El Chavo, the Silver Lake Mexican restaurant that's been open since 1966 and is known for its margaritas and celebrity fans -- Dolly Parton used to hang here after shooting her variety show down the street -- has officially reopened after closing late last year.
Freddy Vargas, executive chef at Scarpetta, Octavio Olivas of the Ceviche Project, and Brandyn Tepper from Cocktail Academy have the keys to the restaurant, and the adjacent bar, at least for the next six months. The three have come together to open a pop-up restaurant in El Chavo, as well as a bar next door, called Chavito.
Vargas has created an entirely new menu with short rib quesadillas, potato tacos, guacamole with pig ears, tinga chicken wings and his take on tortas and tamales.
In the back corner of the dining room, under a pink neon sign that reads "ceviche bar," Olivas has set up a raw bar where he's making ceviches, the most elaborate of which are topped with yuzu habanero sorbet and served in a coconut shell.
Tepper's cocktail program includes classic margaritas and Palomas and $12 signature cocktails such as the Rita Morena, made with mezcal, salted strawberry, ancho chile, lemon and cucumber. He's also got an impressive selection of mezcal behind the restaurant bar and in Chavito, and plans to offer mezcal flights in the near future.
Gone are the pinatas in the dining room and the mini-Dolly Parton shrine, moved to make room for art from multiple local artists, all of whom responded to an open call for artwork in the restaurant. At Chavito are colorful murals and one particularly striking piece depicting an ornately decorated Day of the Dead skull.
If you spent many a night on the back patio, don't worry, it's still there, ready for the spring weather.
There may be new artwork on the walls and pig ears on the menu, but it still feels like that same neighborhood Mexican restaurant — where you may have stumbled in, on multiple occasions, for a couple of margaritas and some tacos. The drinks at the bar are still relatively inexpensive, especially during happy hour. Every day from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., margaritas, old-fashioneds and Moscow mules are $5;, you can get a quesadilla or chicken wings for $5, and a $3 beer.
Oh and those Bandera shots? They're still there too, available with a beer and three oysters for $10.
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