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Your Guide to the Best Mexican Food in West L.A.

4:11 PM PDT on September 21, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]ith its prohibitive commercial rents and vast Yacubian reserves, L.A.'s Westside is cast too commonly as shorthand for a land blanched of the remarkable regional cuisine one finds when moving in just about any direction away from the 405.

    But the one thing you can count on is that whatever appears to be true in Los Angeles is … probably also not so true. And to dismiss the Westside is to overlook a dynamic concentration of culture to be had in West L.A., a tiny slice of our state's greater Oaxacalifornia, with some of the most captivating currents and flavors that Los Angeles offers.

    It's a part of the city where whispers of Mixteco among the endangered single family homes and packed apartments on Armacost Avenue might not only live in your imagination. Where the essence of bintochan mingles with smoke from Stoner Park asada and Sunday lamb kebabs grilled in the parking lot of a kosher supermarket, all along a spread of Santa Monica Boulevard informally dubbed "Little Oaxaca."

    Join L.A. Taco and Tecate as we highlight our favorite Mexican restaurants in West L.A. And though, in typical local fashion, the boundaries of the true West Los Angeles can be argued, we're choosing to focus mostly on the Sawtelle neighborhood west of the 405 that often bears this name in the Angeleno mind — with a couple of nearby favorites we couldn't help but throw in. Since you'll be in the area.

    Monte Alban Restaurante

    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]ith murals conjuring someone's paradisiacal Oaxacan hometown and wooden chairs nearly as heavy as a flat-topped pyramid from the restaurant's titular Zapotec ruins, one could be forgiven an assumption that this is another Don Antonio's, sizzlin' fajitas-style situation on first glance. Don't be misled. Monte Alban prepares the neighborhood's richest moles and picadillo, along with a superior quality of Oaxacan meats like cecina and tasajo. Order them on massive handmade tlayudas, tumbling out of molcajetes, or served straight-up with a side of quesillo-webbed enfrijoladas. A small storefront near the entrance sells crafts from Oaxaca while a mezcal-of-the-day is currently being offered and the specialty cacao-and-maize drink tejate is said to make weekend appearances alongside solid menudo and lamb barbacoa.

    Monte Alban, 11927  Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025


    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]ith pristine shrimp and fish arriving regularly from Sinaola and Nayarit, the Westside location of Connie Cossio's beloved seafood spot manages a cool magic trick: transporting diners to a kicked-back fishing village of the mind's eye. There they contemplate whether a plate of fierce aguachile bearing translucent shrimp lined up like synchronized swimmers might be too beautiful to eat. Vibrant ceviches, shrimp dishes and mariscos cocktails follow in varied forms, along with obligatory orders of smoked marlin tacos, tacos gobernador and the restaurant's legendary version of pescado zaradeado: a whole, spatch-cocked snook roasted over coals to a bronze pinnacle of the Maillard Reaction, allowing tablemates to spear hot flakes of tender white flesh on a whim. At this point, you’re definitely ordering another round of Tecate or Tecate Light with a lime. The more friends you bring and the more beers you knock back, the better it all gets.

    Coni'Seafood, 4532 S. Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066, 310-881-96440

    La Flama

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he unassuming West L.A. business recently rolled up its longstanding Pico taco shop into this tiny Santa Monica Boulevard carniceria that it was running under the guise of a party store. In the back, you'll find pre-marinated cecina, ranchera, and ribs neighboring long links of dried-chile-ground, cinnamon-kissed Oaxacan chorizo and a lineup of cheeses resembling fist-size stones shorn from the cliffs of Dover. Up front, you can get your hands on all the tomatillos, avocados and sal de chapulin your backyard boogie requires. At night, the sidewalks surrounding la Flama regularly turn into a taco hot spot.

    La Flama, 11957 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, 310-966-9027


    [dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ook. We have our civic pride. And the last thing we wanted to do was get on here and gab about how much a taco spot from San Francisco moves us. But Loqui's short menu is composed entirely of strengths. With handmade flour and corn tortillas, juicy beef, pork and mushrooms to stuff them, and an intricate lava-red salsa. It doesn't have, or need, too much else. Loqui is a treasure for the Westside and an asset for Los Angeles. Still, fuck the Giants.

    Loqui, 8830 Washington Blvd, Culver City, 310-220-7260, 90232

    Helados la Michoacana

    [dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]atteo's, the Oaxacan-owned paleta and ice cream chain with a location a few blocks east of here, has excellent, intriguing flavors like mezcal and sapote. But Helados la Michoacana is about more than the cold stuff. The bright space also specializes in utter abominations of afterschool snacks like Dorilocos, a split bag of Doritos seeping an ever-liquefying sludge of pork skin, chips, chamoy, tamarind candy, fruit and chile. And Pina Locos, halved pineapples brimming with fruit, chamoy, hot sauce and Gummy worms. These monstrosities can be tough to start, let alone finish, but backpack-strapped neighborhood pre-teens and Instagram addicts love them.

    Helados la Michoacana, 11813 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, 424-832-7945

    Sonoritas Prime Tacos

    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]ith a focus on the cattle-forward, mesquite grilling of the state of Sonora, ordering a steak is a no-brainer at this, the better of Sawtelle's two Mexican restaurants. Ribeye tacos on handmade tortillas with a cold Tecate are a great place to start before your afternoon browsing bonsai trees across the street. Or you could just do the whole ribeye for $20 and call it a day well spent.

    2004 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, 310-444-9100

    Tacos 'El Wero'

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]wo men and a trompo in the shadow of a Ralph's, this relative newcomer in a neighborhood known for its nocturnal truck scene is one of the area's only taco tables. While the pastor is a popular choice, the convex comal contains cuts you're not always guaranteed to find at the area's competitors. Buche, suadero, cabesa and tripas make regular appearances on the medium-sized tacos, with three well-constructed, if basic, salsas at the ready. El Wero is slowly gaining the allegiances of the region's tacognoscenti.

    Tacos El Wero, below Trader Joe's, across from Ralph's, West L.A.

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