Best mexican food in the valley

If you're looking for the best Mexican food in the valley, look no further than La Fonda. This restaurant has been around since 1939 and is a staple of the area. You can't go wrong with their chicken enchiladas
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Best mexican food in the valley

One of many household actions that has helped go the times through the pressured quarantining of the pandemic has been taking discipline journeys with my daughter, each couple of weeks, to the Me Gusta Gourmand Tamales manufacturing facility within the north San Fernando Valley. (Positioned at 13754 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, 818-896-8789, familycuisine.web, for many who may be curious.)

We go there as a result of my daughter lives for tamales, perhaps her favourite meals on the earth other than Carmela Chocolate Sorbet. We usually purchase a bagful of tamales, all the time rooster, and all the time pineapple. They freeze very properly. And together with the quesadillas we make at residence, my wonderful rooster mole, and my tasty guacamole, they offer us a style of the Mexican cooking we crave as Southern Californians. Greater than hamburgers and sizzling canine, that is the delicacies of our a part of the world. And really reassuring and soul-satisfying it’s too.

Reading: Best mexican food in the valley

Like lots of the greatest Mexican meals experiences, tamales are simple, informal, simply plain tasty they usually don’t demand a substantial amount of formal consideration. They carry again so many recollections: There have been the elote corn muffins, as an illustration, which girls promote from baskets they stick with it high of their heads in cities approach down south on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. There have been the rapidly grilled steaks which I’d eat within the market simply off the Plaza de Garibaldi — mariachi sq. — in Mexico Metropolis, which include rapidly braised inexperienced onions referred to as cebollitas. There was a purple snapper, pulled recent from the Sea of Cortez, rushed to a pan, after which to my desk, on a small peninsula referred to as Isla de las Piedras, simply off Mazatlán. After which there have been the grasshoppers — chapulines — I turned so keen on munching on as I’d stroll across the Mercado de los Indios in Oaxaca.

I’d be lower than sincere to not admit that the grasshoppers I’d munch on down in Oaxaca had been actually excellent. They had been offered from giant baskets by girls who’d hunker down close to entranceways to the market. Folks would purchase a small paper bundle of grasshoppers to eat as a snack as they shopped, or to take residence as a deal with for the children. The grasshoppers had been comparatively small, not a lot bigger than M&Ms, and sprinkled with salt, chili powder and a little bit of lime juice.

I bear in mind feeling very courageous and adventurous after I purchased my first bundle of grasshoppers. I additionally bear in mind taking a tentative nibble on a leg and discovering it edible, earlier than shifting on to extra vital components of the insect. They jogged my memory of croutons of their style and texture, and though they haven’t develop into a mainstay of my food regimen, for me consuming grasshoppers is a socially acceptable observe.

Grasshoppers are discovered within the Mexican eating places of Los Angeles, however not in a lot of them. A lot of our native eating places do carry dishes that break free from the litany of tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Not that there’s something unsuitable with tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Or tamales both. That is consolation meals at its best.

And, as with Me Gusta, the meals travels very nicely. Whereas there may be some getting out and about nowadays, we could also be principally caught at residence a bit longer. Use some salsa to offer your life the spice it desperately wants. A face filled with sizzling peppers does wonders to distract you from bingeing on the information. An excessive amount of CNN will be poisonous. An excessive amount of salsa — not a lot. And it’s good for you too!

For this fastidiously curated checklist, allow us to start with a style of the previous:

Casa Vega

13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-788-4868, familycuisine.web

Right here’s an homage to a restaurant that’s been serving tacos and enchiladas to a loyal following for greater than six many years. Because it says on the web site: “Casa Vega is…one of the longest continuously family owned restaurants in all of greater Los Angeles. Casa Vega’s roots go back to famous Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. Rafael “Ray” Vega opened Casa Vega in 1956 after being impressed by the success of his mother and father’ earlier restaurant, Café Caliente, which was on Olvera Road and operated all through the Nineteen Thirties.”

That is — very like Lawry’s, Musso & Frank, El Cholo, Phillipe the Authentic and plenty of different native legends — a restaurant that, eventually, all of us go to. It’s a part of our culinary heritage, the thread that runs by means of life in Southern California for longer even than the freeways.

