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Mexican in Highland Park?

That may be redundant, but we're looking for a place for dinner on Wednesday before attending a talk at Debs Park. Since everything Mexican near us (Pasadena) is El Torito quality, we'd love something with some character, better food, and good beer.

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  1. El Arco Iris on York is decent. Standard "combo plate" Mexican but certainly better than El Torito.


    5 Replies
    1. re: JeMange

      I would not say that El Arco Iris is any significant improvement over much of anything in Pasadena. El Sombrero was a good experience the one time we went, a real neighborhood hang, and the food was fine. Chico's on Ave. 50 just off Figueroa was almost too authentic, but in a very good way; we've been there twice with a Mt. Washington gang who make themselves regulars. Our initial dislike for El Arco was due to the very expensive, tiny and weak margaritas; a badly-handled non-food experience involving uncontrolled unruly children drove us away for good.

      1. re: Will Owen

        WIll, I notice you have an axe to grind against El Arco, as you've dissed them on more than a few posts here. Care to elaborate on your experience(s)?

        And, to be clear, I'm no cheerleader for the place. I just find it to be a decent option when we're in the area and want sit-down Mexican with beer/wine/liquor options.

        1. re: JeMange

          There were two women and several small children who sat down in the adjoining booth; the children soon were running around, climbing up the back of the booth and banging on it, shrieking to each other. Requests that the adults should do something were met with open hostility. We went to the manager. She said, "They're customers, what can I do?" This was, by the way, after 10:30 at night. Things got uglier afterwards.

          Their food and drink would have to be rare precious jewels to induce us to return. They are not. The food is adequate, not as good as Chico's but at least it's more expensive, as are the tiny, watery margaritas. And I do not think a pack of raging hellions would be tolerated in Chico's, either.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Sounds like a recipe for indigestion.

            1. re: Will Owen

              I don't get it. If the kids are bugging you and the manager doesn't care, leave.

      2. Huarache Azteca - 5225 York Blvd
        You can cross off one of J. Gold's 99 essential LA restaurants if you don't mind eating off paper plates. Try the name sake with al pastor and wash it down with agua fresca or try the huitlacoche quesadilla, a.k.a. Mexican truffle a.k.a corn smut : )

        2 Replies
        1. re: six pack to go

          Huarache Azteca is fine in terms of food but the eating experience is bare bones, as you said.

          1. I'd have to agree with Will on El Arco Iris. Mediocre and overpriced. You would think there would be good Mexican in Highland Park, but the few good places are modest taco stands and taco tables, all without beer. Best Mexican food in that area is Cacao in Eagle Rock, but again, no beer.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                +1 for Chico's. They sometimes use a little too much salt for my tastes, but it's probably as close as you'll come to your parameters. And they're long on character...do a Google streetview for it and you'll see what I mean. The inside's completely charming, too.

                1. re: annagranfors

                  Only problem with Chico's - I could be wrong but I don't think so - is that they have no liquor license, so it's beer, wine, or those dreadful fake margs that even the waitress warned us off of. But for that food I'll choke down a Negro Modelo or two …

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    OP simply asked for "good beer" ...

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      If they have Dos Equis lager I'd qualify them as having "good beer" for sure...

              2. Doesn't Highland Park Kitchen have booze? They're not strictly Mexican but they have it on the menu


                2 Replies
                1. re: JackonCrack

                  Haven't seen a word about Highland Park Kitchen (aka HPK) on CH. Any experiences?

                  I only remember hearing about their opening on Eater LA: http://la.eater.com/archives/2012/02/...

                  1. re: JackonCrack

                    We tried Highland Park Kitchen. They do have a full bar, tacos, burger, flatbreads, etc. We tried the shortrib flatbread, the truffle mac n' cheese and a beet salad that appeared to be made with canned beets. The food was unremarkable and the service was kind of overbearing, but they really are trying to please. They also have a kid's menu. It's an ok option for those times when you have a combo of drinkers, kids, dogs, etc., but I'll most likely stick with Maxmiliano's.

                  2. Chico's is great, My Taco on York near Fig is even better. Also nearby is Via Mar at Fig & Ave 51 - in some ways even better than Señor FIsh.

                    FWIW, add me to the list of those less than thrilled with Arco Iris. Think El Torito on a bad day.

                    1. I would try My Taco or jump up the road a bit into Eagle Rock for Cacao Mexicatessen. My Taco may be a bit short on the "character" part but the food will make your forget about that.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: fishinwater

                        I love Cacao Mexicatessen, but sadly they have no beer (as per the OP's request).

                        1. re: fishinwater

                          My Taco's quite good, but the OP specifically asked for a place that had good beer, which they don't (or didn't...I haven't been in a while).

                          Actually, one of the two La Fuente restaurants might be alternatives–there's one on Colorado, one block west of Eagle Rock on the south side of the street in a minimall, and another that's just off Figueroa, about a mile south of York and a block west of Figueroa. Both are at least as good as either Chico's or My Taco, and have a reasonable number of beers available. (Sorry, no addresses, but Google's your friend.)

                          1. re: annagranfors

                            +1 La Fuente, the one on Fig. Close to Debs too.

                        2. I've been forgetting about La Abeja, clear at the north end on Figueroa - I recall it's a little south of the intersection with Pasadena Avenue, maybe a block. I know nothing of their booze capabilities, because I've just been there for a couple of gang brunches and stuck with iced tea, so maybe they've got none, but their thin-sliced fried pork chops were heaven, as was the machaca.

                          Okay - just Googled, and they've got no beer or anything. Go there sometime when you want some tamarindo …

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Speaking of La Abeja, I was going through Saveur's "New Comfort Foods" cookbook, and notice that all but maybe two of the Mexican dishes are based on what the editor ate … at La Abeja! He fell in love with the place maybe twenty years ago, and went back recently to hit'em up for some recipes. I've had a hard time lately getting any farther south than Chico's, but I feel a need to check on this guy's research …

                          2. We went to Chico's last night, as recommended by the majority of posters, and had a great meal. Thanks to all of you who told us about this gem, we brought some friends and will definitely be back.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: judybird

                              What did you eat and what was the star of the show?

                              1. re: Servorg

                                I had the chile verde, DH had a combo, a small steak (delicious) and a red chile enchilada. The red sauce was as good as we've had in New Mexico, and that's saying something. I'd have both again, but there are so many other interesting choices on the menu, I'd probably order something different just to try.

                            2. This is an old thread, but have you tried El Portal in Pasadena? Nice ambiance, good, mostly Yucatecan food, and beer. We live in West Pasadena, so HP is as close as most of Pasadena, but El Portal is still our go-to for a sit down Mexican.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Savour

                                I'd also put a vote in for Caramba's which is at the border of Alhambra and El Sereno (which is also not far from Debs Park, just on the other side of the hill). Super old school. Food isn't spectacular but it's solid and I love the ambiance.