There are more than 70,000 songs on the karaoke machine at Michael's Bar & Grill, so it goes without saying that the restaurant embraces variety. A glance at the menu cements this fact: Cajun specialties share page space with pub appetizers, burgers, and an Italian addendum, full of hand-tossed pizzas and pasta dishes. It's an eclectic list with diverse ingredients—alligator and crawfish among them—but each option is served until midnight every day.
True Louisiana culinary classics include etouffee, blackened catfish, and jambalaya, as well as sweet, sugar-topped beignets. Southern influence is seen in the sandwich selection as well, where tuna melts can be had alongside po' boys. Luckily, nightly entertainment gives guests an excuse to sample the distinctive eats while filling their eyes and ears—there's stand-up comedy on Tuesdays, trivia on Wednesdays, and karaoke on most other nights. The staff also makes a point to broadcast pro football games on their big-screen TVs, rather than just yelling the score every five minutes.
Big-time food critics don?t usually write about fast-casual joints, saving their words instead for Michelin-starred spots with white tablecloths. But they've made a telling exception for Se?or Fish, a Mexican-seafood outfit launched by siblings Enrique and Alicia Ramirez in 1988. Soon after the restaurant opened, writers from publications such as the Los Angeles Times began to praise the Ramirez's fish tacos, which were inspired by those sold along the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Crowds began flocking to Se?or Fish's tiny Highland Park kiosk, hungering for the ocean-fresh fish and handmade tortillas they?d read about in the papers.
Three decades later, diners are still flocking to Se?or Fish, which has evolved into five popular locations throughout LA. Enrique and Alicia remain deeply involved in the restaurants' daily operations. We talked with Enrique about the highlights of his iconic eatery.
On Finding Fame: ?[In 1988], a top reviewer from the Los Angeles Times reviewed us. Once we got that review, tons of people started reviewing us?Molly O'Neill, a food critic in New York City, did a story on us on the front page of the food section in The New York Times. Afterwards, when people were on vacation [from New York] and came to eat, they?d mention it.?
On the Scallop Taco "Not too many people have ever had a scallop in a taco. It?s kind of a novelty. We use 10-20 scallops, which means there are 10-20 per pound, so it?s kind of jumbo scallop. And all of our seafood is wild?free-range from the ocean?as opposed to farmed."
On Guadalajara-Style Carnitas "Our carnitas are traditional to Guadalajara, where our family is from. We make it every day and use good-quality, expensive protein."
In 1981, siblings Enrique and Alicia Ramirez opened a small street-side taco stand and began to re-create the dishes of their childhood. The duo grew up in Los Angeles, although their family’s roots were in Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Everything was always made from scratch in the Ramirez household, including tortillas, salsas, beans, and ornamental doilies, so Enrique and Alicia made sure to uphold these DIY traditions at their eatery, Señor Fish.
In the last three decades, Señor Fish has expanded to include seven popular locations throughout LA, each earning regular praise from local media. Yet the siblings are still just as involved in the restaurants' daily operations, captaining kitchen crews as they fold freshly caught seafood into burritos, tacos, and ceviches.
Housed in the Little Tokyo branch of Señor Fish, La Cantina Tequila & Botanas Bar is the restaurant's lounge counterpart, with an extensive selection of premium tequilas and mezcals that complements small plates of tacos, tostadas, and taquitos. Guests linger over sips of Mexican beers on the spacious back patio, which twinkles beneath colorful strings of hanging lights. The cantina also regularly hosts a tequila class in which renowned mixologist David Fleisher leads students through tequila tastings, margarita recipes, and the creation of tequila-based sauces. Other nights, the bar opens its patio to DJed festivities, DJed dance parties, and DJed quilting races.
Nestled in the building that previously housed renowned restaurant Ponchito, which drew celebrities and even former president Ronald Reagan, Mission 261 is steeped in culinary tradition and a history of lavish entertainment. The restaurant continues that legacy, regaling diners with extravagant performances by the Dancing Fire Dance Company. The dancers dazzle eyes with Tahitian, hula, samba, and LED Glow performances dressed in Vegas-show-style garb, and conclude the evening with a glowing LED-light finale. During these grand displays, guests feast on a Hawaiian buffet of coconut shrimp, huli-huli chicken, and fire-roasted kalua pig.
Though the chefs experiment with Hawaiian cuisine, their specialty is a menu of finely crafted Cantonese delicacies. Dim sum and tea fill out the lunch menu, followed by entrees such as bird's nest soup and braised abalone with oyster sauce at dinnertime. Diners can also opt for traditional Chinese favorites including kung pao chicken, Peking-style pork chops, and sauteed scallops with chili peppers.
Their dining room is as expansive as their menu, with a series of banquet rooms and an outdoor patio?marked by dramatic architecture and photo-ready d?cor?that host up to 800 diners. This makes Mission 261 a go-to choice for those planning a wedding, family reunion, or impromptu chariot race.
Food critic Jonathan Gold advises approaching Wang Xing Ji’s crab and pork buns “cautiously, as if an undiffused bomb.” Seasoned patrons will understand and heed his advice––though the dumplings’ steaming contents are tasty, it’s best not to bite until the near-boiling juices cool.
Sure, it has some other tasty options—crab, shrimp, steak—but you'd be remiss to walk out of Newport Tan Cang Seafood without trying the house-specialty lobster. But this isn't your everyday butter-drizzled crustacean: the hefty pile of deep-fried lobster meat comes dressed with black pepper, scallions, and chilies.