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Readers Share Their Favorite Classic LA Mexican Restaurants

SHERMAN OAKS, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Outdoor dining at Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks.  Taken Friday, September 9, 2022 in Sherman Oaks, California.  (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Classic Mexican restaurants have become a staple in Los Angeles. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

What makes a great classic Mexican restaurant? Perhaps the point is in the kitsch decor and local color. Maybe it’s delicious food: handmade tortillas, pink margaritas, sizzling fajitas, massive combination plates that will last for several meals. Or maybe it’s the memories that are made there.

After The Times published a series of articles on vintage Mexican restaurants and their staples in Los Angeles cuisine, dozens of readers responded to the call by sharing their favorite places to eat great food in California and Mexico City and what to eat in those culinary establishments that they support are coming back. That’s what they had to say.

(Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Casa Del Rey in Sierra Madre is our family’s favorite Mexican restaurant. We love their combo plates, I have a hard shell beef taco and two cheese enchiladas with rice and beans. My wife likes chili relleno with cheese enchiladas. They have two homemade salsas. The one they serve you with chips when you first sit down is their “hot” version. You have to ask for “soft” salsa, my favourite. I can put it on tacos, beans, rice and dip chips in it and it tastes so good to me and doesn’t burn at all. We used them for catering at our house and we always have a lot of leftovers. When our youngest son, now 39, came with us as a child, he only took bean and cheese burritos. Pretty soon they’ll remember this and ask him if he wants a bean and cheese burrito. Eventually they stopped asking and just brought one. I walked in about a year ago, in the midst of a pandemic, wearing a full mask and sunglasses, to pick up a takeaway order, and the waiter said, “Hi Domingo, your order is ready.” How many places do it?

31 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-6060, casadelreyrestaurant.com

Domingo Torres-Rangel

La Cabañita in Glendale. Tacos de rajas con crema are to die for and they have a great selection of chili peppers (including chili marinero). In fact, all their food is delicious. Been there for a long time and I believe they are family owned (although they changed hands a few years ago). Long-standing servers that survived the pandemic are a great place for family and neighbors. Not only my favorite Mexican restaurant, but also my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles.

3445 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 957-2711, lacabanitarestaurant.com

Nina Woodson

I can’t believe you didn’t include El Ranchito by Avila!!! Their first Huntington Park location is legendary and our family has been going to Santa Ana since it opened in 1983! We even had a memorial service for my Italian mother, because she really liked it. Today we dine in almost all places because they have their own local charm. Huntington Park, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana still make handmade tortillas (sooo delicious!!!). And there are so many local delicacies on the beaches.

(multiple locations) 6703 Santa Fe Ave., Huntington Park, (323) 585-5055, avilaselranchito.com

Patty Mitchell

For as long as I can remember, Barragan’s has been our family’s favorite Mexican restaurant. It was a mid-century column in Echo Park. When it finally closed, I went to the branch in Glendale. Unfortunately it has closed and the only Barragan’s in existence is in Burbank. So I try to be there as often as possible. Thousands and thousands of community members now look at the family business everywhere with love and respect. This is and has been constant in our lives. Wonderful people and happy memories, family recipes, menus, margaritas, tastes and aromas – all this is captured in our experience.

730 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank, (818) 848-2325, barragansrestaurants.com

Elena Velarde

When I was working for an aerospace company in Northridge, I was introduced to Los Toros in Chatsworth. It was just my place: dark and a bit rundown. In my opinion they had the best bean sauce, cheesy enchiladas and pink margaritas in this old little corner of my world. Pure comfort.

21743 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, (818) 882-3080, lossoros.com

Claudia Mitchell

La Fiesta Grande in Pasadena: The BEST traditional Mexican food in the region. Family owned for over 40 years – Pasadena establishment. Recently reopened after moving out due to the previous owner of the building not renewing the lease. Come for the enchiladas, fajitas, carne asada, tacos and stay for their AMAZING margaritas and of course the chips and salsa. Camerina (owner’s daughter) runs the place and the staff has been with them for years. They are like a big family! My family and I started walking over 17 years ago as part of a fundraiser for my eldest daughter’s preschool. My youngest daughter’s first trip was when she was 2 weeks old… . It was a Friday night after work/pick up the kids as per tradition.

st. 181 E. Glenarm St. No. 110 Pasadena, (626) 298-6272, instagram.com/la_fiestagrande

Trisha Miranda

You missed the big old hole in the wall in Santa Monica, Gilbert’s El Indio, on Pico next to the car wash. It is small (cozy), comfortable and very, very good. The menu has everything you want from south of the border. Huevos rancheros are, inexplicably, the best in town (Hilbert’s El Indio turned out to be a good breakfast spot). The margaritas are excellent (breakfast or cocktail hour). They do diablo salsa which is great but you have to ask for it. Service is top notch, staff is friendly, customers feel welcome.

2526 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 450-8057, gilbertselindio.com

Rob Webb

La Cabana Roses in Torrance. Family – Rose will take care of you most of the time. In addition to all the standard Sonora-type dishes, Rosa’s has amazing flat enchiladas with savory green sauce, excellent brining (pork or chicken, your choice), healthy salads – fish salad topped with large fried fillets – and much more. They also make the best Jamaican water: tangy but not overly sweet like some. We have been coming here for many years and have never been disappointed. I grew up on the Eastside and I have pretty high standards for Mexican food. This is the best I have found in South Bay.

24403 Hawthorne Boulevard, Torrance, (310) 378-3667

Hilary Cohen

While I’d say the best Mexican food is in my mom’s kitchen, I’m really surprised Pancho’s in Manhattan Beach didn’t make your list. The restaurant is worth a try; I highly recommend the margarita as an accompaniment to any meal and will definitely leave room for the sopapilla for dessert.

3615 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-6670, panchosrestaurant.com

AJ Guerrero

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to Mi Casa in Costa Mesa. If you love cheese, this is the place for you. The three-course combo (beef or chicken taco, cheese enchilada, and chili relleno) is enough for several meals…although tacos will never walk out the door with me. Nachos are also a cheese lover’s dream, and marinated jalapenos give it the perfect amount of warmth and bring out its richness. They make the average Cadillac Margarita a must eat. Their salsa is one of my favorites of all time, but I may be biased since I grew up with it. It’s always homemade, so spice levels vary (which I like when it has that extra punch). They’ve added a few new items to the menu in recent years that I don’t think are all that great, but the original combo plates won’t disappoint. It’s also pretty inexpensive, so it was a weekly treat with my friends in high school.

296 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-7626, www.micasa1.com

Nathan Mulhern

Las Fuentes in Reseda! Or Melodies across the street. They belong to the same family and the food is so delicious! They are both local joints that are always busy. The decor in both is really fun Mexican kitsch and they’ve both been around for years. I know that no one thinks to go to Reseda for good food, but the trip is worth it. The portions are large, the salsa is real. I love the caldo de pollo at Melodiya and the tacos at Las Fuentes. Celebrated birthdays there, and there are always few guests from other cities.

18415 Vanowen St., Reseda, (818) 708-3344, lasfuentes.com

Daniel Moreno

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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