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Chico's!!!

Will Owen Oct 10, 2010 07:02 PM

Okay, this place is all over Yelp (yuck p'tooey), but I've missed any mention of it here. HOW can such a thing BE? We'd never have gotten there if we hadn't been with a big group at the Future Gallery last night (the one with Chicken Boy on the roof) and everyone wanted to go to My Taco, but we had to call this other friend first. He said, "No. Let's go to Chico's." Well, okay, what the heck, though it was pointed out that Chico's closes at 9:00 and it was 8:40, but let's give it a try. So one of us went ahead, and when we got to this tiny little very yellow place it was 8:58 and there was a table for eight waiting for us, along with a cheerfully smiling waitress. Good sign.

This place is hell for cute, menu kind of the handpainted folk-art equivalent to the Waffle House ones (if you're familiar with those), and some serious food included thereon. This includes enough à la carte offerings to construct a complete meal out of at no major price penalty, something too many Mexican places don't do. I got to taste only my own chile relleno and Mrs. O's birria de chivo, but I'm here to tell you that it was all the best I'd ever had. My pepper was sweet, hot and flavorful, with a good crusty batter, flavorful cotija cheese inside, and a sauce that looked thin and watery but was flavorful and amazingly rich. The rice and the beans were not perfunctory afterthoughts but good dishes in their own right, and my one bite of the stewed goat told me I needed to get that next time. Our contribution to the non-split tab of $105 was calculated at $30, which included two dishes, two Negra Modelos and a good tip. This was good honest food, served quickly and cheerfully in surroundings that could have felt crowded and smelly but weren't. Parking is not easy if you don't want to walk - there's a small lot at the side that tends to fill up with non-customers - but if you don't mind parking across Figueroa it's simplicity itself.

This is going to be a new fave. Great food, great atmosphere, great value.

Chico's
100 Avenue 50 (at Figueroa)
Highland Park

  1. b
    Briggs Oct 11, 2010 12:15 AM

    Very nice and long overdue review of Chico's, one of our neighborhood favorites. While the place has been mentioned by myself and others in the past, I think you've done the place a very deserving solid.

    We've been going since my son now teenage son was a toddler (and it was there some years before his arrival), but I'm still surprised at how many people in the immediate vicinity don't know it. Never incredibly busy, but always a nice flow of local Northeast L.A. families. A vegetarian friend who lives downtown makes frequent trips - for him it's the best vegetarian Mexican food in town.

    Work your way through all the dishes. My wife loves the Chile Relleno too, and I'm a fan of their Garlic Shrimp dish, with a fondness of their tasty fried cheese appetizer. You're right about the goat stew rocking, but the chicken soup is almost up there with any Jewish deli in its earthy good taste. If only they served kreplach at Chico's.

    A couple of minor additions: For those interested, both regular and Mexican Coke are available, and the parking problem you experienced was an anomaly exacerbated by the NELA Second Saturday Artwalk. Parking is usually a breeze in their lot.

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    Chico's
    100 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042

    1. Servorg Oct 11, 2010 06:01 AM

      Great write up, Will. It's always nice to find a new (to you) place - even if you come to the party a little late in the process. lol

      I looked back and there was actually a mention of Chico's back in 2002 here (if you can believe that!) and another one in 2006. But these two instances were just brief mentions in posts that were part of a longer thread.

      So you've definitely put Chico's on the Chowhound radar, Will.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Servorg
        Will Owen Oct 11, 2010 11:12 AM

        Well, it seems to have done okay with no help from me so far, but I'm glad to have finally found it. It seems to be the wallet-friendly treasure we've been looking for and ALMOST found any number of times - Tonny's, La Abeja, My Taco and some others have come close, but there has always been something that ain't quite right, whether by design (atmosphere = bus station) or circumstance (gotta close early, no beer). Maybe I'll find something not to like here, but I'm looking forward to the search! Especially since, as noted, I can try pretty much everything à la carte; I noticed that several people at our table assembled their dinners in exactly that way, and almost regretted not having done so myself.

        Thanks to Briggs for pointing out the nature of the parking problem. I'd forgotten there's a gallery or two just up the block there.