Casa Vega stays a wonderful place to go for the Mexican dishes so many people grew up with. And what I grew up with was the notion that Mexican meals existed virtually solely as a mix plate. There’s far more right here, in fact. In the midst of the menu, there it’s — the #1 Home Mixture and the #2 Home Specialty Mixture. Each embrace Spanish rice and refried beans (and the inevitable chips and salsa as nicely), and a selection of two dishes for #1, or three dishes for #2, chosen from a best hits checklist of enchiladas, tacos, tamales and rellenos.

The candy corn tamale is all the time a sensible choice; ditto the grilled chile relleno. One chunk and the years fade away. The guacamole is nice, freshly made, not chopped an excessive amount of — and chopped much less within the hand-chopped choice.

I’ve a closet love of queso fundido, which does little to assist my food regimen, however does a lot to sooth my soul. It’s mainly a plate of melted cheeses, with bitter cream added on for good measure, and beef chorizo.

There are two appetizer combos — sufficient chow for a lightweight meal shared by two, with a margie or two added on for good measure. These in want of one thing extra critical would possibly head for the pollo en mole — with a selection of purple or inexperienced mole. Or perhaps the seafood enchiladas, stuffed variously with crab, shrimp and lobster. There’s no ceviche on the menu. However there’s a shrimp cocktail that comes shut.

Casa Vega opened in 1956, and the Ventura Freeway adopted in 1960. To pre-date the 101 is a tremendous accomplishment. It’s an ideal factor.


10717 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake; 818-927-4210, familycuisine.web

This isn’t the Tex-Mex, enchilada-and-taco, rice-and-beans chow from again within the day. That is Mexican cooking with an edge, with model, with panache — drawn from a menu that can make you need to order every little thing you possibly can, at costs that (just like the photographs of tequila) can add up for those who go hog wild.

And talking of hogs, probably the most wonderful guacamole comes 3 ways — basic model, topped with slices of radish and combined with smoked bacon, which provides each taste (a lot of taste, each bacon makes every little thing style higher!) and texture. Crunchy guacamole is a enjoyable idea — extra eating places ought to give it a attempt.

Ditto the scallop agua chile, a really tasty variation on the far more frequent shrimp agua chile, which is actually a dish of crudo marinated in a sauce that’s each acidic (to “cook” the seafood) and doubtlessly very spicy. Although my sense right here is that the kitchen’s opted to show down the fireplace a notch or two — which is smart; the fragile taste of excellent high quality scallops can be overwhelmed by an excessive amount of pepper.

The scallops sit on the part of the menu devoted to ceviches, 5 of them, although solely the albacore ceviche tostaditas are from the standard college of ceviches. The remainder run to a lobster and beet ceviche, and a dish of marinated white anchovies with avocado and lime. There’s a shrimp cocktail too, solely on this case, made with a charred tomato sauce. Small touches like that — culinary trim tabs which might be small, but change the entire dish — are all over the place: within the jicama and pepitas within the burrata salad, the lemon-goat cheese cream with the beet salad, the maitake mushrooms used within the tostadas, the chile honey sauce with the fried rooster, the roasted radishes (sure, radishes once more!) with the braised pork carnitas, the tangy cotija cheese in each the roasted cauliflower and the sautéed string beans.

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There’s a style for the various peppers of Mexico right here — you’ll discover morita chiles on the menu, together with chile verde, guajillo, chile arbol, serrano and the namesake cascabel chile.

If there are dishes I dream of, together with the room itself, they might be the Mexican corn bread topped with melt-in-your-mouth quick ribs, pico de gallo and salsa verde. And the Mazatlán bouillabaisse of mussels, shrimp, scalper and scallops with white beans — kind of a south of the border tackle what you’d get for those who mixed bouillabaisse with cassoulet.

Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian

14902 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys; 818-786-0328

Have you ever ever had a cemita? There are cemitas to be discovered throughout Los Angeles. However as a rule, you need to go to a cemitas store, a cemitas stand or a cemitas truck to seek out one. It’s a bit like a sizzling canine — although it might seem on a restaurant menu, it most likely received’t. And, certainly, many of the locations that supply cemitas, provide principally cemitas, maybe with a smattering of tacos. However principally, this isn’t a dish buried amongst a large number of different dishes. It’s a cemita — and those that starvation for a cemita need solely a cemita, need solely a cemita.

