Los Angeles

carnitas-elmichoacano.jpgLos Angeles has the best Mexican food in the world.

An established foodie might suggest this claim be true, because of Los Angeles’ high end Mexican cuisine. Places like Casa in downtown or Mexico City in Los Feliz.

But I’m no foodie, so I’m not going to make that claim. I am just a dude who really enjoys regional Mexican food, and LA has got way more of it than any other place.

Without opening the census books, anecdotal evidence shows us that there must be a large percentage of Mexicans from Jalisco. Look at all the restaurants named Taquería Jalisco or Tacos Jalisco #2. This compounded with the prevalence of stickers for the Chivas from Guadalajara, proves my amateur research (Chivas’ MLS team is also based in LA.)

Jalisco like Michoacan, their paisanos to the south, has a propensity towards carnitas that delectable slow roasted pork dish. Carnitas end up everywhere, because this community is so large, and this regional Mexican cuisine has come to embody “Mexican Food” to gringos.

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img 1235La Sandia Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar shares the top floor of Santa Monica Place with half a dozen other restaurants, the Food Court and the Market.

You'll recognize La Sandia by the crowded patio and open air bar, offering over 200 tequillas, half a dozen margaritas and Mexican beers, Mojitos, Capirinhas and Sangria pitchers.

The front part of the restaurant is dominated by the busy bar scene, especially at Happy Hour. With generously extended hours Sunday-Thursday from 4:00pm-9:00pm and Friday 4:00pm-7:00pm, Happy Hour appetizers are $3.00 (shrimp ceviche, a choice of quesadillitas, tacos, empanadas and sliders, chicken wings and bbq pork ribs), margaritas $5.00, Mexican bottled beer $3.00, daily specials Mondays-Thursdays and $5.00, "bottomless" bowls of guacamole.

Walk past the bar and you enter the restaurant with a dining room in a plaza style expanse, dominated by a retractable ceiling, a large fountain with four, smiling cherubs and upholstered booths with plush seating.

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neapolislogoSometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. In the case of the epic, pre-opening meal I got to enjoy at Trattoria Neapolis last week, I just happened to be at home to get the call. Our friends think we eat out all the time, but our "foodie" cred is mere illusion. Yes, we like to eat well when we go out (who wants to get dressed up and fight traffic for a mediocre meal), however, to us the wine/beverage program is just as important and finding places that are impressive on both the food and beverage sides of the menu are rare.

I knew nothing about this new Pasadena eatery before I stepped through the door. I was suitably stuffed and excited when I left. The space is sophisticated, yet inviting, with many different areas to choose from - the bright and airy Garden Room, the cozy booths in the bar area, the semi-private upstairs balcony and my favorite the brick-walled wine room. It's an impressive space with many touches imported from and evoking Italy in a modern way.

It has been a 10-year labor of love for restaurateur Perry Vidalakis who traveled all over the Italy and the United States researching how to blend his love of Italian food and style with the life and style of Southern California. Most of the menu is familiar, yet the execution - by Chef Bryant Wigger - utilizes techniques and local ingredients that put his own fresh spin on the traditional fare.

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tacosporfavorextDriving on the freeway, looking at the streets and neighborhoods below, I often wonder what fabulous restaurants I'm missing. Tacos Por Favor is one of those places that I had heard about for years, but had always driven by without stopping.

Today I decided to stop.

A cantina-sized Mexican restaurant on the corner of Olympic at 14th Street,Tacos Por Favor sits on the border between the two-Santa Monicas.

It is well-known to the people who work in the auto repair and building supply businesses nearby as well as the students of the upscale private school, Crossroads and the well-heeled who could eat at the upscale Buffalo Club down the block, but prefer Tacos Por Favor's casual atmosphere and lower prices.

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ludosign.jpgAfter watching Ludo Lefebvre on Top Chef Masters I knew I wanted try out his food. Around the same time his episode aired he opened up a “pop-up” restaurant at Bread Bar on 3rd St. On Tuesday night a bunch of my friends and I went. Simply put the meal was amazing. It’s really a mixture of classical french food and molecular gastronomy. Onto the food.

The table that was supposed to be ours decided they wanted to sit and talk for a long time so we had to wait. To make up for this Ludo’s very nice wife brought us out some lobster medallions with daikon & rosemary with a honey-sherry vinaigrette. It was amazing and great indication of things to come. It looked like a scallop and the sauce was very strong and sweet so the lobster was mainly there for texture.

One of the best things about the meal was the butter for the bread. It was a homemade honey and lavander butter.

First came the chorizo soup with cantaloupe and cornichon. It really tastes like the essence of chorizo. It was perfect. When there was only a little left we almost fought over it like junkyard dogs.

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