

                                          Many say authenticity is irrelevant... except when it comes to specialty foods... its impotant to have a good baseline. As Chowhounds if we accept Tlapazola as being on the good side... then we are a screwed... we need a better baseline... look at the Taco situation so many people are so enamored by the mediocre King Taco et al., crap that no one is curious enough to search out, find & demand the better stuff. I don't want that to happen with other facets of Mexican dining either.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            And that's exactly what I got from your post. We should be able to play a little, verdad?

                                      2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        thank you for your wise comments das ubergeek.

                                        also, despite tlapazola not serving 'authentic' mexican food (something they may or may not have claimed to do) , the food they do serve is made with fresh, top-flight ingredients prepared well.

                                        their food is never oversalted, overcooked (especially the fish), overgreased (doused in pools of oil/fat), or any of the other 'overs' that are so common in restaurant cooking.
                                        i am more than willling to accept and appreciate them on this basis alone,
                                        even if that makes me despicable in the eyes of Eat_Nopal.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          DU... above I see you agree that Monte Alban is the best of the three. I see we have some agreement there.

                                          If you search this board... you will find that I am one of the few hounds to recommends Frida against a tidal waves of complaints. So maybe I am not just complaining about how Terrible everything is.

                                          Tlapazola is nowhere near the level of Babita or even Frida in terms of deliciousness & ingredients. Now in terms of concept... this is a place that advertises its self as having a French bent which is so far from the truth. All it is serving is traditional dishes with less than half the flavor. I know for a fact there that the staff is frustrated with the the evolution of its offering... even they recognize its dumbed down... but they need to make a living. They obviously don't have the patience or guts to educate consumers like other more passionate people (i.e., Mariscos Puerto Esperanza, Chente & others).

                                          There is a serious double standard here. If this place where in some resort in Cabo.. most people would come back bemoaning its blandness & watered-downness.

                                          In responside to others below... okay so the food isn't Overly Over anything (including flavor) who cares? PF Changs isn't overly salty or MSG-y.. what would happen if people on this boards started recommending PF Changs over a well regarded XLB place? What would happen if people recommended Chart House / Cheesecake Factory over Jiraffe? What would happen if people recommended Asia de Cuba over Versaille? There would be a mutiny, that poor sap would be torn to shreds. No difference here... Tlapazola is as lame as PF Changs, Chart House o Asia de Cuba.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            let me simplify.

                                            1) i would not recommend tlapazola as an example of authentic mexican cooking. i do recommend it as a place that serves good food. (i.e. abbots pizza is not classical pizza--not ny, italien, nor chicagoan--yet to my palate it is a tasty meal).

                                            2) to me, top flight ingredients that have not been '"overed" do, in fact, have a flavor. they taste like the INGREDIENT. not everything needs to have a complicated sauce in order to please me.
                                            for instance, tlapazola makes a mushroom quesadilla appetizer. i've never had this dish in mexico and i presume that this is not a mexican dish at all. nevertheless, the preparation is such that the mushroom flavor shines through as does the flavor of the good quality cheese they use. the mushrooms are firm and flavorful.
                                            when i ordered their lobster roll special, the lobster was sweet and fresh and cooked to perfection and TASTED LIKE LOBSTER. i see nothing wrong with this kind of cooking.

                                            i believe that good quality ingredients, before being spiced and greased up HAVE A TASTE. i don't see them as bland.

                                            3) your examples of pf changs and cheesecake factory demonstrate that you don't get my point. those two chains use low quality ingredients to start with and then, typically go on to overcook, oversalt, and overgrease them. are you saying that you don't taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients between the cheesecake factory and jiraffe? if that is the case, then there is no point in going on in this vein.

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              Mushroom & Mushroom Quesadillas are about as Central Mexican summer as you can get. The problem at Tlapazola grill is when I had them the mushrooms where of the Whole Foods packaged quality. The Mexican summer rains bring outstanding mushrooms to market in a dozen common varieties... the Indian vendors bring another dozen less popular more exotic types of Mushrooms. Cristina at Mexico Cooks did a good, short write up on mushrooms in Michoacan:


                                              When I look at Tlapazola Grill's menu... every single dish is familar there is nothing on there that they haven't ripped from a traditional dish, or from a menu in a Contemporary restaurant in the Oaxaca area.. its a messy smattering with no rhyme or reason ... they aren't innovative... its not un contemporary Mexico... they just don't go out of their way to actually procure high quality ingredients & provide.

                                              i am not saying don't eat there... its just a Neighborhood quality restaurant... a place you go to when you aren't in the mood to cook & aren't craving another place... its simply not Chowhound material.

                                              If Tlapazola actually went out & procured some Lobster mushrooms or anything high quality that maintained the integrity of the dish (here in Hawaii I am absolutely happy to use the Shemeji mushrooms when I cook Mexican) I would be the very first one pimping this place... but they don't show the ambition of the guy going down to Sinaloa to procure seafood ingredients etc.,

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                Further... you keep bringing up spices & grease... if you look through all my recommendations (and those of people others who are on the same gastronomic wavelength) you aren't going to find many recommendations for overly greasy or spiced foods... aromatized yes, sometimes very piquant... and depends on the dish there are so many things that make so many dishes glorious.

                                                Since you've never had a wild mushroom quesadilla before, I guess you have very little experience with authentic Mexican cuisine... its not greasy or overly spiced in general.... yes their are some fried things... and spices do play a big part in many complex sauces. But unlike the bastardized versions... there are rarely any spices (in the old world sense) used in Salsa for example.... just all natural produce & fresh or dried chiles... anytime you see Cumin or Allspice.. you have to wonder... not that those might NEVER show up... there might be some special Salsa somewhere that uses those ingredients in a very classic & compelling way... but not in the North of Border way where some cooks try to conceal the flaws of canned tomatoes with Cumin, Garlic or Vinegar... Mexican cooking is generally about the freshest ingredients.

                                                Now since the OP was asking for a tiebreaker between three Mexican restaurants... I can only presume he/she wanted the best Mexican of the three. There is nothing at Tlapazola that can compare to that simple Goat roasted over the anisey avocado leaves until fall apart tender... you taste the goat, the texture is wonderful & the avocado leaves haunting... not in a way the hides or overshadows the goat.. but in a way that keeps you wondering what is that second amazing flavor? That is what Mexican cooking is about.

                                                When you order the Botana sampler at Monte Alban... every item taste like the ingredient... the blood sausage has a delicate cooked blood flavor that evokes Foie & Octopus Ink... the chicharron tastes like pork... real pork not the typical dryish, bland pork tenderloin served by so many restaurants etc., etc.,

                                                The Mole Verde tastes like Pumpkin Seed & Herbs... etc., etc., Monte Alban offers a full flavored yet delicate approach to cooking... that Tlapazola can't seem to master.

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  1) i didn't recommend tlapazola over monte alban, i did recommend it over el cholo

                                                  2) i certainly don't see tlapazola as a destination restaurant, but i do see it as a solid neighborhood restaurant with very reasonable prices for the quality of food they serve.

                                                  in my experience whole-foods-quality produce is rare in westside neighborhood, reasonably-prices restaurants that have any ambiance. i don't know of any restaurant that sends folks out to procure lobster mushrooms that doesn't charge fine-dining prices, so i wouldn't expect that of tlapazola. for what they charge, for their location, for their ambiance, imho the price/quality price/quantity and price/ambiance and price/location ratios they offer are more than respectable.

                                                  since i live in Playa del Rey, i am appreciative of any local tasty food made with good quality ingredients that is reasonably priced. whether it is truly authentic or innovative is another matter.

                                                  my original recommendation, which i still stand with, is that tlapazola's food is superior to that of el cholo.

