La Cita still a good standby for 37 years

This column is usually dedicated to reviews of new or newish restaurants. Sometimes old classics need to be revisited to see if they're still serving up the goods. La Cita Restaurant, a fixture in the south Glendale area, is still going strong after 37 years with the same proprietor.

Nestled between an auto repair shop and a printing place, the quaint little casa with the cute sign might be missed as you zoom by industrial buildings on San Fernando Road. But if you do find it, say, on a trip to Home Depot, you'll think you've stepped back in time into a welcoming spot with red vinyl booths, a jukebox and some pretty darn good Mexican food. A charming patio, shaded by lime and avocado trees, sits just outside.

Right off the bat, they serve up two homemade salsas. The gutsy, blood-red one is made of tomatillos and roasted Japanese chiles. Japanese? That's what our waitress told us and she's been there 28 years, so she ought to know. The vibrant green salsa has chopped fresh jalapenos, green onions, cilantro and a bit of tomato. Really lively and surprisingly spicy.

It seems they know their chiles here and two big posters on the wall confirm it. One shows an impressive arrangement of dried chiles of the world, the other one shows fresh. My friend was pleasantly surprised at the amount of flavor in the long green Poblano or Anaheim of his Chile Relleno ($7.50). And their red chile enchilada sauce is rich and earthy. Viva los chiles!

Other than those notables, however, it was pretty standard Mexican fare. The meat didn't stand out, nor did the tortillas or rice. I really did not like the feeble salad with strange-tasting bottled ranch dressing. However, the refried beans were terrific especially with the red sauce on top. I couldn't tell though if the sauce was meant for the beans or the neighboring Huevos Rancheros ($7.25). I'm not a big fan of everything getting mixed together on plates of Mexican food. It feels like they're trying to hide something. At least the whole thing was not drenched in cheese. Instead, on some plates, they give a generous plop of good guacamole and rich sour cream.

We generally stuck with the basics — tacos, enchiladas, burritos — and they were respectable. I wonder how their more daring items are. They have various seafood caldos (soups) and cocteles (cocktails) ($10.25 to $12.95). There's menudo, cocida (specialty meat soups, both $6.95) and house specialties like chicken mole ($9.50) and Milanesa, a breaded meat filet ($11.95).

They're mainly a lunch place but are open for dinner on the weekends. Each morning (except Tuesday) they open at 9 a.m. but have only a few egg-based dishes and no special breakfast menu. Beer is served but no margaritas, an important detail for some diners.

La Cita, while authentic, is no La Cabanita. The food seems wholesome and not too fatty, but the flavors are nowhere near as complex as those at the Montrose mainstay. Here, it's more about the place than the food. Nonetheless, it makes me glad to know that La Cita (which, by the way, means "the appointment") is still meeting its customers' needs after all these years.

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Because of her husband's love of food from south of the border, LISA DUPUY and her family believe they have been to every Mexican restaurant in a 20-mile radius. She can be reached at ldupuy@aol.com.

Infobox

What: La Cita Restaurant

Where: 4608 San Fernando Road, Glendale

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday through Sunday, closed Tuesdays

Prices: Lunch specials $6.50; combination plates $7.25 to $10.95; tostadas and burritos $4.95 to $6.95; seafood, cocktails and soups $10.25 to $12.95

Contact: (818) 242-6423

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