A very old, sexy, dark tequila bar hidden behind thick, red curtains in an unassuming storefront on West Third Street near Fairfax, El Carmen has a Mexican wrestling motif on the curved ceiling — and, beneath it, one of the best happy hours in the city. The deliciously tart house margaritas would be shockingly good even if they weren't a mere $5 — no sickly sweet sour mix here — and you can't help but love the idea of a $3 Tecate in this pricey city. But it's the food that really sets El Carmen apart: From 5 to 7 p.m., a quesadilla is just $4; guacamole, $2; and a combo plate of two tacos (carnitas or chicken), plus rice and beans, just $5. You'd pay more for fast food. And did we mention this place is way cooler — and tastier — than McDonald's? The regular menu is worth checking out, too, if rock-bottom bargains aren't your thing. 8138 W. Third St., Fairfax District. (323) 852-1552, elcarmenrestaurant.com.
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