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Good to great Mexican in LA

Where should a couple of New Yorkers with 3 days in LA go to have some really good Mexican food? Trucks are fine, but I'd like a good sit-down place as well. We're staying at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, but will have a car. Thanks.

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  1. I am sure there are places in New York where a Los Angeleno would feel uncomfortable. To send you for some of the best Mexican food in Los Angeles might make a New Yorker feel uncomfortable. With that said and considering where you are staying I would recommend the Gardens of Taxco. It's solid but certainly would not remind you of the food from the interior of Mexico.. Nonetheless I do not believe you will be disappointed by the food or the Margaritas.

    Gardens of Taxco
    1113 N. Harper Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90046

    3 Replies
    1. re: Hughlipton

      Thanks for replying Highlipton. I'm curious about this statement:
      "To send you for some of the best Mexican food in Los Angeles might make a New Yorker feel uncomfortable."
      Not sure what you mean by it. Can you elaborate? Thanks!

      1. re: ttoommyy

        He's talking about sending you to places that will get you outside of your posh Beverly Hills bubble and into the areas of the city where real Mexican families eat.

        I'll start... get the pollo cemita with quesillo and chipotles en adobo. I like it better than the milanesa.


        While you're in the area, stop in at El Mercadito. You'll see and taste a side of LA not generally seen by visitors.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Just because I am staying in a "posh Beverly Hills bubble" doesn't mean I am afraid to venture into "a side of LA not generally seen by visitors." I grew up on the not-so-pretty streets of Jersey City, NJ, in the 60s and have been hanging out in all parts of NYC since I was 14.

          Thanks for the recs Mr Taster.

    2. Hi ttoommyy and Welcome to LA!

      I heartily recommend Frida, right near you in Beverly Hills. Very good alta cocina Mexican in an attractive, upscale venue. Great enchiladas, ceviches and sopas. The filete tentacion and the camarones al ajillo are wonderful choices. Superb margaritas. Outstanding service. A bit pricier than most Mexican establishments, as would be expected in BH.

      236 S Beverly Dr
      Beverly Hills, CA 90212
      (310) 278-7666

      If you are willing to take a cross-town drive (worth it), three additional recommendations are highly worthy of your consideration, each easily surpassing Frida in excellence and authenticity IMHO:

      1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
      San Gabriel, CA 91776
      (626) 288-7265
      Superb, high-end Mexican cuisine. Chef Ramon and his wife take undeniable pride in delivering some of the most exquisite alta cocina Mexican cuisine to be found anywhere. Quaint, homey atmosphere. Fabulous braised lamb shank, beef cheeks and seafood specials. THE best handmade tortillas on the planet. Ramon has a very broad and deep knowledge of wine and food pairings that he is more than willing, time permitting, to discuss with you passionately and at great length. No hard liquor served, but the wines and house-made sangria are terrific.

      La Casita Mexicana
      4030 Gage Ave.
      Bell, CA 90201
      (323) 773-1898
      Serious, upscale Mexican cuisine in a small, charming restaurant. The two chef/owners, Jaime and Ramiro are prodigous aficionados of traditional "cenaduria" Mexican alta cocina who do it up right and insist upon keeping it real. Fabulous posole, queso fundido and chilaquiles. Extraordinary moles. Exquisite chiles en nogada when in-season. Inquire about off-menu specials. No alcohol. The food is so good that you won't miss it, or BYOB.

      1050 S. Flower St, #102
      Los Angeles, CA 90015
      (213) 749-1460
      Serious, traditional, alta cocina Mexican at its finest, perhaps LA's best. The trendy, upscale downtown establishment is sophisticated yet welcoming. The vibe, drinks and food are all world class. Genuine jamon iberico de bellota pata negra, all that its cracked up to be. Handmade artisanal tortillas with embedded edible dried flowers are served with a delicious guacamole, aptly referred to as “Indian butter”. The duck enfrijolada, kurubota pork chop and sautéed cod are all to die for. Extensive bar menu with some amazing tequila and mixed drink selections. Try the donaji.

      3 Replies
      1. re: degustateur

        Follow degustateur's suggestions unless you can snag a reservation at the opening tonight Red-O on Melrose at 8155 Melrose, just west of Crescent Hts., about 2+ miles or so from your hotel.

        1. re: degustateur

          just an FYI... i had a horrid lunch at Frida last week. i ordered a ceviche, and the shrimp and tuna were just so awful that i actually sent it back (something i never do...), and chose not to get anything to replace it. the shrimp was watery and chewy, and the tuna fishy and stringy. mom's pechuga chicken was fine. she liked the spiciness of the salsa, though she complained that the glistening tortilla chips were really really oily tasting. i've eaten here a number of times, but after last week, i won't be returning for a long while, if at all.

          1. re: degustateur

            Wow...thanks degustateur! That's quite helpful.

          2. If you are into that jazzed up fanciful Mexican be my guest to the list above.

            I would skip all of the above mentioned and head to Boyle Heights and Lincoln Park.

            Antojitos Carmen has great sopes, tostadas, pozole and gorditas. El Huarachito is also a great authentic Mexican restaurant. Mexican breakfasts are king as well as the pozole, tacos with homemade tortillas, and tacos dorados. I also love their chilaquiles.

            If you don't mind eating in the barrios, I would definitely give them a try.

            El Huarachito
            3010 1/2 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031

            Antojitos Carmen
            2510 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033

            1 Reply
            1. re: A5 KOBE

              Thanks A5 KOBE. I like both kinds of Mexican...jazzed up and the real deal. My partner is of Mexican descent, so I'm fine with down-home Mexican as well as the snazzier stuff. I appreciate your suggestions and will keep them in mind. Thanks again!

