Mexican Food: Spanglicious

Sure, that’s processed cheese on your beans, but these old-school spots have melted our hearts as well


Photograph byLisa Romerein

We’ve seen dogs smaller than the over-the-top burrito mutations at El Tepeyac Café (812 N. Evergreen Ave., East L.A., 323-268-1960). Weighing only slightly less than a Labrador retriever, the Hollenbeck is legendary. The flamboyant decor at El Conquistador (3701 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-666-5136) changes with the seasons. Fishbowl-size margaritas at the upstairs bar are only enhanced by the strobe lights and larger-than-life foam spiders around Halloween.  

Opened in 1923, the original El Cholo (1121 S. Western Ave., L.A., 323-734-2773) claims to have invented nachos. Its green corn tamales were the first ones we ever had, and they’re still our favorites. El Coyote Cafe (7312 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-939-2255) has been serving chiles rellenos with spaghetti on the side for 79 years. Bonus points for the pyrotechnics at El Compadre (7408 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-874-7924), where the margaritas are set on fire.

With chile pepper lights strung over the bar and a kitschy ’60s sign, Santa Monica’s Casa Escobar (2500 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-828-1315) is a retro Mexican paradise. The spinach enchiladas aren’t shabby, either. That darn Tito’s Tacos (11222 Washington Pl., Culver City, 310-391-5780) jingle is stuck in our heads. (Don’t recall? Visit the Web site, and turn the volume way up.) It’s true: The only thing better here than an orange-cheese-topped, shredded beef taco is, well, two.

Celebrities love the way the low light and the deafening noise level at Casa Vega (13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-4868) keep them incognito. We love the ’50s vibe, the deep-fried burrito, and how we can’t feel our legs after one margarita. The nacho yellow exterior of Mucho Mas (10405 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-980-0300) is fitting. The hot order? Camarones costa azul: shrimp stuffed with imitation crab and cheese, wrapped in bacon, and served with fries. ’Nuff said.