And what’s this wondrous dish, for which followers have an obsessive want that has them ready on lengthy traces for his or her culinary object of want? It’s…a sandwich. A torta. A dish eaten by hand — although it is going to very presumably crumble, and crumble into the basket by which it’s served, for the cemita will not be a easy sandwich.

This isn’t a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on white bread. It is a dish a lot beloved within the metropolis of Pueblo, which is why it’s referred to as a cemita Poblana. The bread is a softish roll, made with egg, which provides it a brioche-like texture. The roll is commonly seeded. However principally, the roll is stuffed, packed, stuffed, jammed with…stuff. Nearly actually there’s avocado, onion and chiles (both jalapeños or chipotle). It could have cilantro and radish.

If in season, it is going to have an arugula like herb referred to as papalo. And, in fact, it is going to have meat and cheese, a world of meat and cheese. Although on the menu on the Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian on Victory Boulevard, there’s the choice of getting your cemita “traditional” model, with no meat — sin carne. The place ought to the cemita novice start? Properly, the pollo adobado cemita is a superb starter — a marinated rooster sandwich with all of the fixin’s.

There’s a breaded rooster (Milanesa de polo) as nicely. And the lamb barbacoa is a factor of marvel — so moist, so nicely spiced, so substantial.

You’ll discover lots of the cemitas are made with head cheese, which is a little bit of an acquired style, a bit like Spam — you adore it…otherwise you don’t. In case you really feel like The Huge Cemita, get the “La de 100 Percent,” made with 5 meats!

Mariscos Puerto Angel

16856 Sherman Manner, Van Nuys; 818-988-2700

The menu, in depth as it’s, evokes a good quantity of over-ordering. Did I would like each a ceviche and a seafood cocktail? Not likely, since they’re shut culinary cousins. However the costs are so good, I couldn’t resist. You may get uncooked oysters, together with pata de mula, which interprets as “mule’s foot,” and is also referred to as a “blood clam,” due to the purple coloration of its liquor — a shellfish not typically present in LA. However right here it’s. You may get it in a cocktail in addition to uncooked on the half shell. For these of us who like our seafood raw, it is a little bit of heaven.

And for many who want a modicum of warmth, no worries. The fish tacos served right here, totally greaseless and really tender, make me marvel what I’ve been consuming within the multitude of “I Heart Fish Tacos” joints on the market. Ditto the tostadas, topped right here with shrimp, octopus and a mixture of fish and shellfish. The expertise is certainly one of consuming the true deal, the meals discovered at a very good informal fish home approach south of the border, that offers you an thought of how sadly Americanized a lot of what we eat will be.

Although it’s simple, and tempting, to eat small dishes right here, there are 18 plates as nicely, all served with rice, French fries and salad, constructed round a properly cooked little bit of seafood — a lot of shrimp dishes (the shrimp in garlic sauce is about nearly as good because it will get, the grilled shrimp blessedly undercooked), as much as large combos just like the shrimp, octopus, abalone and clams.

And when you’ve got a craving, do get one of many large caldos, soup-stews full of a lot of the menu, from a easy fish soup, as much as a Seven Seas Soup that covers all bases. Do watch out with the crab legs, which may splatter, and go away stains that don’t wash out with ease, if in any respect.

Melody’s Mexican Kitchen

6747 Reseda Blvd., Reseda; 818-609-9062, familycuisine.web/restaurant/melodys_mexican_kitchen_home.html

As at Café Vega, Melody’s Mexican admirably clings to its roots prior to now. It is a restaurant that does most every little thing it does the outdated approach — a approach that brings again fantastic recollections of huge plates of rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas, with infinite quantities of sundry salsas and condiments from a handy self-service bar, and substantial parts of nearly each dish discovered within the Northern Mexican canon of dishes.

I suppose you possibly can order mild at Melody’s — although it isn’t simple. There are 10 platos fuertes, and about the identical variety of combinaciones — dishes that can go away you well-filled even hours later. Think about the retro pleasures of the enchilada and exhausting shell taco combo, as an illustration, with a selection of meats within the taco, made utilizing that eternally crunchy taco shell all of us grew up with, that’s been changed for thus many with a delicate taco shell. It tastes, merely talking, of historical past. And it falls aside if you chunk into it. Identical to it did again within the day.

