Caló Kitchen + Tequila hosts a distinctive ambiance where the intimacy of a small space meets the energy of modern LA dining. A one-lane walkway separates booths and a packed bar, with servers quite used to backing up or leaning in for patrons to pass in the same way a flight attendant would aboard an aircraft. Upstairs is slightly quieter, with the same artistic lighting calming the air and allowing you to take a breath, even if it’s to just enjoy the view of the shopping mall across the street.
Caló (Spanish for ‘slang’) puts an interesting accent on American Mexican favorites. The menu isn’t miles long like you’ll find in some full-service Mexican establishments, in the same way that the interior isn’t decked out with bright colors or filled with Mariachi music. Instead, Caló integrates a level of elegance in its ingredients to match its ambiance, while remaining both fun and indulgent.
Case in point with the shrimp and bacon tacos, profound in rich flavor and texture made all the better with a valentina cream sauce. Caló’s prime skirt steak nails it as well, bursting with a critical mass of umami that lusciously spills into a homemade tortilla. The carnitas, made with prime kurobuta pork and Mexican coca cola, can be cut with a spoon. And in traditional American Mexican fashion, Caló offers a few combination options that allow patrons to try a bit of everything—the seafood trio and Caló platter, to name a few.
Then, of course, comes the tequila part of the equation. Unsurprisingly, Caló has a meticulously crafted margarita menu, boasting everything from your traditional Cadillac to strawberry jalapeno and watermelon basil. Sadly, blended margaritas aren’t an option here [allegedly the bar doesn’t have room for a blender]. And if fruit pulp isn’t your thing, ask for your drink to be strained beforehand. Caló also boasts a healthy beer and wine list, including an intriguing and ever-so-subtle horchata beer.
Churros are undoubtedly the dessert of choice, filled with a traditional burnt caramel custard and served with chocolate sauce, thick house-made whipped cream and—for a touch of novelty—peanut butter for dipping.
Caló Kitchen + Tequila is located at 2191 Rosecrans Ave, El Segundo, CA 90245. Open 11a – 9p Sun – Thu, 11a – 10p Fri/Sat. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$85/person. For more information call (424) 269 – 2322 or visit CaloKitchen.com.
Unbeknownst to most, Hussong’s Cantina is one of the oldest, most storied Mexican dining destinations out there. It’s roots date all the way back to the late 1800s, when German emigrant Johann Hussong opened up his first eatery in Ensenada, Mexico. Hussong and his team have been credited with inventing the margarita, and while this and many Mexican favorites have been replicated across the US, Hussong’s Cantina itself has made the jump to Las Vegas.
A humble setup in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, Hussong’s Cantina delivers the laid-back experience you’d hope to find at a beachside eatery in a quiet Mexican fishing village (yes, Ensenada was a quiet place back in the day). But don’t fool yourself: with a margarita recipe that’s more than 125 years old, Hussong’s Cantina knows how to make a mean drink and get the party going. Seriously though, they make a darn good margarita, and many variations of it. If you can’t decide on just one, they also serve them in flights of four.
Tacos are, of course, a specialty. You’ll certainly have your bases covered with your classic carne asada, which boasts a rich meatiness not found in most cuts north of the border, as well as the fish taco, beer battered with excellent texture and consistency. Hussong’s Cantina has gotten inventive over the years, with new creations such as the pork belly taco topped with cabbage and crushed chicharrones. The taco selection is mix and match, so patrons will be able to enjoy a happily satisfy their curiosity.
Enchiladas are another iconic favorite, where guests can customize the selection with their choice of filling from land or sea as well as any of three sauces—red, green, or signature cheese—or they can go with all three for a meal that resembles the Mexican flag.
Quite a bit of American influence has taken over the dessert menu, but with good intention and even better results. Fried ice cream with a Frosted Flake coating and sweet tomatillo glaze is just as decadent as it sounds, and the churros are top notch, served a la mode atop a mountain of candied walnuts.
Hussong’s Cantina is located at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119. Open 11a – 11p 7 days/week. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entree, split dessert and 1-2 drinks is ~$55/person. For more information call (702) 632-6450 or visit HussongsLasVegas.com.
Pink booths line the walls of the vast open-air dining room, which flows right into a broad patio that takes in the best of Glendale’s bustling Brand Boulevard and Americana at Brand, the elegant shopping mall that gives Frida Americana its last name. A labyrinthine menu, brightly colored margaritas and elegant tequila flights complement a bustling atmosphere quite nicely, allowing Frida Americana to integrate Mexican taste into a posh LA vibe.
Frida Americana plays to its audience quite well, showcasing all the amenities you could ever hope for in a stylish full-service Mexican restaurant. Hot tortilla chips with hotter salsas meet you about as soon as you sit down, making tableside guacamole a must. The challenge then ensues, as there are far more choices than the appetite can handle. Should you order a village Mexican salad, served in a grilled crispy cheese bowl, or opt for the zucchini and poblano chowder? Or do you skip on both, focusing instead on the street corn, sweet at heart with chile and cotija to bring out its full character?
Mexican classics are ever-present at Frida Americana, highlighted by a custom enchilada menu where guests choose their filling and their sauce. It’s always a tough call, but you don’t have to look back once the steak enchiladas, covered in a bold, earthy mole sauce, arrive at the table. And since you’re here to indulge, the sirloin and chicken flautas hold that desirable fluffy crunch that’s so rarely found in anything besides this deep-fried favorite.
Moving away from the tortilla and toward the more premium dishes, Frida’s steak, seafood and house specialties add a significant dimension to the menu. The camarones al ajillo, or shrimp in garlic butter sauce, are as just decadent as they sound.
While it will be hard to save room, dessert should not be missed. It rains caramel at Frida Mexicana, with crepas con cajeta, flan and churros made all the better with that ridiculous and addictive sauce.
Drinks, or course, are a staple here, with an alluring margarita selection that includes blueberry mint, tamarind, Jamaica and your classic mango, among others. The tequila flights are Instagrammable to say the least, as is the fun and eclectic crowd that keeps the party going until closing.
For those looking for a fun twist on brunch, Frida Americana offers a Sunday Mariachi Brunch, served weekly from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Frida Americana is located at 750 Americana Way, Glendale, California 91210. Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Mon – Thu, 11 am – 11 pm Fri/Sat, and 10:30 am – 10 p.m. Sun. Avg. out-the-door cost for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$78/person. For more information, call (818) 551-1666 or visit Frida Americana online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.