Dining in Hollywood is always an adventure. You’ve got your mediocre salad bars, mass-produced chains for tourists who just spent $10 taking a photo with a You-Probably-Shouldn’t-Tickle-That-Elmo, and tacky club spots full of people trying to find Beyoncé, who’s definitely not there. But genuine neighborhood restaurants where you can actually hang and relax with friends? Godspeed. And that’s why La Carmencita is the savior Hollywood’s been waiting for.
The bright, Mexican cantina along Highland Ave. isn’t exactly in the heart of the neighborhood, but for anyone who’s made the jaunt down Hollywood Blvd., you know that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Its off-the-beaten-path location makes the space more low-key and actually full of people who live in the area. The dining room is fun and colorful, and the kind of place you could spend an entire night hanging out in. And with food and drinks as good as they are here, you definitely will be.
La Carmencita is all about Baja-style Mexican food, which basically means you should be concentrating on seafood. Anything in the raw & cold section of the menu is excellent, but the shrimp cazuela (a cheese-covered creamy shrimp dip situation) is easily the best thing on the menu. We’ve yet to come here without ordering several for the table and also one to-go for later in bed. If you do get overwhelmed with the seafood at any point, their cochinita pibil (pulled pork wrapped in banana leaves) is sweet and savory and most importantly, not shrimp. You’ll be tempted to get involved with the tacos, but save for the Gobernador (welcome back, shrimp) and their baja fish, you can skip these. The appetizers and raw bar is where it’s at.
What makes this place special though isn’t its seafood, or even its lethal margarita pitchers. La Carmencita is special because in a neighborhood where almost everybody is trying to leave, La Carmencita is full of people who actually want to stay. Count us among them.
It doesn’t take much to make good guacamole in this town. But La Carmencita’s is better. It’s chunky, fresh, and with pico de gallo mixed in to give it some bite.
Sometimes when people are talking to us and we aren’t really listening, chances are we’re thinking about this. This cheese-covered shrimp dish is perfect, and will be everybody’s favorite of the night.
With the all the seafood dishes and pretty ceviches flying around, the corn-stuffed poblano pepper probably isn’t going to initially catch your eye. But you should definitely order it because it’s cheesy and wonderful and a nice break from the more citrusy plates on the table.
You can’t go wrong with anything in the raw section at this place, but the citrusy mixture of the mango, apples, and oranges combined with the shrimp takes this to the next level.
Spiced pulled pork wrapped in a sweet banana leaf. We’re starting to see this dish around town more these days, and we’re very happy about it. La Carmencita’s version is delicious.
If you’re going to get a taco, get this one. Stewed shrimp and cheese all on a house made tortilla. Power move: Ask for the cheese to be grilled right into the tortilla itself.