ICONIC MEXICAN LANDMARK SINCE 1927
In a city where what is “hot” is king, longevity is rare thing in the Los Angeles restaurant world, but the family-run Mexican restaurant El Cholo has been a local favorite for nearly 90 years.
With popular locations spread out across town, including Los Angeles, La Habra, Santa Monica and Irvine, El Cholo is beloved for serving authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine. Voted “Best Taco” by Rachel Ray’s “Rival Ray” in 2010, El Cholo manages to create a warm and relaxing atmosphere filled with Spanish-influenced architecture accented by hand-painted arches, rustic ceiling timbers, large wooden booths for intimate dining, and photos of early Los Angeles history, family, friends, and celebrities that offer a sense of the restaurant's rich history.
While waitresses are clad in colorful Mexican outfits and waiters wear traditional guayaberas, the setting is tailor made for a fun getaway.
And part of the “getaway” experience is aided by El Cholo’s famous margaritas, easily some of the best in town. Distinctive El Cholo dishes include the famous Green Corn Tamales, classic enchiladas and fajitas, as well as irresistible nachos, which were introduced in the 1950s by a young server named Carmen Rocha.
During our recent visit, we started with La Gran Tradicional margarita, mixed with Cuervo Tradicional, Herradura Silver, Cointreau and a float of Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, a fine and potent cocktail that will get any meal of Fiesta Hour off to a rousing start.
Another fun and popular cocktail choice is the L.A. Lemonade, prepared with 1800, Sauza Conmemorativo, Herradura Silver and Cointreau, hand shaken and served up. It provides just the right amount of kick.
A great starter item, and perfect for sharing, is the Fiesta Platter, which offers a little bit of everything from the appetizer menu, including Crab and Beef Taquitos, Nachos, Quesadillas, Chimichangas, Guacamole and Sour Cream. This and some of the best margaritas you’ll find in town are reason enough to visit El Cholo,
We also opted to split "Felix's" Caesar Salad, which is fine as a simple salad goes but disappointing when expecting a “Caesar” – a personal favorite of mine. You’re better off skipping this one.
Digging a little deeper into the Margarita menu, we found the 24 Kt. Margarita an interesting choice. Pricy at $24, I dare you to find a better margarita. A mixture of Jose Cuervo's Reserva de la Familia and Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire, this drink is guaranteed to get the job done. You won’t be able to drink more than one and it’s served with enough extra on the side that it’s really like ordering two or three margaritas. Order this and the regular El Cholo Margarita (or the La Gran Tradicional if you’re feeling really spry) and good times will follow. If you’re looking for something a little different, give Julio’s Cosmo a try. And plan ahead and have a designated driver handy.
For our entrees, which were a must to soak up the stellar stiff drinks, we went with the highly recommended Blue Corn Enchiladas (Rosa's all-time favorite!), prepared with marinated breast of chicken wrapped with blue corn tortillas, tomatillo sauce, sour cream, and avocado garnish; served with black beans and rice. This is a very hearty and flavorful dish.
We also split the A Taste Of History, which is a huge plate of Black Creek Cheddar Cheese Enchilada, Rolled Beef Taco, Chile Relleno, and Roasted Pork Tamale. This is overkill for one person, unless you just want to sample several menu items, otherwise it’s perfect to share, and it will save you money so you can order the 24 Kt. Margarita.
And you can’t go wrong with the Flan for dessert. It’s thick, rich and ever so savory.
While El Cholo’s signature Green Corn Tamales, prepared with fresh corn off the cob, corn masa, cheddar cheese and Ortega chile, baked in its own husk, are only served from May to October, you can purchase them year-round online. Click here to order.
A true Southern California landmark, El Cholo survived the Great Depression and World Wars, and billions of tortillas and several generations later still manages to be a local institution. In 2013, El Cholo will open its first Anaheim Hills location.
While El Cholo may not offer the finest Mexican cuisine in town, it’s sturdy and solid fare, and with its kick ass margaritas, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more festive atmosphere for a nice meal out or a solid happy hour (FYI, Fiesta Hour is Mon-Fri from 3-6pm). Go for the delicious and merry margaritas, enjoy a delish enchilada, or split some appealing appetizers with friends, and relish your quick getaway from the ordinary.
The “Original” El Cholo is located at 1121 S. Western Ave. Other locations include Downtown L.A. near Staples Center, Santa Monica, La Habra, and Irvine. Click here for location addresses and hours.