FoodDaily Dish

14 best Mexican restaurants in Southern California, by Jonathan Gold

Lifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingRestaurantsCookingMexico CityUnivision (tv network)Cinco de Mayo

No places matches the breadth and depth of Mexican restaurants we have in Southern California, except Mexico City itself – and maybe not even there. You can find the cooking of almost every region in the country here, crafted at street-corner taco trucks as well as cutting-edge places like the new Corazon y Miel and Bizarra Capital.

Here are Los Angles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s choices for 14 of the most essential places to try.

1. Babita: One of the most serious Mexican restaurants on the Eastside, a casual corner joint whose service is burnished to a white-tablecloth sheen. Chef-owner Roberto Berrelleza is especially gifted at the cuisine of his hometown of Los Mochis on the Sinaloa coast. 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-7265;

Photos: Best Mexican restaurants

2. Border Grill: More than 25 years later, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are still producing polished versions of great Mexican dishes. 1445 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655; and 445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 486-5171;

3. Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita: Where to go for unbeatable cemitas, Puebla-style hoagies of thinly pounded fried beef, avocado, chipotle chiles, and hand-shredded string cheese on sesame-seed rolls. 3010 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 881-0428.

4. Chichen Itza: The most serious Yucatecan restaurant in town is in a bustling cooperative marketplace near USC. 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 741-1075;

GUIDE: A map of Jonathan Gold's best Mexican restaurants

5. Coni’Seafood: The elusive Mexican seafood king Sergio Peñuelas, the master of Sinaloa-style pescado zarandeado, seems to have found a home. The aguachile is also the best in town. 3544 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood, (310) 672-2339.

6. El Borrego As de Oro: Time moves at an ovine pace at this Texcoco-style barbacoa joint. It may take the cooks half an hour to throw together a couple of tacos, but after you taste the crusty, crunchy bits of lamb, you won't mind a bit. 222 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 235-1880.

PHOTOS: 25 Cinco de Mayo recipes

7. El Huarache Azteca: Highland Park is becoming the local center of chilango cooking, with half a dozen restaurants specializing in the meats and snacks from the area around Mexico City, but El Huarache Azteca's huaraches are still the industry standard. 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 478-9572;

8. El Parian: Is the birria, roast kid in consomme, the best Mexican dish in Los Angeles? It just may be. 1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361.

9. Guelaguetza: This is where the whole Los Angeles Oaxacan fixation started, and it is still the best place to get your mole on. 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 427-0608;

10. Guisados: It’s only been open a couple of years, but the original location is already one of the essential restaurants in Boyle Heights. 2100 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 264-7201, and 1261 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 250-7600;

11. La Casita Mexicana: Univision chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu are rock stars east of the Los Angeles River, and their personal, vegetable-centered Jalisco dishes are worth the drive to Bell. The chiles en nogada is legendary. 4030 E. Gage Ave., Bell, (323) 773-1898;

12. Loteria Grill:  Jimmy Shaw’s spare modern dining room has a huge tequila selection and a first-rate nopales salad, great chilaquiles at breakfast, and soups, enchiladas and stewed meats inspired by the recipes of his mentor, Diana Kennedy. 12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 508-5300; also in Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Westlake Village;

13. Corazon y Miel: Former Animal sous chef Eduardo Ruiz applies classical technique to Mexican- and Central American-inspired dishes. 6626 Atlantic Ave., Bell, (323) 560-1776;

14. Bizarra Capital: The newest project of Ricardo Diaz, this Mexican-flavored gastropub continues his winning streak. 12706 Philadelphia St., Whittier, (562) 945-2426;


25 avocado recipes

31 of our favorite beers

Cinco de Mayo: Buy your avocadoes now!


Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Lifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingRestaurantsCookingMexico CityUnivision (tv network)Cinco de Mayo
  • Review: Corazon y Miel satisfies heart's desires
    Jonathan Gold | L.A. restaurant review: Corazón y Miel satisfies heart's desires

    "Corazón y miel," your waitress wants it to be known, is the signature dish of Corazón y Miel. Corazón y miel, hearts and honey, is a small bowl of warm, seared chicken hearts in a sweet, honeyed vinaigrette, tossed with a few slivers of onion, like a chicken heart escabeche. The grayish...

  • Jonathan Gold quiz: Dead meat on a stick
    Jonathan Gold quiz: Dead meat on a stick

    Did civilization begin at the moment when the first human impaled a bit of meat on a twig and charred it over a lightning fire? Claude Lévi-Strauss had a theory about it, we are sure, but we haven't taken an anthropology class for a long, long time. At any rate, the oldest form of cooking is...

  • Easy dinner recipes: Mac 'n' cheese ideas for Meatless Monday
    Easy dinner recipes: Mac 'n' cheese ideas for Meatless Monday

    Could it possibly get any better than mac 'n' cheese for dinner? Probably not. Which is why we've included not one, but three mac 'n' cheese recipe options for your dining pleasure. You're welcome.

  • 10 great L.A.-meets-Naples Margherita pizzas
    10 great L.A.-meets-Naples Margherita pizzas

    It’s hard to write about Los Angeles pizza without getting a little defensive. Non-Angelenos love to hate our city, and after they exhaust the topics of traffic and Hollywood, they accuse us of having no pizza. This is a preposterous accusation. Los Angeles may not have a storied regional...

  • For real apricot flavor, look beyond the apricot, with a half-dozen recipes
    For real apricot flavor, look beyond the apricot, with a half-dozen recipes

    Have you given up on fresh apricots? You’re not alone. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a source for those perfect little Blenheims, most apricots you’ll find at the farmers market are pretty disappointing. They’re varieties that are intended for drying and canning, and when eaten...

  • From Alain Passard, the beauty of a simple salad with a great sauce
    From Alain Passard, the beauty of a simple salad with a great sauce

    We go to great restaurants for magic, for an extraordinary experience that is beyond our reach as home cooks. And so how to explain that the single most memorable dish I had at Alain Passard's Michelin three-star restaurant l'Arpege in Paris was a salad, and one that you could make quite...