            2. If you like (or would like to try) Oaxacan food, you might want to check out Monte Alban, on Santa Monica Blvd. between Barrington and Bundy in west LA -- not too far from where you'll be.

              Monte Alban
              11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

              1 Reply
              1. re: ozhead

                i agree with A5 Kobe on this.....you need to go east of downtown...boyle hieghts and east l.a. area. also hit some taco trucks while you are at it :)

              2. i agree w/degasteur xcept for the frida suggestion. babita and la casita are great.. drinks at rivera are awesome.

                1 Reply
                1. re: namstermonster

                  Based on my experience at Frida at the Americana, I'd say skip it. It's OK, but overpriced.

                2. I don't care what anyone says.......El Compadre is one of the best spots. Carnitas taco!

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Lovee

                      Really, the fact that they advertise themselves as "the home of the flaming margarita" ought to tell a potential diner everything he or she needs to know.

                      Simply awful. You'd do better at El Torito.

                    2. Skip Frida, La Casita and heaven forbid DO NOT go to Gardens of Taxco.

                      My short list for Mexican of all stripes would be the following:

                      Moles La Tia
                      Mariscos Chente
                      Breed St.
                      La Huasteca
                      Chichen Itza
                      La Flor de Yucatán

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        What's your aversion to Gardens of Taxco? Just curious, as Hughlipton above recommends the place. I guess one man's meat really is another man's poison! lol

                        Gardens of Taxco
                        1113 N. Harper Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90046

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          I agree with the avoidance of Gardens of Taxco, especially given the many alternatives already mentioned.
                          Yet some of those suggestions are a bit locationally out of the way for many, so while you may have a car, you might not want to drive to a Lynwood or Inglewood/Lawndale or San Gabriel.

                          1. re: carter

                            ...though Plaza Mexico (La Huasteca, La Guelaguetza, Bionicos Zapopán) is easily accessible from the Metro Rail.

                            Plaza Mexico
                            3100 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

                          2. re: ttoommyy

                            Gardens of Taxco is more about Mexican kitsch than it is about Mexcian food.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              That was certainly my experience. They seem to get lots of diners on two for one offers from entertainment books, etc.

                          3. re: ipsedixit

                            I'd concur 100% with Ipsedixit's list (well, 86% anyway, as I've yet to try Breed St.) and suggest adding Guelaguetza for more Oaxacan options. The original in Koreatown is still the best I think, but there's a newer, prettier one right by La Huasteca in Plaza Mexico.

                            Come to think of it, if the OP is sufficiently inspired (insane?), he can get himself into a first-rate Mexican Food Coma by heading down the 710 to Plaza Mexico, getting the medalliones con huitlacoche at La Huasteca; some barbacoa, pollo con mole negro (and perhaps chapulines?) at Guelaguetza; and a torta cubana with a big cold tropical juice at El Gallo Giro ... and only have to park once! :-)

                            Plaza Mexico
                            3100 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

                            1. re: Bradbury

                              I agree with this, but only if you finish with a paleta from La Michoacana or a biónico (a fruit salad with yoghurt, granola, raisins and coconut on top) from Biónicos Zapopán.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Thanks Ubergeek. I just googled both of these places. You've educated me on two things I had not heard of before: paletas and biónicos. They both seem right up my alley. Thanks!

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  There used to be, and I don't know if there still is, a cart that sold picos de gallo (fruit salads with lime and chile powder, no yoghurt or other toppings).

                                  The name of it was "La mexicana que fruta vendía" (the Mexican woman who sold fruit), which is a play on a Mexican children's song, though I never saw her sell "ciruela, chabacano, melón y sandía" (plums, apricots, melon and watermelon) all at once.

                              2. re: Bradbury

                                Wow, Bradbury...going to Plaza Mexican sounds like the right idea. I just googled the places you mentioned. We might just do this for lunch one day. Thanks!

                              3. re: ipsedixit

                                "Skip Frida, La Casita and heaven forbid DO NOT go to Gardens of Taxco."

                                I understand about Frida and GoT, but why do you say skip La Casita Mexicana? I haven't been there for about two years (mostly because of geography), but it's one of my favorites, along with Moles La Tia, Babita and La Huasteca.

                                1. re: Peripatetic

                                  Jaime and Ramiro are some of the best Mexican Cooks we have come across. We have sampled Their fabulous Ceviche, Tamales, moles and other Mexican delights when they show up for events like the Gold Standard and such. But generally such things are not found at their restaurant. The restaurants menu is rather pedestrian. The cooking is excellent and if you are introducing someone who is new and skeptical to the wonders of Mexican food, this might be a good place to take them. They are offering what the Neighborhood wants on the menu not what the possibilities could be. I have heard tell that occasionally they have outstanding things on their specials menu or if you call ahead and promise a large group, they will go far beyond the borders of their Menu. But if you walk in off the street, as Dommy and I have made the trip from Culver City 4 times, most likely you will get a well executed but not very adventurous Menu.

                                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                    Yup, I've always felt that the food at La Casita was very ordinary, esp. in comparison to the other choices in greater LA. Good to know that there is a reason for that.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Thanks. I guess the few times I've been there I've had either the moles or the chiles en nogada, so I haven't come across the more mediocre dishes.

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  solid list... i'd add, as mentioned above, monte alban to this list.

                                3. For excellent, non regional (ie. not Oaxacan or what have you) Mexican food I really like Teresitas Restaurant.

                                  3826 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

                                  1. just had a fantastic dinner at Red O. Will do a more complete write-up later but in the meantime, you can read about it here. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7105...
                                    Briefly, pork belly sopes w/ salsa negra & beef and heirloom tomato salad were standouts. That salsa negra was absolutely wicked.