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La Casita Mexicana

PHOTOS: Holly Liss

Face the facts people. Everything is out of the way in this town.

“I’m so central!” is a made up phrase used by summer interns who’ve never taken a 4:30pm meeting in Sherman Oaks before. With urban sprawl this treacherous, it’s understood you’re at least one Serial podcast away from wherever you need to be next. But we also have our limits. Like, for instance, when someone suggests grabbing a bite to eat in Bell.

Not named after Taco Bell, this industrial enclave south of downtown won’t be in any of your hotel travel brochures. And if it is, you need to learn how to start using Expedia better. But this working class town holds a secret - one big enough that if you discover it, the reward is well worth the journey.

Located on a street probably used as a pick-up shot for True Detective 2, La Casita Mexicana is a Southern California Mexican institution. Don’t come expecting a mom and pop taco joint, because La Casita is run by two bona fide Spanish chef rockstars and their impact is immediately apparent. The interior reads something close to a Dia de Los Muertos-themed gay wedding, and once you open the menu and the cocoa mole hits the table, you quickly realize La Casita is quite special.

Their most famous dish is the Chile En Nogada, a gigantic poblano chile stuffed with meats, fruits and candied cactus topped with pecan cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. AKA, leave your dreams of wet burritos at home bro, La Casita Mexicana is performing on a different level. The restaurant is also exceptionally well-run, with an attentive waitstaff who won’t blink an eye when you tell them how far you traveled either.

La Casita Mexicana is the definition of a destination restaurant. And much like the dim sum palaces of San Gabriel, La Casita is completely worth it. So throw on your best podcast, figure out who’s guilty, and go be your best food tourist. Bell is waiting.

Food Rundown

Chile En Nogada

The signature dish, this gloriously stuffed green pepper is an appetizer, entree, and dessert all on one plate. Filled with beef and spices on the inside and topped with a heavy, sweet cream with pomegranate seeds on the outside, this is unlike anything you’ve ever had and worth the drive down to Bell alone.

"Conquista" Plate

Pounded thin steak over grilled cactus topped with chile guajillo, this dish lacks a bit of the punch some of the other classics at La Casita have, but it’s still mighty delicious.

Tres Moles Enchiladas

An amazing combo platter showcasing their incredible mole poblano, green, and red pipian. Choose your protein and go to town.

Mole De Pistache

Another one of La Casita’s signature dishes, this is pistachios, chiles, and root beer leaf combined to give you a mole you ain’t never had before.

Azteca Cheese Fondue

Secretly one of the best things on the menu, this combo of four different melted cheeses mixed with poblano chile spices, cactus and mexican herbs is sloppy, gooey Mexican nirvana and far thicker than your average queso dip.

Mushroom and Cactus Chile Relleno

Often overlooked on a menu full of star dishes, this vegetarian-friendly chile relleno stuffed to the gills with diced cactus is one of the more unique (and not deep fried!) versions you’ll come across.

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