There’s a celebration we hold near and dear to our hearts here in Los Angeles that makes us crave a margarita, some chips and homemade guacamole, a tamale or two, and perhaps even a flan. Yes, ladies and gentlemen (or should I say ninas y ninos) it’s very nearly Cinqo de Mayo! Celebrate by frequenting one of these haute joints that will send your senses South of the border. On a side note to any Angelenos who staunchly believe in their taco trucks, I’m saving them for another list – these 5 are the haute, classic LA spots that have become as much a part of our city’s make up as street names like La Cienega, La Jolla, and La Cruz.
Susan Feniger and her “hot tamale” partner in crime, Mary Sue Milliken opened Border Grill in Santa Monica in 1990 to great fanfare. Serving up seriously delicious, yet pretension-free Mexican cuisine done well, from their famous Green Corn Tamales to Roasted Lamb Tacos and a Chile Relleno, the ladies behind Border Grill have captured the colorful, vivacious, delectable nature of Mexican cuisine. They launched their food truck last year amidst the gourmet food truck boom and it’s done quite well offering a range of their most mouth-watering tacos and Mexican Iced Coffee. Read this paragraph again and tell me you’re not salivating.
Border Grill is located at 1445 4th Street in Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310) 451-1655
Mexico Restaurante y Barra
If you’ve ever searched for brightly colored décor only matched by the wild color palette on your plate, Mexico Restaurante y Barra in West Hollywood has got what you need. Fun, entirely un-serious, and, to be perfectly frank, surprisingly delicious, Mexico Restaurante is still fairly new to the neighborhood. Their Happy Hour is from 5 – 7pm during which time you’ll pay $4 for beers, $5 for ‘premium margaritas,’ and $7 for ‘botanas.’ While you’re there, just try resisting their Wood Fired Duck Taquitos, Cilantro Cumin Carne Asada, or their Red Velvet Mexican Chocolate Wedding Cake. Your Spanish will likely suddenly include words like “delicioso” and “poquito mas.”
Mexico Restaurante y Barra is located at 8512 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood (310) 289-0088
The main debate among Angelenos and their beloved transplants is on authenticity. You may adore Taco Tuesdays at Marix Tex Mex, but no one in their right mind is going to argue that it takes them back to days bumming around Mexico City. Guelaguetza, however, is one of those places that Angelenos can generally agree on – their Oaxacan menu screams traditional and Mexican from their Mole Negro to Amarillo de Pollo and from Chilaquiles to Enfrijoladas. You’ll secretly wish their menu had numbers because your pronunciation may actually ruin the dish, but no matter – if you can’t take time off to discover Oaxacan cuisine in Mexico, may as well make the drive to Guelaguetza.
Guelaguetza is located at 3014 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles (213) 427-0608
A general rule of thumb in this city is to not trust anyone who doesn’t like a taco now and again. There’s something off about a person like that. We’ve taken it one step further – don’t trust anyone who doesn’t enjoy a little Loteria Grill from time to time. How can you say not to a Cochinita Pibil taco or a Mole Poblano con Pollo? Only a cold hearted snake can face an Enchilada from Loteria in their roasted Tomatillo sauce and not devour the whole thing. With locations in Hollywood, Studio City, and at the Farmer’s Market at the Grove, even people who inhabit that area west of the 405 would make the drive for these delightful Mexican bites. The trustworthy ones, anyway.
Loteria Grill is located at 6627 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood (323) 465-2500
Alegria on Sunset
Even hipsters like Mexican food. In Silver Lake, Alegria on Sunset impresses even the most intense burrito-lovers. They don’t just open up for dinner and give you an option or two, either. They’re open for breakfast from 10am with choices like Huevos en Salsa Verde and Breakfast Sopes. For lunch, a Quesadillita Salad could do the trick, although so could an order of Tacos Dorados. Best bring your appetite at dinner, though, because that’s when you get Queso Frito, Tampiquena, Carne Asada con Camarones, and a homemade Flan that may just convert those non-believers out there. What better way to celebrate Cinqo de Mayo than with traditional Mexican cuisine – don’t look out the window, or you’ll remember you’re only in Silver Lake.
Alegria on Sunset is located at 3510 Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake (323) 913-1422