The Top 20 Mexican Restaurants In and Around L.A.

chefs awaiting awards

B. Hansenchefs awaiting awards

The latest list of best Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles comes from Sabores Auténticos de Mexico (Authentic Flavors of Mexico), a non-profit founded to promote authentic cooking outside of Mexico.

The awards were presented Tuesday at a cocktail party and dinner at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. Four of the 20 winners prepared the food. They were Frida, Guelaguetza, La Casita Mexicana and La Monarca Bakery (turn the page for the complete list of winners).

Because 2010 celebrates the bicentennial of Mexican independence and the centennial of the Mexican revolution, Sabores chose historical themes for awards dinners held in New York, Miami, Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles.

La Casita Mexicana's white fish wrapped in corn husks

B. HansenLa Casita Mexicana's white fish wrapped in corn husks

The L.A theme was foods from the revolution. At the reception, guests sipped a cocktail called mercenario (mercenary soldier), which combined pulque, mezcal, nixtamal, tejocote (a small fruit used in holiday ponche) and aloe and lemongrass syrup. Other cocktails incorporated such typical Mexican flavors as habanero chile, fresh corn, pineapple and vanilla. The appetizers were traditional corn-based snacks: quesadillas, taquitos and tostaditas.

Tables for the dinner were decorated with tall glass containers of dried chiles, beans and dried corn, which would have been basic sustenance for revolutionary troops and their followers.

Frida's red pozole started the dinner, followed by La Casita Mexicana's white fish wrapped in corn husks with a chile guajillo sauce, cactus and queso fresco, and Guelagueta's lamb cooked with red chiles, tomato, onion and sour orange juice in a maguey leaf.

Guelaguetza's lamb

B. HansenGuelaguetza's lamb

La Monarca's dessert table offered regional sweets including Michoacan style capirotada (bread pudding), northern style flan with cajeta and toasted pecans, guava paste with cheese on artisan bolillo crisps from Aguascaliantes, coconut candies from Morelia, and Puebla style polvorones (cookies) that were red, white and green like the Mexican flag.

The dinner wines were L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah and Chardonnay from Baja's Guadalupe Valley.

Before the dinner, chefs and restaurant owners received their awards. The winners qualified because they promote traditional cookery and use ingredients from Mexico. Each restaurant is listed for one location, although some have branches in other areas.

Los Angeles: Casa Sanchez, Chichén Itzá, Guelaguetza, La Serenata de Garibaldi, La Taquiza, Lotería Grill, Mr. Churro, Tacomienda, Yxta Cocina Mexicana,

Beverly Hills and Westside: Border Grill, Casablanca, Frida, La Sandía, Monte Alban.

Other areas: El Huarache Azteca, Highland Park; La Casita Mexicana, Bell; La Monarca Bakery, Commerce; Mariscos Chente's, Inglewood; Mariscos El Paisa, Lynwood.

Orange County: Raya, Laguna Niguel.

Michoacan capirotada

B. HansenMichoacan capirotada

Aguascalientes' guava paste and cheese on bolillo crisps

B. HansenAguascalientes' guava paste and cheese on bolillo crisps