By the time Francisco and Patricia Jimenez opened their small restaurant, La Cabañita, in 1989, they were out of funds to buy food for the kitchen. No matter—they were so certain of their eventual success, they sold many of their personal effects to finish opening. Their dedication has decidedly paid off: in 2002, La Cabañita moved from a space that seats 40 to one that seats more than 100, fueled by the popularity of its boldly spiced, traditional Mexican specialties. (More recently, it's also added breakfast.) A luminous mural covering Mexican history spans one long wall, adding a sense of depth to a room filled with rustic wooden furniture and framed photos.
Most of the family recipes at La Cabañita come from Francisco's mother. Starting at 7 a.m., the kitchen turns out homey dishes that, unlike stirring your coffee with a jalapeño, start the day off on a deliciously spicy note—chilaquiles, eggs with chorizo, and chipotle omelets. The rest of the day brings staples such as stuffed poblanos and fajitas, along with soups and stews; the chicken soup and the pozole with hominy broth are perennial favorites. In 2011, LA Weekly had special praise for the tacos at "the pride of Montrose," noting: "Eating a meal of tacos at La Cabañita is the rough equivalent of a tasting menu: you get the opportunity to sample the kitchen's wide variety of excellent dishes."
Opening their first restaurant in 1994, the culinarily-inclined Abarca family carries on their nearly two-decade tradition of using fresh ingredients to craft classic Mexican cuisine at Tortas Mexico. Their stringent devotion to freshness surfaces in their decision to eschew lard, preservatives, and artificial additives in everything they prepare. They even go so far as to make their own salsas and guacamole from scratch every day. Fueled by this do-it-yourself mindset, they create their signature dish, the eponymous torta, by grilling together an inventive melange of ingredients—such as ham, pineapple, and cheeses—before nestling the the whole shebang between slices of authentic Mexican-style flatbread. In addition to these grilled sandwiches, they cook up traditional favorites such as burritos, enchiladas, and shrimp that can come with a variety of sauces. To accompany the South-of-the-border staples, they serve freshly squeezed juices, as well as more decadent options such as real-fruit smoothies and glasses of rich horchata.
Helmed by the Alambres family, Alambres Fresh Mexican Grill brings south-of-the-border flavors north with a menu of house-made Mexican feasts. Every day, the chefs make fresh, from-scratch tortillas to stuff with flame-smacked carne asada or flavor-spiked grilled fish. The family caters to vegetarian tastes with a host of meat-free feasts, from fresh veggie-packed tacos and chimichangas to cheese enchiladas bursting with gooey cheese and seasoned balloon animals. The crew not only feeds hungry appetites inside the welcoming restaurant but also invites online orders for mobile nosh sessions.
Ask Lourdes Limon why her raspados taste so good. She'll say, "Por que los hice con amor"—"Because they're made with love." Now that her sons have taken over the family business, they use the same secret ingredient, but they've added a few new specialties. Supplementing the shaved ice treats that give them their name are freshly squeezed juices, chili-imbued slush-drinks, and healthy fruit salads. But the raspados remain the main event. Flavors include exotic fruit such as guava, tamarind, kiwi, and jamaica, as well as more decadent flavors such as caramel, egg nog, cookies and cream, and plain water.
Following a philosophy of health and sustainability, Sharky's stocks eco-conscious stomachs with a menu of organic Mexican fare such as sizzling fajitas, jam-packed burritos, and fresh salads. Chefs cook up cuts of California-grown mesquite grilled-chicken breast ($6.99 for a half plate; $9.99 for a full plate) and grilled organic tofu and vegetables ($6.99 for a half plate; $9.99 for a full plate) before patrons' eyes in the open kitchen's stone ovens, mesquite-fired grill top, or volcano-powered microwaves. Juicy cuts of wild salmon leap onto beds of nori and cabbage in a low-fat wild salmon lite burrito ($7.99), and a stacked chicken enchilada tastefully melds tomatillo sauce, four cheeses and chicken in a delightful, savory package of Latin-infused flavor ($7.99).
For the chefs at Peacha's, American cuisine isn't just burgers and fries––it's an amalgamation of many nations' cuisines. That's why they focus on two LA's most popular cuisines, including both Latin American favorites and traditional American staples. On the Latin side, they grill cuts of chicken and beef, as well as a medley of vegetables, which they then layer onto tostadas or into tacos or burritos. On the American side, they specialize in burgers and sandwiches. They craft classics such as philly cheesesteaks, and eight-ounce Angus beef burgers named after famous musicians. These come in varieties such as the Bob Marley—filled with fried chicken strips, avocado, and jalapeno ranch—or the Motley Crue with bacon and bleu cheese. Meals come paired with appropriate sides, whether it's black beans or crispy french fries.