What makes a great classic Mexican restaurant? Maybe it’s the casual decor and local charm. Maybe it’s the good food: handmade tortillas, pink margaritas, sizzling fajitas, massive combo plates that can drag you through meals. Or maybe it’s the memories made there.
After The Times published a series on long-established Mexican restaurants and their staples in Los Angeles cuisine, dozens of readers responded to a caption, sharing their favorite places. for great Cal-Mex food and what these culinary establishments hold them back. Here’s what they have 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, mine was the beef hard shell taco and the two cheese enchiladas with rice and beans. My wife loves the chile relleno with cheese enchiladas. They have two house salsas. What they serve you with fries when you first sit down is their “hot” version. You have to ask for the “light” salsa, which is my favorite. I can put it in tacos, beans, rice and dip my fries in it and it tastes great to me without burning. We have used them for our home catering events and we always have a lot of leftovers. When our young son, now 39, used to accompany us as a child, he only received a bean and cheese burrito. Soon, they would remember that and ask him if he wanted a bean and cheese burrito. In the end, they stopped asking and just brought one. I walked in about a year ago during the height of the pandemic, wearing full-face sunglasses to take my order, and the waiter said, “Hi, Domingo, we’ve got your order. .” How many places do that?
31 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-6060, casadelreyrestaurant.com
– Domingo Torres-Rangel
La Cabañita is in Glendale. The tacos de rajas con crema will die because they have so many choices of chile rellenos (including chiles searos). In fact, all of their food is delicious. Been there a long time and I believe they are family owned (although changed hands a few years ago). Longtime servers, survived the pandemic – it’s a great place for family and neighborhood. Not only my favorite Mexican restaurant but also my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles.
3445 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 957-2711, lacabanitedlyaurant.com
– Nina Woodson
Can’t believe you didn’t include Avila’s El Ranchito!!! Their first location in Huntington Park is legendary, and our family has been going to the Santa Ana location since it opened in 1983! We even celebrated my Italian mother there because she loved it so much. Today, we dine at almost all of the locations because they have their own local charm. Huntington Park, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana still make handmade cornbread (so cool!!!). And beach locations are full of local specialities.
(multiple locations) 6703 Santa Fe Ave., Huntington Park, (323) 585-5055, avilaselranchito.com
– Patty Mitchell
For as long as I can recall, Barragan’s was our family’s frequent Mexican restaurant. It’s a mid-century pillar in Echo Park. When it finally closed, I went to the Glendale branch. Sadly it has closed and the only existing Barragan is located in Burbank. So I try to go there as often as possible. Thousands upon thousands of members of the community, from far and wide, have looked at the family-owned business with love and respect. It has been and is a constant in our lives. Great people and happy memories, family recipes, menus, margarine varieties, flavors and flavors are tied to our experience there.
730 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank, (818) 848-2325, barragansrestaurants.com
– Elena Velarde
When I was working at an aerospace company in Northridge, I was introduced to Los Toros in Chatsworth. That’s just my abode: dark and a bit run down. To my mind, they have the best bean dip, cheese enchiladas and pink margaritas in the old fashioned little corner of my world. Pure comfort.
21743 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, (818) 882-3080, lostoros.com
– Claudia Mitchell
La Fiesta Grande in Pasadena: The BEST traditional Mexican food in the area. Family owned for over 40 years – a Pasadena institution. Recently reopened after having to move out due to previous building owner’s failure to renew the lease. Come for enchiladas, fajitas, carne asada, tacos, and stay for their AMAZING margaritas and of course chips and salsa. Camerina (the owner’s daughter) runs the place, and the staff have worked with them for many years. They are like an extended family! My family and I started getting involved more than 17 years ago as part of a fundraiser for our eldest daughter’s preschool. My youngest daughter’s first trip was when she was 2 weeks old…. It was a Friday night after work/after picking up the kids.
181 E. Glenarm St. #110, Pasadena, (626) 298-6272, instagram.com/la_fiestagrande
– Tricia Miranda
You missed a large, perennial hole in the wall in Santa Monica, Gilbert’s El Indio, on Pico next to a car wash. It’s small (cozy), comfortable and very, very good. The menu has everything from south of the border that anyone could want. The huevos rancheros are, for reasons hard to pinpoint, perhaps the best in town (Gilbert’s El Indio happens to be a good breakfast place). The margarine is excellent (breakfast or cocktail hour). They do great diablo salsa, but you have to ask for it. Service on point, staff are friendly and make customers feel welcome.
2526 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 450-8057, gilbertselindio.com
– Rob Webb
Rosa’s La Cabana in Torrance. Family owned – Rosa will take care of you most days. In addition to all the standard Sonora dishes, Rosa’s has amazing flat enchiladas with savory green sauces, scrumptious chicken (pork or chicken of your choice), healthy salads – fish salad toppings a large filet mignon – and much more. Also, they make the best agua de jamaica: fragrant but not too sweet like some others. Been coming here for years and have never been disappointed. I grew up on the Eastside and have pretty high standards for Mexican food. This is the best I’ve found in the South Bay.
24403 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 378-3667
– Hilary Cohen
While I think the best Mexican food is in my mom’s kitchen, I’m surprised Pancho’s in Manhattan Beach didn’t make your list. The restaurant is worth a try; I highly recommend the margarine to complement any meal and be sure to leave room for the dumplings for dessert.
3615 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-6670, panchosrestaurant.com
– AJ Guerrero
I have been going to Mi Casa in Costa Mesa since as long as I can remember. If you love cheese, this is the place to be. The three-course combination (beef or chicken taco, cheese enchilada and chile relleno) will keep you going for many meals…though the taco was never out the door with me. The nachos are also a cheese lover’s dream, and the pickled jalapeños provide it with the perfect amount of heat and break down the greasiness. They make a Cadillac margarine that is meant to be in the meal. Their salsa is one of my all-time favorites, but I might be biased since I grew up with it. It’s always homemade, so different levels of spice (which I like when it’s added there). They’ve added some newer items to the menu in recent years that I don’t find to be as great, but the original combo plates won’t disappoint. It’s also pretty cost-friendly, so this was a weekly meal with my friends from high school.
296 E. 17 St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-7626, www.micasa1.com
– Nathan Mulhern
Las Fuentes in Reseda! Or Melodies right across the street. They are owned by the same family and the food is delicious! They are both local joints that are always busy. The decor at both is really fun and both have been around for years. I know no one thinks of Reseda to buy some good food but it’s worth the trip. Portions are generous, salsa is authentic. I love the caldo de exploration in Melodies and the banh tet in Las Fuentes. We celebrated birthdays there, and it’s always a bit with out-of-town guests.
18415 Vanowen St., Reseda, (818) 708-3344, lasfuentes.com
– Danielle Moreno
https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-09-23/classic-mexican-restaurants-los-angeles-reader-favorites L.A. locals share their favorite classic Mexican restaurants