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Hound-worthy Mexican with good margaritas and ambience?

There's La Huasteca, of course, and El Portal in Pasadena (slightly less hound-worthy, but still pretty good) when I'm too lazy to drive to Lynwood. Does anyone have some more options worth considering? I'm really trying to avoid El Cholo (and the like) when margarita-mad friends/family want to go out...

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La Huasteca
3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

El Portal
695 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

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  1. Casita de Campos is great for atmosphere and food. i don't remember how their margaritas are but my trick is to order double tequila b/c usually there is not enough :)

    9 Replies
    1. re: Clyde

      Casita DEL CAMPO. i knew it was something like that. Also, El Arco Iris in highland park is good.

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      El Arco Iris
      5684 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

      1. re: Clyde

        I'm sorry, I try to primarily post recommendations rather than the opposite here. I live near Casita Del Campo and I love and know more than the average person about Mexican food. I've certainly eaten at most, if not all the Mexican restaurants that are mentioned on this board. Casita del Campo (by which I am assuming you mean the place on Hyperion in Silverlake) simply has horrible food. Really horrible. Nearly inedible.Glopped up with bad cheese and drowned in what tastes like canned sauces. The meats aren't cooked well. Nothing has much flavor. They do have excellent margaritas, a nice atmosphere and passably good chips and salsa.

        It is difficult to find excellent Mexican food and a full bar in Los Angeles. Most really good Mexican restaurants have a beer and wine license at best. Some, like Serenata di Garabaldi make the abominable soju margarita. (Perhaps that is something that ought to be left to Kogi to serve in brown paper bags from their truck.)

        La Huasteca is one of the only Mexican restaurants I have been to in the area that has both excellent food and a full bar. I've always liked the chips and salsa - in spite of having to pay for them - at Malo, though I've never been terribly impressed with the rest of the food there. I do want to try Mas Malo.

        If anyone knows of other really good Mexican places with full bars, I also would love to hear of them. But Casita del Campo is not on the list.

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        La Huasteca
        3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

        Malo
        4326 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

        Casita Del Campo
        1920 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

        Kogi
        Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

        Mas Malo
        515 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

        1. re: estone888

          It seems to me that Rivera and the downtown Border Grill fka Ciudad are worth considering.

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          Rivera Restaurant
          1050 S. Flower Street, #102, Los Angeles, CA 90015

          Ciudad
          445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90071

          1. re: estone888

            Agreed, inedible. It's 1950s style Mexican food. Bad.

            1. re: estone888

              it's mexican fusion, not authentic mexican, but i believe that tlapazola on gateway serves real tequila, so they must have the license. . . . .

              1. re: westsidegal

                I was going to suggest Tiapazola as well. I think they have a second location somewhere.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  Tlapazola has very good food but the ambience is marginal and while they serve tequila, there is no bar and no one who knows how to make a decent drink. Go for the food, but not the drinks or ambience.

                  1. re: BSW6490

                    Agree that Tlapazola doesn't have much ambiance (assume you're talking about one on Gateway), but disagree about drinks. They have a wide selection of tequilas and when I've been there, a very accommodating bartender took pride in his very good margaritas (and he will adjust them if needed according to your preference).

              2. re: Clyde

                El Arco Iris has the most insipid margaritas I have ever tasted, and small, and not cheap either.

                While we enjoyed the food tand the retro charm there, we had a major problem one night with a family of unruly children, in which the manager refused to intervene, and so we have not been back.

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                El Arco Iris
                5684 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

            2. You might check out Mas Malo in downtown LA, which aching reviewed earlier here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/758624

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              Mas Malo
              515 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

              1. Hacienda Del Rey is definitely a spot worth trying out. Good food and good drinks.

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                Hacienda Del Rey
                8347 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tavio

                  they will be opening a new Hacienda on Pershing where the old Beri's Pizza (sp?) used to be.

                2. I am one most annoyed gringo. I grew up in this city and never understood how a state that once was part of Mexico and has a large Mexican and Mexican - American population has never been able to support a restaurant with ambience and great Mexican food. I used to trave to Mexico and a lot to Tijuana before the wars broke out for the best Mexican food you could find close to Los Angeles and in some cases even ambience. You want carnitas you go to Carnitas Uruapan near the race track in Tijuana.

                  I even remember when Cugie on La Cienega gave it a yeoman's effort to make a fancy Mexican Restaurant to no avail.

                  You have your choice as far as I am concerned good to sometimes really good food or Margaritas and faux Mexican decor. There's not much else that I've been able to find.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Hughlipton

                    Hugh - actually, the food at Senor Fred in Sherman Oaks, with full bar of course, is above average, with some of the dishes from the Yucatan being very good. Also used to have a red wine from Baja California which was quite tasty. Their margaritas are very good.
                    Seeing the menu in the darkness can be an issue though.

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                    Senor Fred
                    13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

                    1. re: Hughlipton

                      I am in full agreement. I grew up in LA.

                      I became interested in cooking ... and Diana Kennedy. I traveled and cooked on her trips throughout Central, Southern, Western Mexico, and the Yucatan with Diana for many, many years. Mexico is fascinating.

                      What you get in Mexican restaurants is a parody of real Mexican food which, like the USA, is regional.

                      But in LA, you can get gut busting seafood enchiladas, ubiquitous beans, rice and killer margs at sit down restos. No one does the real stuff. The little stands are better at it but ...

                      A chapter remains to be written about Mexican food in LA with no signs it's happening yet.

                    2. Good food, strange but interesting decor, and very good margaritas can be found at Casablanca in Venice. Not the greatest ever, but their squid is pretty darn good (as is their green salsa).