If you’re looking for a classic burrito, a green corn tamale, or a margarita with a little kick, where do you go? Break out your sombrero, because these are the 10 best classic Mexican restaurants, with the kind of food and drink Los Angelenos were built to devour.
Marix Tex Mex
1108 N. Flores Street
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Additional location in Santa Monica
Serving authentic Tex-Mex San Antonio style, Marix Tex Mex has been dishing up puffy tacos filled with grilled shrimp, fried chicken, short ribs, and marinated pork carnitas since the 1980s. A cheerful cantina atmosphere includes stellar margaritas and micheladas. Whether at the original West Hollywood location or you choose to dine at their location near the beach, you’ll enjoy classics accompanied by vegan beans and herb green rice. The shrimp diablo is a killer at both locations, featuring Mexican white shrimp sautéed with onions and peppers in a vibrantly spicy chipotle chile salsa.
El Arco Iris
5684 York Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Local art adorns the walls at El Arco Iris, which began serving classic Mexican cuisine in 1964. House specialities here include the Carnitas, made with slow-cooked pork, the Chile Colorado with its tender beef in a well-balanced red chile sauce, and the Enchiladas de Mole, featuring beautifully spiced chicken or Jack cheese mixed with onions and topped with a rich and creamy mole sauce. This cozy, family owned Highland Park spot is also renowned for its Pescadora, a filet of fish prepared with butter and garlic, breaded, or sautéed with fresh vegetables.
11755 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
This West Los Angeles favorite features a rustic setting and ample patio seating, but it’s Don Antonio’s food, served since 1982, that draws the crowds. From appetizers such as the Queso Fundido, hot, rich melted cheese topped with chorizo and served with house-made corn or flour tortillas to shrimp fajitas featuring marinated shrimp, well seasoned bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, there’s something for everyone on this extensive menu. Unique to LA: the Birria, BBQ lamb with fresh cilantro and onions.
738 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
Renowned for their handmade tortillas since 1963, La Cabana also offers some 25 tequilas. With patio seating and the dulcet sounds of a guitar trio, this Venice mainstay is open until 3 a.m. nightly. That’s right: patrons can get their tacos on ‘til the wee hours, a rarity on the West Side. House margaritas include coconut, raspberry, and mango varieties. Large scale burritos are a house speciality, such as the El Verde, made with chicken, fish, or carnitas as well as beans, avocado, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese and the spicy house salsa verde. Don’t miss the Camarones Borrachos, tender shrimp in a fragrant, tequila-spiked sauce, or the soft beef tacos.
7312 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Bright with Christmas lights and adorned with Day of the Dead figures, El Coyote has been a West Hollywood mainstay since 1931. From the large, delicious signature tostada made with rice, beans, cheese, beets, peas, carrots, and avocado to the sweet green corn tamales made with fresh ground corn, green chiles, and sharp cheddar cheese, this classic Mexican cuisine is dished up by colorfully costumed servers in a lively, friendly atmosphere. Potent margaritas and on-draft cervezas? Si.
13301 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Opened in 1956, Casa Vega is a mainstay in the San Fernando Valley, serving tasty and ample combination platters such as the Special “Oven Style” Burrito made with either seasoned beef or chicken, refried beans, and melted Monterey Jack cheese, topped with the house salsa roja. Equally popular are the carnitas burrito and bean burrito. Along with the entrees, this stellar south-of-the-border dining establishment is known for its fresh guacamole, as well as many rich desserts and drinks. Check out the Churros de Rafael, made with a lush vanilla cream filling, and Senior’s Famous Mexican Coffee, made from a secret house recipe.
1121 Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Begun as the Sonora Cafe in 1923, by 1925 the name had been changed to El Cholo, and Los Angeles got its first classic Mexican dining spot. Now with additional locations in DTLA, Santa Monica, La Habra, Corona del Mar, and Anaheim Hills, it’s the original location that serves up 1920s era dishes in an historic atmosphere to match. Try the created-in-’23 Tostada Compuesta, piled with garden vegetables, cheese, and chorizo; follow this feast with the Chile Con Carne, a tender beef recipe created the same year. Or, snack on a cheese-laden nacho recipe first served in 1959. Either way, margaritas are a must-have: the La Flaca is crafted with Patron Silver, Patron Citronage Orange Liqueu, and fresh lime juice.
Lucy’s El Adobe
5536 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Located right across the street from Paramount Studios, photos of celebrities both famous and forgotten line the walls of this historic spot. Free chips and salsa, strong margaritas, and a large, pleasant patio contribute to the allure of Lucy’s El Adobe. This dark and convivial spot opened in 1964. Dine on fragrant lentil soup, crunchy shell tacos, and Arroz Con Pollo, well-seasoned chicken dish made with peppers. Beef lovers should try the BBQ taco, smoky, sweet, and packed with flavor.
7408 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Now with additional locations in Echo Park and DTLA, the original El Compadre in the heart of Hollywood isn’t the only location you can enjoy their fine Mexican fare. This family owned and operated establishment is renowned for their Flaming Margarita as well as their traditionally prepared dishes that go beyond standard burritos and tacos. Enjoy Enchiladas Estilo Guadalajara, made with chicken, sour cream, Mexican rice, and potatoes. Or try the Bistec Ranchero, fragrant sliced beef in a savory vegetable sauce. With live music and a romantically dark ambiance, El Compadre makes a great date-night destination.
La Seranata de Garibaldi
1842 E. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
While a second La Seranata outpost is now on the West Side, it’s the large and upscale East Side location that began in 1985, offering a wide variety of seafood and vegetarian dishes on the ample menu. Lard free, the house-made tortillas are baked daily, and the fish tacos are stuffed with fresh fish, avocado and cilantro. Don’t miss the sea bass Veracruzana with olives, capers, and roasted tomato. Featuring specialities such as salmon in avocado sauce, or a delicious fisherman’s soup, the restaurant has an elegant vibe and a menu extensive enough to keep diners tasting new dishes for many visits to come. Save room for dessert: the house-made Tres Leches cake is a treat.