Offbeat L.A.: The Oldest Surviving Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles

Four years ago when I compiled The Oldest Surviving Los Angeles Restaurants I had no idea the impact that it would have. I was hoping that it might reach a thousand people and make a difference. But the day it was published it spread like a Southern California wild fire and its embers are still burning. Now at nearly a million views, I do my best to keep it updated, adding or removing places as they close or as I discover them. To make the list of 490 restaurants more user friendly, I’ve decided to break it down into bite-sized chunks, based on food category, and add a Google map for each. That way readers can click on the map & find locations for the type of restaurant for which they are looking. I’ll probably create about 10 of these mouth-sized maps, starting with The Oldest Surviving Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles. My criteria stands at restaurants 35 years old or older, within about an hour’s drive of downtown L.A., including Orange County and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. This list will be edited and updated regularly. (All photos by Nikki Kreuzer) Enjoy! Nikki

(1927) El Cholo 1121 Western Ave Los Angeles, CA 90006. The oldest surviving Mexican restaurant to have stayed located in the same location in Los Angeles. It was first opened on Broadway in downtown L.A. by Alejandro and Rosa Borquez in 1923 as the Sonora Cafe and the name was changed to El Cholo in 1925. The current restaurant on Western Avenue was opened two years later when George Salisbury married Aurelia Borquez, daughter of Alejandro and Rosa. