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Very Specific (Mexican)

I'm in search of good Mexican food, comfortable booths, great margaritas, good prices, low lighting and really good ambiance. I really like El Compadre in Silverlake - although some dishes are better than others, the ambiance is pretty much perfect in my opinion. And they have great margaritas.

I really like booth seating - I'm looking for a place similar to El Compadre but not. Hopefully with better food. El Compadre has been on my list of places to go on a regular basis - I'd like to switch things up a bit. Preferably on the east side of town (Los Feliz, Echo Park, Silverlake, Downtown, etc) but willing to travel to the westside if necessary.

Margaritas are important - a lot of places I've looked at don't seem to have a full liquor license (ie Chichen Itza). How is the ambiance at Chichen Itza?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Ambience at Chichen Itza is downmarket food court, unlike the food. It occupies a space that is both cavernous and strangely cramped, not comfortable at all unless you enjoy food courts. We went once, and though everything was very good and comfortably priced we didn't enjoy the experience sufficiently to repeat it.

    I don't know where you're going to find your heart's desire 100%. We have places we go for the food, places we go for margarita therapy, places we go for comfy booths and gentle lighting, or fine tunes on the jukebox. Best we've done so far is three out of four.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen

      Are you talking about the Chichen Itza at Mercado La Paloma, which is in a food court, or their actual restaurant near MacArthur Park on 6th? The restaurant, though it doesn't suit the criteria that the OP is looking for (booths and margaritas), is quite comfortable and feels like a fairly simple, nicely decorated, modern, casual but not at all downmarket space. Nicer, in my book, than even places like Angeli Osteria where the tables are practically on top of each other, but somewhat similar in terms of the feel of the room.

      1. re: estone888

        Sorry - it had completely slipped my mind that there's a freestanding restaurant as well... to which we obviously have not been. But since we're booth-and-margarita people too, we probably won't go unless we're in the vicinity already.

    2. Border Grill, in Santa Monica should meet your demands for Margaritas and booth ambience. Also, the food is very good.

      1. how about La Serenata? the food is great, and though not mentioned on their website menus, they DO serve margaritas...


        i don't know about the atmosphere at the West LA or Downtown locations, but the SM one was nice, relaxed, and cozy when i was there.

        6 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          They do NOT have a full liquor license, only wine and beer, so the "margaritas" contain no tequila, only soju. Awful!

          I was going to suggest Bahia Caporales in... gasp... Burbank.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Are you sure? I thought the one on 4th in Santa Monica had a full liquor license, and the one on Pico had beer/wine in half the restaurant and full license in the other half.

              1. re: WestsideLisa

                That might be true... the Westside branches are so much worse than the original that I haven't been in 5+ years. I know for certain sure it's only a beer/wine license in the Boyle Heights -- which is the only one worth visiting IMHO.

                There are much better places for Mexican seafood on the Westside, though with applecore's specific requests I'm blanking.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Definitely Don Antonio on Pico (which someone already mentioned here). While they are the usual Mex-Am food they do a killer albondigas (not Mi India Bonita or Teresitas class - but still good eats) and they have generally good food, strong drinks and a nice back patio for al fresco dining.

              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                I am soo glad someone made this post since I too have been searching for a great mexican restaurant in the northeast LA area. We just moved to this area and really like it. It is close to Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, South Pas, Los Feliz, even downtown is not too far away.
                So last night I tried Bahia Caporales in Burbank. They also do not have a full liquor license. They said they make their margaritas from a liquor made from Agave. It was OK but I wanted to throw that out there. My friend and I both had the filet of sole with butter and garlic that the server recommended. It was fine but didn't blow me away. Their ambiance was a TV in the corner playing novellas really loudly. We asked if we could move to the opposite side of the room but they offered to turn it down. They do have the cozy booths and decor that the OP may be looking for. reminded me of Don Cuco's a little bit. I liked their chips that they served with salsa--crisp and thin.

            2. When you said booths and good margaritas one place came to mind first.
              Gilbert's El Indio on Pico in SaMo

              Gilbert's El Indio
              2526 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

              1. How about Barragan's in Echo Park?

                Lots of booth seating, and a full bar..


                5 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Is this the same Barragan's as in Burbank? Because if so, FLEE.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    FLEE: "Fully Lusciouis Environment & Food"?