                                                  3) given how many threads have been dedicated to tito's taco's i see scant evidence that there is ANY bar to be reached for a restaurant to be "chowhound material"

                                                  4) to you, tlapazola "ripped" a dish from an authentic mexican dish, i see it as the tlapazola dish being inspired by the authentic mexican dish-- no more than that. the difference, is that to me if the quality of the ingredients is good enough for the price, location, and ambiance, and the preparation allows that quality to come through, i can be satisfied. what other westside mexican restaurant serves better mushroom quesadillas (made to your standard with lobster mushrooms at least) at this price? tell me quickly please so i can go there right now.

                                                  5) you imply that because i can appreciate what is being offered at tlapazola, by extension, i must not understand the special qualities of the food served at mariscos chente, please don't be ridiculous--just look at the history of my past posts. ( i eat at mariscos chente more days than not. pretty soon they are going to start charging me rent.)

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Yes, not another Tito's thread!! If this post had started out as Monte Alban, or Moles La Tia. or El Texate, Guelaguetza or El Sazon Oazaqueno we'd be having a different discussion.

                                    2. I've been to all three. For years.

                                      Monte Alban gets my vote.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                        I like El Texate better than Monte Alban, its also Oaxacan

                                        El Texate
                                        316 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                      2. Never been to El Cholo (unless it happened in my younger days where incoherence was a large factor), but been to both Monte Alban and Tlapazola. I truly like both for what they do and don't prefer one over the other. I think it's an issue of what you're preferring at the time. Monte Alban definitely rings true of something truly Mexican Regional - Oaxacan. Tlapazola has some dishes that one would consider to be Mexican, while having a lot of dishes that seem to me to be more fusion. If drinks are important, particularly tequila, Tlapazola has quite a selection of tequilas. Ambiance? Monte Alban is somewhat homey and rustic, while Tlapazola has more of a dining room feel - nothing fancy, just basic white cloth kinda stuff with a respectable bar and decent wine list.

                                        As much as I respect those whose depth of knowledge and reverence for the broad range of Mexican cuisine is unmatched on this board, I think a couple of things might be pointed out:

                                        1) Bludgeoning posters ad nauseum is painful to look at - I am sure far more painful and irritating for the targets. Regretfully, I've been guilty of this in the past on issues that I've been passionate about and tend to wish I had more restraint afterwards, no matter how "right" I felt I was. The Mother Superior approach may work on some, but my feeling is that resentment is about as perfect of a deafening device that man has ever created.

                                        2) As much as Tlapazola has been ripped by those who obviously know Mexican cuisine, it may help to view it from the perspective of those of us who grew up thinking that the average taqueria is about as haute as things got in Mexican cuisine. Tlapazola does a good job in opening up the average diner's eyes to the fact that there is far far more to Mexican cuisine than carne asada being served from a taco truck - and I mean that with deep respect to those mobile culinary wonders. Considering how few the number of Mexican restaurants there are where one can actually dine and get full table service in LA, Tlapazola helps immensely in this category. Tlapazola may not be the archetype for what some envision to be the perfect launching pad for alta cocina, but neither was Benihana. And Tlapazola is miles ahead of half-ass teppanyaki.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          Hey, Benihana is a teppanyaki? The only time I went was when I was dating this hottie from Sonora and she wanted to go. Bet she would of preferred Benihana over Tlapazola.Perspective.

                                          I hear you bulavinka, but I truly believe Tlapazola is not a gateway restaurant in the same way that Kenny G is not a gateway to Mingus, and Monk. I think many go there and stay. And, I hope I'm not beating anyone up, just talking to brother bulavinka, who I do respect. We do need more sit down experiences, but I'd rather sit down on a bucket on the sidewalk if it means great food.Matter of fact, there's a place across the street from my hotel here in Tijuana that will have menudo in the morning, and they have a bench on the sidewalk and some chairs that are about as attractive as buckets.Hmmm......

                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                            I must beg to differ, Tlapazola's address proves that it is indeed a Gateway restaurant.

                                            Tlapazola Grill
                                            11676 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064