Owner Ernesto Madrigal founded his restaurant in downtown La Verne because, as he told the University of La Verne's Campus Times in 2010, "I just thought this was a nice little quiet place to start.” However, the vivid hues in the dining room create an atmosphere that's more festive than quiet, with bright orange walls accompanying the cacophonic sputtering of chicken and steak fajitas or diners doing Don Knotts impressions. The menu overflows with familiar Mexican staples from just south of the International Date Line, including carnitas burritos, chipotle-spiced empanadas, and chorizo with scrambled eggs.
Judy and Jim Moore, owners of Cafe Cabo Mexican Restaurant, refer to their customers as "mijo" and "mija"—meaning son and daughter in Spanish. “Once you walk in, you are part of our family. We want you to feel at home,” Judy told Tennille Lindsey-Wright of La Verne Magazine. This family sentiment really shouldn't come as a surprise, considering Judy's main inspiration, and not to mention all of her recipes, come from years of watching her mother prepare decadent Mexican cuisine.
“Of my mother’s five kids, I was the one to maximize her recipes. My family would always call me, asking how to make certain dishes," Judy explained to Tennile. "With four children of my own, I found myself cooking a lot of [her] recipes." By opening Cafe Cabo in 2010, Judy’s dream of sharing her mother’s cuisine became a reality, as she, her husband, and her son today serve a menu of tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, all made to-order to accommodate meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Whether it's golden-fried fish tacos wrapped in a corn tortilla or chicken fajitas that sizzle all the way to the table, every feast at the cafe is enjoyed amid scenic coastal-view paintings and warm, rustic décor modeled after the Moore’s favorite vacation spot, Cabo.
Aromas of Mexican salsas, moles, and chile verde waft through Osuna's Mexican Grill, where executive chef Rosa Romero has perfected her menu for more than three decades. Build a nacho El Dorado by piling bean ingots and jalapeño gems onto chips encrusted with melted cheeses, guacamole, and a meat of choice. Handmade corn or flour tortillas encase savory shreds of asada, carnitas, or pollo on two-taco platters ($6.99), and succulent sopes charm palates with their bubbly crusts ($8.99 for two). Osuna's Mexican Grill fall line of burritos, Spanish for bean purses, come styled in eight varieties, including the Hollenbeck stuffed with slow-cooked pork meat in tomatillo sauce and drenched with gooey cheese ($6.99). Follow up famous fish tacos ($1.99 each) with after-dinner conversation and sugary disks of custard flan ($3.99) or arroz con leche ($3.25).
The Far East and the Southwest converge behind the glass walls of Dragon Loco Chinese Food, where inventive cooks fuse traditional Chinese and Mexican flavors. The menu teems with tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, which can be stuffed with globally inspired fillings such as carne asada, spicy orange chicken, and Chinese barbecued pork. The burrito loco, a house specialty, pairs bacon’s salty crunch with grilled onions as hot and sweet as a greeting card from the equator. In addition to preparing in-house meals, the kitchen caters parties and meetings with trays of hearty tacos.
Drumrolls of snapping oil drift from skillets full of onions, beef tongue, and shrimp at El Chilitos Mexican Restaurant. Melting cheese in quesadillas and seafood enchiladas slips out into air tinged with the scents of cumin, garlic, and chilis. The staff blends Mexican and American influences in in dishes such as carne asada fries, which arrive under layers of cheese and marinated steak, and marinated shrimp and fish tacos utilize the bounty of the sea, much like Robinson Crusoe building a fax machine from kelp.
A colorful sign juts from Manny’s El Loco, proudly proclaiming “World Famous Burritos Since 1971.” Inside, chefs busily pack the eatery’s claim to fame with carnitas, carne asada, and chicken, or up the ante with rib-eye steak or chorizo. Forks and knives find a place at Manny’s as well, thanks to taco salads tossed with meat and avocado and enchilada platters paired with authentic rice and beans. The kitchen crew incorporates hamburgers and french fries into its primarily Mexican menu, and helps customers tackle the morning or their nemesis with eggs prepared any style, which they can take to go or enjoy on the outdoor patio.
The Gringos Tacos family of guacamole gurus has retained their taqueria's catering roots while expanding into a restaurant and slinging tortillas from its very own food truck. American influences peek through in heaps of french-fry nachos, chipotle-aioli-drizzled BLT tacos, and guacamole made with Grant Wood paintings. Using high-quality ingredients and eschewing lard helps keep the menu of creative Mexican cuisine tasting fresh.