Guisados began in 2010 as a small taco shop in Boyle Heights, with the idea of making Mexican food just like Mama used to make at home. Think meat and chilies in a simmering stew, usually served on warm homemade corn tortillas. The owners â" Armando De La Torre Sr. and his son Armando De La Torre Jr. â" made sure that their tacos were reasonably priced, charging $2.75 per taco for most. With favorites like Steak Picado, Cochinta Pibil, and Tinga de Pollo, it didn't take long for Guisados to catch on. Now there are five locations, including taquerias in West Hollywood, Downtown L.A., Echo Park and Burbank, with all the food still being made in Boyle Heights and transferred to the different locations. Some are also open late, so getting a cheap and delicious taco fix whenever the mood strikes is simple.
Barney's Beanery in Redondo Beach is the sixth (and most recently opened) outpost of the famed chili and Mexican eatery that opened in 1920. Nine decades later the West Hollywood original on Santa Monica Boulevard is going strong; this beachfront version has the added attraction of a great ocean view (be sure to look for the sea lions, they are one of Redondo's most popular residents). The menus at all Barney's are similar, ranging from chilaquiles and huevos rancheros for breakfast to massive plates of nachos and taquitos during Happy Hour to a wide range of Mexican classics (tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, tostadas and chimichangas) and that renowned chili served at any time you're in the mood. There's plenty of other more American fare on their vast menu and beer lovers will rejoice over all the different possibilities on offer. Take a craft-beer sampler flight or just order one of their massive 25-ounce steins; either way, it's a beer drinker's paradise here.
A mainstay of Mexican food in Los Angeles, El Coyote opened its doors in 1931 and this family-owned eatery has been making sure that Angelenos get their fill of tacos, burritos and margaritas ever since. The kitschy decor includes Christmas lights that burn all year round, giant sombreros and stained glass windows; it's a perfect decor for the groups that gather to sip their house-made sangria and chow down on their famous shrimp fajitas and ostrich tacos. If tequila is your drink of choice, be sure to visit on Margarita Mondays and Tequila Tuesdays, where drink specials flow freely. And keep your eyes out for celebrities, as everyone from Tim Burton to Edward Norton are fans of this California classic.
Looking for the real thing in Los Angeles? Then head to Culver City and Tito's Tacos, the legendary taco stand that has been dishing out addictive burritos and tacos since 1959. That's the reason you'll almost always see a line; they are usually long, but they move fast. This is a no-frills joint, serving up beef or bean tacos in a hard or soft shell, as well as burritos (try the one packed with chili con carne), enchiladas and tamales. You'll only find chicken in one dish, a tamale smothered with a green chili meat sauce. Go for the extra guacamole; even with that, you'll have a full meal for well under $10 here. Note that Tito's is cash only.
You'll always find delicious, authentic Mexican fare at Loteria Grill,. Well-stuffed burritos packed with beef, chicken, shrimp or pork are just the beginning â" try the albondigas (meatballs) in smoky chipotle sauce, tacos topped with zucchini and succotash or a huge platter of enchiladas. Lime-aid, watermelon juice, and even hibiscus flower tea help wash it all down, in addition to a margarita, cerveza or other specialty cocktails.
Surf on down to Hermosa Beach for a modern take on Mexican food, presented by Executive Chef Tin Vuong and Chef de Cuisine Ken Johnson at Dia de Campo. This spicy spot that calls itself a "Mexican surf lodge" opened early in 2014 and has been packing people in ever since. It's got an easy vibe, with communal tables, a raw bar and wood-fire-grill open kitchen, comfy booths and an overall beach casual feel. Standouts on this eclectic menu include guacamole served with marinated Dungeness crab, lusciously sweet chorizo stuffed dates, a juicy short-rib empanada and a spicy, mole-drenched whole fish designed for two or three to share. Go for raw or grilled oysters and duck quesadillas, and pair all with a "Borracho Bowl" " the "Yucatan Bowl" is filled with tequila, pineapple, lime and mandarin orange, serves six and goes for $65. That's sure to get the party started!
There are plenty of Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, but the three Mercado eateries are something special. The newest is in North Hollywood and it continues the traditions of the other two (in Santa Monica and on West Third Street), as Chef Jose Acevedo whips up modern Mexican food that keeps everyone coming back for more. His slow-cooked carnitas are wonderful, especially paired with Elote Callejero, grilled sweet corn mixed up with caramelized onions and chile piquin butter. Everything is served in the "small plates, large plates" style, so sharing is easy, although it is likely you'll want to keep all the Tacos de Camaron (grilled shrimp, jicama, Mexican slaw and tangy spices) to yourself. It's not surprising that everyone from trendy hipsters to families of five are found here; there's definitely something for everyone on Mercado's innovative Mexican menu.
Ortega 120 is the brainchild of chef Thomas Ortega and mixologist Demi Stevens. Together, they created this popular South Bay restaurant where first-rate Mexican food pairs with top-notch tequila drinks (yes, there are closer to 400 than 120 different tequilas at the bar here), creating a place where locals and tourists just cannot get enough of both. Order a pitcher of their classic house margarita and the whole table will soon be singing along with the band that is often playing here in the evenings. Or go for one of the craft tequila cocktails on offer, but be careful â" these go down like water! Pair your libation with one of the perfectly spiced main courses: there are "Platillos Tradicionales" like Enchiladas Verdes and Baja Style Fish Tacos, or Ortega 120's unique offerings, including the Lamb Shank Birria, Chile Braised Short Ribs or Duck Confit Chilaquiles. No matter what you choose, you cannot go wrong here.
Guelaguetza was recently honored by the James Beard Foundation, which awarded the Oaxacan eatery with its "America's Classic" honorarium. Given to a "restaurant with timeless appeal, beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community," there's little doubt that the foundation made a good choice with the restaurant that has been operating (somewhat ironically) in Koreatown since 1994. Simply sample one of their traditional Oaxaca entrees like the famed Mole Negro made with juicy chicken or the Costilla de Puerco Enchilada, pork ribs drenched in a spicy sauce, and you'll understand why. Go for breakfast, lunch or dinner; and enjoy live music just about every evening at this lively, family-run place.
The family-run Mexican restaurants known as El Cholo began in 1923, with a small place near the Memorial Coliseum (which opened that same year). Now there are six of them scattered across Southern California, all offering up the classics that have made El Cholo such a resounding success. You'll notice the dates on the menu that mark when a dish was first served: the seasonal (and unexpectedly sweet) Green Corn Tamales have always been on the menu and are not to be missed. Carmen's Original Nachos (from 1959) set the standard for that dish and we adore the Plato de Carnitas (1989), lush roasted pork paired with a tangy avocado relish. El Cholo is famous for their top-shelf margaritas, too, and proudly lay claim to being the first restaurant to use premium ingredients in their drinks.