If you wish to additional expertise the power of the kitchen at Melody’s to maximise any of the dishes, attempt one of many seven tortas — tasty Mexican sandwiches on crunchy French rolls — the most important of which is the Reseda Particular, a gut-buster of a sandwich full of chopped steak, grilled onions, mushrooms, Monterey Jack and mayonnaise, with an accompaniment of beans, bitter cream, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and avocado. It prices all of $6.85. Ending all of it will be critical labor.

The menu rambles from delicate shell tacos to exhausting shells, from quesadillas (attempt the mannequin with poblano chiles, very tasty) to tostadas — certainly one of which, the salpicon tostada, is described as “Our Known Specialty.” The tostada verde presents the annotation, “This Will Become a Favorite.” That is the kind of pleasantly naïve menu writing that warms the cockles of the outdated coronary heart.

If there’s a single dish that dominates the menu, it will be the burritos, which method the scale of the fabled Hollenbeck Burrito served at Manuel’s Authentic El Tepeyac Café in East LA, which isn’t a lot a dish as it’s a building venture. There are burritos served dry, and burritos served moist (topped with cheese and salsa), although in all circumstances, they’re far too large, and too messy, to really decide up and eat like a sandwich.

A burrito mojado de pollo just about took up the entire plate — and it wasn’t a small plate. There was a substantial topping of gentle ranchero sauce, and stretchy melted jack, protecting a softish tortilla, within which was what appeared to be a minimum of half a rooster breast, lower up, and ready for salsa and cilantro and chopped onions from the salsa bar.

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The presence of rice and beans is ubiquitous. And the beans are sincere and thick — these aren’t nouvelle beans, however the kind of beans you would possibly discover at a stand in a Mexican market. Which is to say, wealthy with taste and texture, beans in excelsis.

Rosarito Fish Market Deli

1534 San Fernando Highway, San Fernando, 818-361-7227, familycuisine.web/flashmobile/productdisplay.aspx?loc=1382

The a lot beloved — and for good motive — Rosarito is much less a market, and fewer a deli, than it’s a massively widespread, noisy, cheerful, joyous fish home. It’s a restaurant that wouldn’t be misplaced on the seaside in Mazatlán, or close to the bars in Cabo. Coming upon it in a San Fernando mini-mall can be a shock — had been it not that so many nice eating places within the Valley are present in mini-malls.

In case you crave simplicity, and a kind of culinary purity, you’ll do nicely going for the seafood cocteles — large ice cream sundae glass, full of fish stuff, onions, lime and sauce. There are eight of them, all of them providing you with lots of fish for the cash, all coming in two sizes: medium and huge. (There may be not a small. Form of like olives.)

Many of the cocteles embrace camarones — shrimp — completely textured, totally flavored, nothing bland right here. You may get the camarones all by themselves if you want. Or combined with octopus, oysters and abalone. Including oysters makes for a enjoyable mixture of textures. Including octopus and particularly abalone makes for a chewy expertise. Not a nasty one. However the abalone specifically tends to wish some masticating. It all the time does.

There are lime slices on the plates, together with a tostada, and a few little plastic packages of crackers. You get crackers with just about each dish on the menu. I suppose it’s only a custom. And certainly, these tostadas will also be discovered as a dish on the menu, topped with a dozen completely different seafood choices — together with imitation crab (I don’t love surimi, however I suppose it’s how it’s goes nowadays; actual crab is changing into a critical luxurious merchandise, and pretend retains getting extra actual) and my favourite Mexican seafood dish, aguachile, which I’ve beloved since I first encountered it lo’ these a few years in the past.

In case you haven’t encountered the wonders of aguachile, in its unique type it was simply camarones (in fact!) flavored with chile peppers, lime juice, salt, cilantro, cucumber and onion. It’s primarily ceviche, however with much more warmth — it may be downright flamable when it comes to peppery goodness. At Rosarito, it comes six methods — conventional camarones, camarones with octopus, camarones with scallops (*callo de hacha”), camarones with octopus and abalone and so forth. It’s a type of dishes that appears too sizzling to eat on first chunk. However then, your mouth settles in for the experience. And it’s a great one.

