The culinary pyromaniacs at El Vaquero pay homage to their homeland with poncho-patterned tablecloths, pictures of the cathedral in Guadalajara, and a specialty sandwich hailing from the state of Jalisco. Seated in the wicker chairs that line the cozy, sun-colored dining room, diners dig into a menu that features classic Mexican dishes such as chiles relleno, carnitas burritos, and tacos that can be ordered soft or crisped over the grill. Meanwhile, traditional art and black-and-white photographs look down from the walls, and a bell hangs by the register in case tongues are in need of a tiny fireman.
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.
Steven Paperno, raised in the kitchen of his parents' delicatessen, has been working with food all his life. By the age of 18, he already owned a food manufacturing company, a job that took him all over the Americas. While in Central and South America, he sampled some of the cuisine and found himself dreaming of bringing those small-village flavors to America. So, he sold his company in order to start a new one, one dedicated to infusing organic, local ingredients with the flavors he tasted abroad. He called the new joint Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill.
Inside any Sharky's location, the chefs use certified-organic beans and rice to complement flavorful Mexican entrees. Guests can observe cooks in the open kitchen as they prepare all-natural chicken with no added hormones and all-natural Angus beef. Wild-caught seafood is hand-selected for quality and chosen according to the recommendations of the West Coast Seafood Watch, which aims to prevent overfishing by encouraging restaurateurs to buy sustainably caught seafood. Mesquite grills and stone-fire ovens lend their kiss to each dish on the menu, locking in the flavor that Steven so wished to re-create without the hassles of a trashcan fire.
Though it sounds like a mixed drink, the campechana cocktail is actually a meal. Diners spear shrimp, octopus, and chunks of white abalone as they swim in cocktail sauce flavored with avocado and cilantro. The seafood stew is just one of Cabrera?s house specialties, which populate nearly half of the Mexican eatery?s menu. Other specialty dishes include steak ranchero, marinated sirloin served alongside grilled cactus and jalape?os, and salmon con salsa de arandano, a fresh, pan-roasted fish steeped in cranberry chipotle sauce. Traditionalists can take comfort in the eateries? abidance to serving food on plates rather than mini hovercrafts, and south-of-the-border staples such as mole-drenched chicken and burritos blanketed with melted cheese.
Qdoba's burrito baristas handcraft a catering menu of Mexican-inspired cuisine, customizable with a panoply of fresh ingredients for a taco, nacho, or burrito bar. Qdoba's culinary crafters craft succulent fillings for burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas, including protein-packing choices, such as slow-roasted pulled pork, adobo-marinated grilled steak or chicken, and spiced shredded or ground beef, with vegetarian options also available. Taste the gooey flavor accents of the signature queso sauce, a three-cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes, and jalapeños, the pinto or black beans simmered in cumin and onion, or the creamy, hand-smashed guacamole that's ideal for filling up Queen Elizabeth's diamond-studded guacamole chalice. Tortilla chips with salsa bar and desserts complete each catered event, and customers can opt for burrito-boxed lunches and any add-ons.
Los Tacos founder Fidel Leos mined his experience as a maitre d’ and memories of his childhood south of the border to design Los Taco’s menu of authentic Mexican fare. Fillings such as shredded beef and fresh red snapper stuff the restaurant’s namesake tacos, and chefs also sling specialty steak dishes such as grill-kissed carne asada and lightly breaded milanesa onto waiting plates. Early birds dig into Mexican breakfasts such as chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, and meat-free forks can excavate a variety of vegetarian fare.