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Refinery 29’s “60 Best Mexican Restaurants” List is All Wrong
Refinery 29 is an e-commerce website that claims to be the “cornerstone of fashion, beauty, and shopping for a new generation.” Well, their “Best Of L.A.: 60 Mexican Restaurants Your Mouth Can’t Miss!” list—crammed full of places that push overpriced tableside “guac,” quesadillas made with store-bought flour tortillas, sizzling fajitas, giant burritos, crummy margarita mix, and combo plates covered in yellow cheese—is about as current as parachute pants, Members Only jackets, and shoulder pads.
While I love slurring pick-up lines at cougars over giant margaritas at Casa Vega, devouring crunchy tacos at Henry’s Tacos (yay, they’re still around!), and stuffing my face with a heap of nachos at Cabo Cantina just as much as any other Angeleno, L.A.’s Mexican food has grown up a bit since the 80s.
Refinery 29: let’s get some facts straight. First, we’ll tackle geography. If you’re highlighting Mexican restaurants, the food should be, y’know… Mexican. As in, of Mexico. You list Marix, but that’s Tex-Mex. (Yes, there’s a BIG difference.) And La Cevicheria? Guatemalan. And the ceviche chapin dish you recommend there literally means “Guatemalan ceviche.” (Chapin is a slang name for Guatemalans.) Although you did identify Malibu’s Café Habana as Cuban-Mexican, its “classics”—such as tofu enchiladas, blackened chicken, and Habana burrito—are neither Cuban nor Mexican.
The remainder of the list seems to mostly focus on hawkers of pocho (Mexican-American) cuisine, like veggie-quesadillas, baked enchiladas, chimichangas, and bottomless chips and salsa: El Chavo, Mexicali, El Coyote, Casablanca (definitely the winner for strangest menu in this round-up), Mexico City, and El Cholo, among others. You know there’s something wrong when Rosa Mexicano makes the list and the Oaxacan mainstay Guelaguetza is listed in “other notables.”
To Refinery 29’s credit, a small group of traditional Mexican restaurants were included in this poorly researched list, like Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Mariscos Jalisco, Loteria Grill, and Tacos Leo, which seem out of place amongst their gathering of what should be identified as pocho hotspots rather than actual Mexican restaurants.
All in all, I’d say you can use Refinery 29’s line-up mostly as a list of where NOT to go for authentic Mexican cuisine in L.A. Maybe they shouldn’t make editorial decisions over muchas Cadillac margaritas?