Our 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants issue came out last week, and we're highlighting a few categories drawing from the list. Today: Mexican restaurants.
This isn't every single Mexican spot on the list (there are a ton!), so make sure you check out the whole thing, but here are five of our favorites to get you started.
5. El Parian
The red potion here is the restaurant's much-lauded, Guadalajara-style birria: Long-simmered goat in a warm, slightly spicy consommé, served with freshly made tortillas and a plate of onions, cilantro and radishes reminiscent of the garnishes for that other soul-satisfying soup, pho.
4. Chichen Itza
The DMV field office near USC on South Hope might be the best DMV in Los Angeles. But that's not because the lines are any shorter, or the lighting any less raw. Instead, it has the distinct advantage of being across the street from the Mercado la Paloma -- and there, in this garment factory-turned-community space, you'll find Gilberto Cetina's Chichen Itza, a stand with an impressive menu of Yucatecan specialties.
There are so many things about Rocio's Moles de los Dioses that make it special -- yes, there are the moles, made by legendary mole queen Rocio Camacho, but there is also so, so much more. You might not expect, for instance, an amuse-bouche at a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall in Sun Valley, but you'll get one: a small taste of spicy shrimp broth topped with a fresh tortilla, brightness grounded with masa.
Stop by Guelaguetza on a Friday night and you're greeted by quite the party. The restaurant, which has been at the forefront of L.A.'s Oaxacan food scene for the last 20 years, is a sprawling enterprise, and on weekends it's packed with families, mainly sharing the giant platters of memelas, chorizo, tasajo and cecina, fried pork ribs and more.
Chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu deliver moles, chiles en nogada, fish cooked in banana leaves, chilaquiles for breakfast and emoladas for dinner, with a flair and precision befitting celebrity chefs. If you've never heard of them, it may be because you don't watch that much Spanish-language TV. But not to worry: The food will convert you to their fan base.
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