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        There would seem to be some big differences between Burbank Barragan's and Echo Park Barragan's, unless DU simply does not at all like oldfashioned Gringo-Mex. We have a soft spot in our hearts (okay, and possibly in our heads) for this sort of thing... and for the El Cholos and Ernie's Juniors of the world. Anyway, we went to the Echo Park location and enjoyed it very much, but if the OP wants authentic this ain't it.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      OP asked for something akin to El Compadre ... and Barragan's is certainly no worse (or better) than El Compadre.

                  2. How about El Chavo? Or really break out and go to the El Compadre in Hollywood.

                    On the west side (by LAX) is Paco's.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: lil mikey

                      Or there's always Olvera Street. Try La Golondrina.

                      1. re: lil mikey

                        El Chavo bit the dust when they remodeled. Although I have eaten there dozens and dozens of times over the years, I will NEVER eat there again. Simply horrible!

                        It was taken over by the Edendale Grill [which I have never been to].

                      2. Haa, thanks for the laughs. I am near Echo Park and for some reason I've been avoiding Barragan's - I guess my instincts told me to stay away. El Compadre has so-so food but great ambiance. I guess I'm looking for great good with great ambiance. It seems that Chichen Itza wouldn't fit the bill (either location).

                        What about Don Antonio's? Or El Coyote? I haven't been to either but have been staying away because of "The Hills" girls seem to frequent those places. It's ironic that I (admittedly and shamefully) actually watch the show but wouldn't want to eat at the places they feature on the show.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: applecore

                          I like Don Antonio's and Gilbert's.
                          I went to Malo in SL once and liked it. I had beer and my gf had a mojito so I can't say anything about the margarita.
                          Lucy's El Adobe on Melrose was my neighborhood's Mexican restaurant growing up. It's overpriced, but I like the atmosphere, the nostalgia, and the chicken tacos dinner.

                          1. re: applecore

                            El Coyote? Ambience: A+ Food: D. Lived in that neighborhood for years and NEVER understood the cachet of the place. This is the kind of "Mexican" food (red sauce, yellow cheese) you find in a TV Dinner. And you have to wait nearly as long for it to be ready. I'd hit Taco Hell first.

                          2. I probably shouldn't even reccomend this -- since I haven't been myself --but I am vurious as what other 'hounds think about Casa Sanchez, for this request?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                              Casa Sanchez has great ambiance, ok food...Giant mariachi band is a huge plus, and great patio. Did anyone mention Lares? Only a couple booths, but yummy and strong margies!

                            2. get thee to YXTA on 6th & Central downtown in the burgeoning industrial district. good prices for happy hour. satisfies your lighting and design requirements. higher prices on other items, but it's justified for the quality of their ingredients. disclaimer: edgy neighborhood

                              1. Booths, margaritas, and top-notch Mexican food are surprisingly rare in combination in your area. It's far from the bets food in town, but have you been to Villa Sombrero in Highland Park? Two out of three for sure (booths/margs) and they make fresh guacamole at your table. I have no real complaint about the food (standard "careful-hot-plate" fare) but it's not terribly memorable either. No worse than El Compadre (at least the Hollywood one, if it's similar/related).

                                Villa Sombrero
                                6101 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cant talk...eating

                                  I wuz gonna say... Villa Sombrero does indeed lack in sublime wonderfulness, foodwise, but it's as convivial as El Coyote without all the shrieking merriment. It's more like a neighborhood bar. Hell, it IS a neighborhood bar - just sitting in a booth we met two gay couples and a family with a kid in a stroller, all happy to be there and glad of our company, but not pushy about it if you get my drift. The food was actually quite adequate, and the margs superb. Low romantic lighting, not so much; I would expect there are nabes who do their crossword puzzles over dinner, and we can't let them go blind.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Villa Sombrero, it should be noted, is no more. It was a great place to drink, as long as you remembered to eat beforehand.

                                    I would submit Loteria Grill as a restaurant with both excellent cooking and superb margaritas.

                                2. On the Westside I go to Casa Escobar when I've had too much Lares, or i'm not getting dollar tacos at Don Antonio's on a Wednesday. Casa Escober is carpeted, windowless, and furnished with endless red leather booths, christmas lights, tangy-salty margaritas, and charming staff. Never crowded, always a getaway. Classic 70's stucco architecture and melting cheese. It's a dream come true. Careful, hot plates!

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: damonvd

                                    If you go to Casa Escobar, enjoy the atmosphere but eat beforehand. The only palatable thing on the menu is the albondigas soup -- IF they haven't gone and oversalted it.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      Someone mentioned Barragan's in Burbank...

