Cinco de Mayo: Not your Mama’s Mexican Restaurants
Los Angelino Mexican food has come a long way since the days of greasy chimichangas. Introducing healthy options to unique and exciting menus, Los Angeles restaurateurs are elevating the standards of Mexican cuisine. Finally, light and fresh Mexicali food is stimulating our senses and setting our taste buds (and cajones) on fire. Getting ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, The Vibrant Beet is looking for the perfect place to celebrate Mexican culture, food and independence. Cinco de Mayo is a perfect time to take a load off, catch up with friends, sip a handcrafted margarita and dine on light Mexican fare. Besides good food, I am always inspired by a restaurant's energizing atmosphere, creative design and inviting architecture. This year we highlight two memorable restaurants where you can dine alfresco on energizing entrees and farmers market fresh cocktails. When you have weather like this, why not take advantage of the 300 days of sunshine a year.
In the heart of West Hollywood, Tortilla Republic is a hidden gem that lures in locals with it's oversized entrance doors, inviting patio and magical indoor/outdoor eating spaces. The artistic uses of organic materials in its décor can easily turn a Sunday brunch into a day of socializing, eating delicious Mexican fare and sipping jalapeno margaritas. I personally love the use of mixed matched textures such as the rope ceiling and sliver tree that stands upright in the middle of the restaurant glistening in the sunlight…And the bar…a solid glass top that reflects and intensifies the colors of the restaurant and the energy of the environment.
Meeting at Tortilla Republic for a lunch date, Cat and I decided to keep it light knowing that our 3pm yoga class was only hours away. We started out by tasting their three salsa varities, fresh guacamole and the “tacos de jicama”. The jicama tacos were the perfect way to wet my pallet. The actual tacos shells were made from thinly sliced jicama that were stuffed with shrimp, red onion, avocado, and roasted corn salsa…a three-bite snack. Cat then decided to test one of their signature spicy mescal cocktails, the El Mariachi. It consisted of Cha Cha Cha Mezcal, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, fresh agave lime, Titanium Grand Marnier, jalapeno, and Bundaberg Ginger Beer. I must recreate this recipe at home; it could be my new favorite cocktail! For our entrée we shared the Shrimp Zarandeado Salad, with mixed greens, melon, jicama, tomatoes, roasted almonds and kiwi…crunchy and fresh!
I truly enjoyed the sweet potato hibiscus flower taco, “skinny style”, which simply means that it’s wrapped in lettuce rather then a tortilla. A nice mid- day touch. To conclude this deliciously light Mexican experience, I had to indulge in one of my culinary obsessions, the Mole Enchiladas. They were just as good as the traditional Oaxacan variety, but much lighter. With a fun festive atmosphere and a variety of unique dishes and cocktails, I am definietly coming back for dinner.
Adding another notch to their belts, the brothers behind LA’s Café Gratitude bring Northern Cali’s staple Mexican vegan café down south with Gracias Madre. Once again my other Cinco de Mayo pick this year is in hopping West Hollywood. With floor to ceiling windows, a lovely matte black and white tiled bar, exposed wood beams, and hardwood floors, Gracias Madre is one of most architecturally inviting spaces and memorable restaurants I’ve been to in years...and perfect for any fiesta.
Walking into Gracias Madre you feel as though you have been instantly transported to one of Santa Monica’s swanky Ocean Ave seaside restaurants. I can almost feel a breeze from the cool ocean gently caressing my face. Gracias Madre’s outdoor dining experience takes the cake…think Hamptons meets Country Living Magazine, with comfortable striped couches, sun umbrellas and long wooden communal tables.
Usually Mexican food can be hard to digest with its combinations of meats, dairy and carbohydrates, but Gracias Madre serves purely organic plant based ingredients. The outcome is a much lighter experience, emphasizing seasonal vegetables and delicious dipping sauces. My favorite appetizers are the flash-fried cauliflower, with cashew nacho cheese and lemon, and the flautas tacos filled with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions, topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese and cilantro . Anything that has cashew nacho cheese is going to be delicious!
To add a little green your meal, opt for any of their salads. All of their homemade salad dressings are good enough to drink. Definitely get one of their two potato and chorizo, or butternut squash and caramelized onion quesadillas. No matter what you order, always leave room for dessert! Because all of the drinks are ridiculously delicious, pick your poison, sip on a friend’s and share a second round.
Hope you have as much fun as I did! The Vibrant Beet always recommends to Uber or taxi home…. Happy Cinco de Mayo!