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        Tonny's Restaurant
        843 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

        La Abeja
        3700 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065

        My Taco Restaurant
        6300 York Blvd Ste 4, Los Angeles, CA 90042

        1. re: Will Owen
          h
          Harry Niletti Oct 11, 2010 11:36 AM

          Well, I really like Tonny's, so I look forward to trying Chico's -- thanks for the review.

          By the way, if Chico's wants people to find them, they should tell Google Maps that their icon isn't visible at zoom levels one and two. It only emerges as you back out to level three. That's strange, because usually the closer in you zoom, the more you see. It is clearly visible from the street-view photo, however.

          -Harry

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          Tonny's Restaurant
          843 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

          1. re: Harry Niletti
            Will Owen Oct 11, 2010 03:57 PM

            As Briggs pointed out, they've been feeding people for many years now, so I don't think finding them has been a problem so far. Besides, we don't want everyone showing up at once! There's room for maybe forty people in there, if they're very friendly.

            Anyway, "100 N. Avenue 50" is ridiculously easy to find, made even more so by the Screaming Yellow Zonker paint job on the building. Drive south on Figueroa to Ave. 50 and glance to the right: WOW!! Even at night it's almost blinding...

            1. re: Will Owen
              b
              Briggs Oct 11, 2010 04:08 PM

              "Screaming Yellow Zonker paint job on the building"
              With the happy dancing red chile!

        2. re: Servorg
          b
          Briggs Oct 11, 2010 04:17 PM

          I mentioned it here back in January 2010, and was almost positive I'd brought it up other times previously since it's a favorite. Unfortunately, I couldn't find ANY of those posts. Strange...

          1. re: Briggs
            h
            Harry Niletti Oct 11, 2010 07:27 PM

            Here's a little help: http://tinyurl.com/239ty2r Some of your posts on Chico's go way back.

            I'm rarely in that part of town and had never noticed the place until this thread, but I look forward to trying it.

            -Harry

            1. re: Harry Niletti
              b
              Briggs Oct 11, 2010 08:46 PM

              Thanks Harry! Curious why the search I did via Chowhounds only turned up 2 of my Chico posts. Also wonder if that's why Will found such little mention.

              Administrator?

              1. re: Briggs
                h
                Harry Niletti Oct 11, 2010 08:51 PM

                The CH search engine misses a lot, so I generally use a Google site search, which is easy enough when you have a handle to include. It also helps to throw in +"Los Angeles Area" (or whatever is appropriate).

                -Harry

        3. monku Oct 11, 2010 08:43 PM

          I went to Chico's once seeing it rec'd here on CH.
          Maybe we ordered the wrong things because we weren't as impressed as you. It was just another Mexican joint. My go to place in the area is My Taco.
          I don't remember much about the "great atmosphere", I just remember all the vitamin promotions on display.

          -----
          My Taco Restaurant
          6300 York Blvd Ste 4, Los Angeles, CA 90042

          2 Replies
          1. re: monku
            b
            Briggs Oct 11, 2010 08:49 PM

            Love My Taco, love Chico's - different animals.

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            My Taco Restaurant
            6300 York Blvd Ste 4, Los Angeles, CA 90042

            1. re: Briggs
              Will Owen Oct 12, 2010 05:07 PM

              I like My Taco's food, and would like it more if it didn't all feel just kinda thrown together. The whole place feels just kinda thrown together, and the giant always-on TV and the general ambience of a 7-11 don't make me love being there so much. Last time we were in there I mindlessly dumped my tray into the garbage utensils and all; when I went to the counter to tell them I'd dropped a fork and a knife into the garbage the girls just shrugged and told me not to worry about it. Okay, call me Mr. Stuffy, but I want to eat at places where the tableware is too nice just to throw away.

          2. annagranfors Oct 12, 2010 01:22 PM

            I'd like them a lot more if they didn't use so much salt. The place itself is really cute, the people are nice, but I always feel like a box of Morton Salt after eating there.

            1. 1
              18the Oct 13, 2010 07:29 PM

              We've been eating at Chico's for years. Yum. Above posts didn't mention their best item - guacamole is delicious.

              Also, in that neck of the woods - try Rico's Mar Azul Mariscos Truck - which parks in front of Sycamore Grove Park. Great, cheap shrimp tostadas long before the food truck revolution. (Made to order so expect a bit of a wait if more than 3-4 in line. Best to go off hours. We stop whenever we're driving by and don't see a line.)

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              Sycamore Grove Park
              4900 North Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA

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