It’s doesn’t take heavy research to find great Mexican food anywhere in LA, and the Westside is no different. In addition to stands and trucks, what you’ll find in Culver City, Santa Monica, Venice, West LA, and beyond are decades-old sit-down establishments where people return religiously for never-ending margarita pitchers and big combo plates. Whether you’re in the mood for a big group dinner with guaranteed mariachis or just need a quick taco fix at lunch, here’s your guide that sorts the good spots from the great.
Open since 1963, La Cabaña is an LA classic. It’s not the most inventive food in town, but you’re not at this Venice landmark for a thoughtful take on the sope. You’re here for the shredded beef quesadilla and the culinary monstrosity that goes by “El Verde Burrito” (a coop’s-worth of chicken, beans, lettuce, avocado, and tomato, all topped with salsa verde and cheese). They have a fantastic back patio, $33 margarita carafes, and sometimes, a mariachi band plays on the roof. Also, they’re open until 3am every night.
Casablanca has been around for almost 40 years, and the menu hasn’t changed much since then, which is a good thing. The signature dish is the calamari steak, but we tend to go for either a grande burrito or the build-your-own fish taco situation. And aside from the solid food, Casablanca is always a dependable good time, with live music, tortillas being made in the main dining room, and, if you stick around long enough, the owner will probably wheel the tequila cart up to your table.
Culver City’s Amácita isn’t all that different from its DTLA cousin, Bar Amá - the space is cool and casual, there’s plenty of queso, and, yes, they do Super Nacho Happy Hour - but it’s far from a rerun. The menu has been expanded to include more vegetables, tacos, and seafood (get the fantastic grilled hamachi collar), and hearth-cooked entrees now command your attention. That means big, bold-flavored dishes like a pork shoulder pibil with sweet roasted pineapple, chorizo-spiced Wagyu beef, and a tweaked version of Bar Amá’s ranchero chicken, with an almond-and-morita-pepper salsa. But don’t worry, the cocktails are still stiff, and the handmade tortillas remain as pillow-y soft as ever.
Don’t be put off by the fact that Señor G’s is also a juice bar - this tiny order-at-the-counter spot in Playa del Rey has been serving good Mexican food since 1980. With a large menu that ranges from taco plates to ceviches, there’s a lot to choose from at Señor G’s, but if you stick to the burritos (the carne asada is excellent) and the breakfast section (the machaca and eggs platter has saved us on many hazy Sunday mornings), you’ll always walk out happy.
The best part about this casual, order-at-the-counter taco spot is that you’re never too far from one if you’re on the Westside. They have locations in West LA, Venice, and Santa Monica, and the food is consistently great at all three. The menu is absolutely massive, but we tend to stick with the hard tacos or one of their tortas for lunch, or the breakfast burrito if we went a little too hard the night before.
The original Coni’Seafood in Inglewood is one our favorite restaurants in the city, so when the Mexican seafood spot opened a second location on Centinela at the edge of Culver City, there were plenty of reasons to get excited. From the fresh ceviche and grilled whole snook to marlin tacos we would drive across the city to eat, this is tremendous seafood that you can’t get anywhere else in LA. The modern, industrial space is ideal for a casual midweek dinner with friends.
Paco’s has been serving combo-plate classics in that part of town that’s definitely sort of Del Rey (but maybe also Mar Vista) since 1975, and it shows. From the festive dining room, filled Christmas lights, fish tanks, and murals, to the menu, which is loaded with “Combinaciones Mexicanas” platters, Paco’s hasn’t changed since the Ford Administration, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for. Do they have 14-pound burritos and chimichangas? You bet. Are they fantastic? Of course - mostly because they’re made with Paco’s fluffy flour tortillas. Those tortillas are great on their own, too (especially when they’re slathered with butter), so order some for the table, down a couple frozen margaritas, and enjoy the ambiance.
Located on that stretch of Venice Blvd. in Culver City where the traffic seems to be eternal, Gloria’s is a casual, family-run spot that’s been serving Mexican/Latin American staples for almost four decades. While you can’t really go wrong with anything here, we tend to stick to “Ms. Gloria’s Specialties,” and in particular, the carne adobada. This massive plate of baked pork in a tangy, tomato-based sauce is the perfect excuse to pull over while you wait for traffic to die down.
Located in the Platform complex in Culver City, Loqui could’ve easily been another run-of-the-mill taco spot where people pitstop between shopping for high-end hand soap and wicker bowler hats. Instead, it’s become one of our absolute favorite taco options the Westside. The flour tortillas are thick and chewy, and the spicy chicken proves that chicken tacos don’t have to be boring. Be sure to put the salsa seca on everything.
Teddy’s serves unique red beef birria tacos near the boardwalk in Venice, and they’re fantastic. You only have one meat option here and it’s salty, spicy, slow-cooked beef, and you can get it in the form of mulitas, tacos, vampiros, and quesatacos. Teddy’s is open late on weekends, which means it’s a fantastic alternative to your normal post-bar taco truck stop.
Cinco is a Oaxacan restaurant/bar in Westchester that happens to be your best bet for a quick drink and some tacos before catching a flight at LAX. It’s a casual space with a great craft beer list and mezcal cocktails - all of which cost about half as much as whatever draft beer or cocktail you’d get at an airport bar. The al pastor tacos are excellent, and don’t leave without an order of the memelas, thick corn tortillas topped with black bean puree, queso fresco, and any meat of your choice.
It’s fun to go to Don Antonio’s with a big group and eat in what feels like an underground cave even though there aren’t really any underground caves in Los Angeles. You’ll probably end up eating too many chips before the food comes out, but that - and the margaritas - are all part of the experience. Everyone seems to like the super burrito, but we recommend a combination plate involving enchiladas, crispy tacos, or chile rellenos.
From the outside, Lanea looks like every other colorful, social media-friendly cocktail bar in Santa Monica. And on the inside, not much will sway you from that opinion. With pink lounge cushions, scattered succulents, and sugary cocktails that look nice in photos, Lanea is definitely a bit by-the-books, but then you glance at the snacks menu and realize there’s a lot more going on here. All the food at Lanea comes from the team at Barba Kush, a family-run Mexican restaurant in East LA, and the results are tremendous. From loaded nachos to consome to their legendary lamb barbacoa tacos, this is exactly where you need to be eating after a long day of working a block from the beach.
Lula is never empty. From noon to 10pm, you’ll find an assortment of people in bathing suits drinking margarita pitchers, somebody’s dad watching soccer at the bar, and big families who come here twice a month. There’s no wrong time to come here - as long as you’re prepared to drink the lethal signature margarita (the Cadillac, with triple sec and Grand Marnier, is also deadly). After about a half a glass, you’ll need a taco trio or some fajitas, and for whatever reason, the Caesar salad is always worth ordering.
You could go to the Brentwood Country Mart to buy Gwyneth Paltrow-approved cheese knives, to mail a package at the least-chaotic post office on the Westside, or to see what intimidating high schoolers are wearing these days. But no matter why you’re here, your lunch should be from Frida, in the nice outdoor food court. You’ll appreciate these simple little tacos when you’re surrounded by stores where you could spend half of your rent check on a onesie for a newborn baby. The chicken, pastor, and mole are our favorites.