                                      I'm not picky when it comes to Mexican-American food; I love the stuff. So when a friend recommended Barragan's as the "quintessential" AMEX experience, I figured I'd give it a shot.

                                      Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.

                                      "Sopa" was a bowl of chicken-flavored water and a few grocery-store carrots. Chips were stale (big no-no). Combo plate was disgusting and I can't even pinpoint why, exactly. It just wasn't any good.

                                      For that dark burgandy-booth "plate is hot" vibe, try Don Cuco's (Burbank), Granada (Burbank), Casa Vega (Sherman Oaks), El Charro (Montrose), Ernie's (No. Hollywood), Presidente (Mission Hills), or Don Antonio's (West LA).

                                      Note that none of these places have really incredible food, but it's what you want.


                                      1. re: CucumberBoy

                                        To which excellent list I would add Ernie Jr's Taco House, right at the Y where Broadway merges into Colorado (if you're going east; Colorado veers off from Broadway if you're headed west) on the border of Eagle Rock and Glendale. It's old, the decor is a hoot, and the best you can say about the food is it's edible.


                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          How does someone named Ernie get into the taco business, anyway? Ernesto? There's got to be a story there.

                                          1. re: Cubancoffee

                                            Ernie's not that uncommon a name for a Latino guy.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              And if you went to the link I attached - sorry, there's no interactivity unless you want a 2-for-1 coupon - you'll see it's been in business since 1944. This was a time in history when any guy who could make chile gravy and knew tacos from tamales figured he could cook Mexican food...and all the other gringos went, "Yum, yum, that's good Mexican alright!"

                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                That would explain it (and I did go to the link ... plus I drive past Ernie's several times a week, thanks). I know plenty of Mexicans and Central and South Americans but, apparently extraordinarily, have never met an Ernie. Live and learn.

                                        2. re: CucumberBoy

                                          I certainly don't recommend Barragan's in Burbank. It's absolutely paskudne -- disgusting, nasty, horrible. Granada to me is a bare quarter step above it, though.

                                          Don Cuco's is better, as is Ernie's, and Tequilas, but none have great food, only not-awful food.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            Yes, I agree. I've been to Ernie's and did not enjoy it all that much. I found it kind of greasy and tasteless, not too different than El Torito or Acapulco's IMO. I would love to find a really great Mexican restaurant that has real margaritas in my area!
                                            I am familiar with Paco's and Don Antonio's on the westside and like them but they're too far for everyday dining...

                                          2. re: CucumberBoy

                                            CB, thanks fro distinguishing this type of restaurant as Mexican American, as did others.I really don't get the fascination with this style of food.

                                            Great food and margaritas are hard to come by though.The best I've had in town are at El Carmen, but I wouldn't have food there.Places where a mixologist actually makes them from scratch are going to be your best bet.Mex-Amer restaurants and even Mexican places tend to use the sweet n sour mix, awful.

                                            If the OP would consider an actual Mexican place, perhaps going with a michelada or a paloma, much more Mexican.Although the margarita comes from Mexico, it's much more of a tourist's drink.There are plenty of margaritas south of the border made with the pre-mixes or sweet n sour, too.But, the paloma, tequila and squirt, is much more popular among Mexicans, as is the michelada, the beer cocktail with Clamato.

                                            But, if El Compadre's is what you seek, CB seems to have come up with the list of lists, and a prudent disclaimer.

                                      2. How about Loteria Grill on Hollywood Blvd? Full bar, great food (I thought when I went!) but I cannot recall the booth situation. As to westside options, I definitely recommend Paco's, the one on Centinela NOT the one by LAX on Manchester!! The margaritas are amazing!

                                        1. Loteria Grill is good but no booths. For an interesting and unforgettable time, you must try Gardens of Taxco. Food is OK, drinks are decent, but the ambiance is from a different era.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: lvrebel

                                            Is there a full bar at Gardens of Taxco? The margaritas are wine based.

                                          2. Lucy's El Adobe on Melrose, near Paramount. Somewhat overpriced, but the food is decent and they have that old school ambiance and a very nice patio.

                                            also might want to try la cabana in venice.

                                            1. Try El Arco Iris in Highland Park. Wait, not sure if they have a full liquor license come to think of it. La Fiesta Grande in Pasadena and South Pas do. Get the taco bar if you go. You won't be let down.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: ohdaylay

                                                El ARCO IRIS has a sister restaurant DT in the Arts District called YXTA. the decor is great. somewhat seedy area. great food. the chef is from Chiapas.