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Gilbert’s El Indio ~ Santa Monica

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Gilbert's El Indio ~ 2526 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405 ~ (TACO Guide)

Gilbert's El Indio is ruled by the same clan that brings similarly festive, family-style Mex-ellent eats to the Westside's La Cabana, Tia Juana, Casablanca, and Paco's Tacos, marking them as masters of margarita-dominated family-style places in this neck of West Los Angeles. Founded by Gilbert and his wife thirty-three years ago, three of their sons continue to run and work at the eatery. The walls are covered with photos of faithful regulars (including a dazzling photo of myself and a friend placed right smack in the front), Mexican and indigenous artifacts, Christmas lights, and team softball trophies. Whether pouring stiff drinks or running plates, the whole crew is very friendly and adept at remembering which name belongs to which exuberant face entering through the worn wooden door.

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Having frequented Gilbert's an unreasonable amount of times in the past year, the evening arrived when I ended up swallowing more ice-cold margarita than my wallet could handle (the result of another disappointing boy), leaving me with no choice but to borrow 20 dollars from the owner himself to pay my debts, which I paid him back, instead of fleeing the country in shame. So make sure to bring cash, credit cards are not accepted, and like Lay's potato chips, you are talking crazy if you think you can stop at just one $15 pitcher of margarita, which go down so smoothly...

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Eats at places like Gilbert's are usually of the grilled meat and flour tortilla variety, not quite the authentic Eastside parilla so much as a family-style, gringo-embracing spot to gorge on burritos and carne picado guiso, while getting belligerent with loved ones. For a light meal, the tostada is a good choice, with either beef or chicken, beans, lettuce, cheese, and guacamole. Portions, excluding the a la carte menu, are sizable, forcing all 5'1" of me to pack up my leftovers and enjoy the burritos' sabor the following day. A variety of burritos and tacos with carnitas stand alongside more standard selections. Also included is the quesadilla, along with favorites such as chili verde stew accompanied by tortillas.

Authentic Mexican food aficionados probably will pass on this particular venue. The main attraction is the ambiance that the ringing voices and soft Christmas lights provide. If you are not impressed by this description I will automatically assume you do not celebrate Christmas. However, let me reassure you that Christmas lights are a very good thing.

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So prepare to scrawl your name on a list, pull up a chair, and get your drink on, as there is sure to be a wait on weekends. However, Gilbert's service is incredibly fast, ensuring a quick meal in case the guy sitting across from you happens to have more to say about himself than you cared to really know. Sometimes my food is there before I even remembered that I ordered. So enjoy this spot by getting tanked with an old friend, or on the other hand, by taking a less than ideal date, as your experience there will be a quick one unless you desire otherwise and if not, at least the butt-kicking margaritas will make it less painful.

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