Sol y Luna

19601 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; 818-343-8488, familycuisine.web/restaurant/sol_y_luna_home.html

For a restaurant that solely dates again to 2004, it has the look of a venerable culinary establishment that’s been round for many years, centuries even. It’s a basic Mexican restaurant, a restaurant of the old-fashioned, with a many-paged menu of small dishes (“botanas” — not all of that are particularly small), ensaladas y tostadas, sopas, platos fuertes, Molcajete Sol y Luna, seafood, platos populares, burritos, rolled specialties, a la carta, seasonal, aspect orders, desserts and naturally, a full line of margaritas, and tequila-based drinks.

There are, as is commonly the case, simple methods to cope with the sprawl of the menu. For openers (and maybe for the entire meal), get the appetizer platter (“serves 2 to 4,” it says) of quesadilla, sopes with carnitas, mini potato and chorizo tacos, rooster wings, nachos, taquitos dorados, flautas, beans, bitter cream, guacamole, cotija cheese and pico de gallo. Plus the requisite chips and salsa. Which is a reasonably large feed.

After all there’s an outsized order of nachos — that fairly nicely goes with out saying, for Mexican eating places of the old-fashioned like to create nachos mountains that tower over the desk. On this case, the corn chips are topped with refried beans and melted cheese, ranchera sauce and guacamole, bitter cream and pico de gallo — with the choice of tricking the entire thing up with steak, shredded beef, carnitas, rooster or shrimp. As soon as once more, it might be a meal in itself. However for many, it’s just the start.

If you wish to keep on the lighter aspect of the menu (the place the choices are a bit restricted), attempt the massive bowl of ceviche, made with both shrimp or fish. The grilled halibut salad is a lighter choice as nicely. And clearly, so is the “Light & Delicious Fish Mexican Salad” — the fish is grilled, however the salad is made with jack and cotija cheese as nicely. Let’s simply say, it’s lighter than most. However then, this isn’t a restaurant constructed round culinary denial.

That is the place you go for abundance. Which is outlined by the Molcajete Sol y Luna — a dish for 2, or three, served on a sizzling stone — steak and rooster, shrimp, cactus leaves and panela cheese, scallions and peppers, rice and a selection of three beans, and naturally tortillas. It’s not a lot a dish as it’s a present.

And although it’s the most important dish on the menu, it’s not the one main plate. I just like the pescado a la parrilla — a complete grilled trout, served with veggies cooked in garlic butter. The camarones a la diabla are correctly spicy. And the dozen or so burritos refill the plates upon which they arrive.

If in case you have room, the flan is simply wonderful. And the crème brulee — referred to as “jericalla” — is a deal with. There’s Jell-O underneath the desserts as nicely. Like I mentioned, old style. A lot older than 2004.

XOC Tequila Grill

The Village at Westfield Topanga, 6316 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-992-7930, familycuisine.web

Together with “tequila,” the restaurant’s title consists of the phrase “grill.” And “grill” is the dominant theme right here, for the menu is lengthy and complicated, virtually encyclopedic in its depth.

There’s a gap web page that describes (in very small sort) the roots of Mexican cooking in Mayan delicacies, which gave us maize, tomatoes, tomatillos, cocoa, beans, avocados, chiles and extra. We’re advised XOC was a Mayan queen. And the décor of the restaurant echoes the Mayan pyramids and open-air markets.

The menu says, “Dare to explore.” And so, we do. What we give you is a nifty platter of crispy tostaditos the scale of Ritz crackers, topped with ceviche, shrimp and ahi, with guacamole on the aspect. There’s a Caesar salad ready tableside, within the model of Caesar Cardini of Tijuana. There’s a wonderful mole poblano from Oaxaca, a dish with deep Mayan roots, and a platter of cochinita pork from the Yucatan.

There’s a complete part of ceviches — and sure, I do know they arrive from Peru, but it surely’s good to have them anyway. And together with the ceviches, there’s an unexpectedly giant assortment of seafood dishes, although I’m by no means certain that both salmon or mahi-mahi had been recognized to the Mayans. The dishes are well-crafted — even the complimentary chips are further crunchy, and are available in a brown paper bag, with an enormous bowl of hard-to-resist salsa.

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance eating critic. E mail

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