Best Latin Restaurant-Turned-Nightclub to Pretend It's Your Quinceanera - 2011
The dance floor at El Baron — only a smidge smaller than the dining area, though it's tough to distinguish between them — will show you what you missed if you were never a Latina 15-year-old. Overhead is a motley crew of party lights (strobes, lasers, neon beams) while some twinkly 3-D palm trees burn through the haze of wet party fog. At any given moment, a Latin band might take over for the grateful house DJ, whose brow sweat is threatening to flood his salsa/reggaeton set. In a more sober state, you might call this place janky. But it's really just homemade. A wall projector blasts Mexican pop videos as you feast on steaming pupusas — a better specimen of which could only be found in a Pico-Union back alley — and the pickled sides and salsa (the relish, not the baile) come in giant Tupperware. Your chin-high margarita is equal parts tequila and sweetener. Your waitress, wearing big butterfly trinkets and an impossible buildup of mascara, communicates strictly in Spanish or hand gestures. And at night's end, the last scowling face might be the North Face hipster who thought he was the only white guy who'd discovered what parties are made of. 8641 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 841-6298.