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La Fiesta Brava Mexican Restaurant & Mariscos ~ 423 Rose Ave. Venice, CA 90291 ~ (310) 399-8005

This is exactly the place I 've been looking for in Venice for years, and apparently I'm not alone. La Fiesta Brava is the best Mexican eatery on the seaside and probably much further than that. From its standards to its specialties, La Fiesta Brava brings quality, personality, and fantastic flavor to a variety of excellent plates.

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I started out with hearty and sublime breakfasts of machaca and chorizo with eggs, before finding myself there every other day for lunch. Like my beloved Juquila in West L.A., this spot has a neighborhood vibe, you feel welcome to come and hang out over coffee, Hoy, or the Times. I usually want to linger here, even though beer is not served at any point. Guests are always greeted to a hot basket of chips and spicy salsa roja, and usually quite quickly, unless a cute girl gets the staff's attention, in which case you might have to be patient. Typically, the owner, a warm host if ever there was one, is taking orders and running to and from the kitchen, where another couple of dude are flicking saucepans, flipping grilled meats, and slapping up warm tortillas.

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For those who think tacos are just tacos, the offerings at La Fiesta Brava provide firm evidence to the contrary. Like many of their takes on our favorites, these tacos have character in spades, less by design than through passion to their ingredients. The tacos are huge and full of meat, and at the price of $2.25 each, that's to be expected. The carnitas was filled with long shreds of soft and stewy pork. Like the asada, which uses sensational, country-seasoned chopped steak, the carnitas taco comes dotted simply with cilantro and onion, letting the meat's recipe and natural flavors do the rest. The desembrada is pan-fried, oily, griddled, and crunchy on the outside, sealing in soft, seasoned ground beef like a small envelope full of taco love.  The fish taco is strangest, a massive piece of seabass lying across little but a scattering of cheese and lettuce on a corn tortilla, with a lime on the side simply evoking beachside campsites in Baja. Again, this taco focuses on the flavors of its star, not obscuring them under batters or gruels.  These tacos are excellent, and many trusted mouths I've brought to "the furious party" have oohed and aaahed themselves when not full of the afore-detailed tacos.

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Eating the massive burritos one day were tasty enough to make us go straight for the sumptuous fajitas another, to taste the nicely seasoned grilled meats shorn of their tortillas. Asada fajitas come smoking like mad to the table in a cast-iron skillet. I defy your mouth not to water over the phenomenal smell of sizzling peppers and onions. The steak is of excellent quality, salted, and well-grilled to a taut outside and a juicy, firm inside. With slices of avocado to cool the heat, filling the provided stack of tortillas makes for a feast that sticks with you all day, for about $10. I had plenty to take home for a dinner I barely needed.

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Dipping into the specialties, the garlic shrimp blew my mind. A generous plate of plump pink camarones absolutely doused in a thin red sauce made from freshly diced garlic rivals any Thai or Chinese restaurants' parallel. The tastes are comforting and stimulating at the same time, perfect compliments to the best bounty of the sea.

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Pollo Cozumel makes up for its straight-forwardness with a very tender consistency in its strips of chicken, that also bear a great recipe of thorough, but light, brothy tomato and pepper-based spices.  The tostada is absolutely worth getting super-duper fat for, its thick, crunchy shell breaking off into savory strips of caramelized carnitas, whipped guacamole, cheese, and all heart-stopping else.

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The prices here are fantastic. Freshly scrambled guacamole is only $2.25 and every dish is below $10. Not to leave out, these bad dudes have rifles and vaquero gear all over the wall. Who is cooler than them? NO ONE!!!! That's who.

Other specialties include the Acapulco plate, combining chicken cozumel with shrimp, for a little surf and scratch action! I'm yet to try the mole, but have high hopes.  Once payday rolls around, I'll be knocking everything off the list. So get there guys, but leave a table open for me! La Fiesta Brava kicks ass!

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