Rustic minimalism may be the preferred aesthetic at trendy L.A. restaurants, but not when it comes to old-school Mexican joints. At El Conquistador in Silver Lake, the garish seasonal decor is legendary. During Easter, stuffed bunnies overrun the dining room. On Cinco de Mayo, expect an explosion of red, white, and green. Subtlety? What’s that? Platinum-haired host Ricardo De La Torre is as well known for his saucy one-liners as he is for his pearl necklaces and suits, ranging from satiny neutrals to blinding brights, accessorized according to his mood. Your mood should be good. The margaritas are so potent, many patrons don’t make it to the food.
Stained-glass windows with a flower pattern, like a skylight infused with color, wrap around the main dining room. During lunchtime and happy hour, they become spotlights—blurry ones when tequila is involved.
Local artist Tom DeMille’s paintings of Liza Minnelli and Marilyn Monroe get the most attention—and they’re for sale. “These are female icons,” De La Torre insists. “Not drag queens.”
Below a giant chandelier a sequin-covered pillar stands in the center of the room with a large floral arrangement perched on top. Crimson swags draped from the ceiling add to the theatricality.
OVER-THE-TOP MEXICAN SPOTS
1. Maria's Ramada
At this tchotchke hoarder's tiki paradise, Latin music is always on the jukebox, but it's beer and wine only.
2. El Chavo
Day-Glo sombreros and year-round Christmas lights fight for space with a shrine to Dolly Parton.
» Silver Lake
3. La Velvet Margarita
Blue velvet booths and black velvet paintings mesh Tijuana glitz and Las Vegas glamour.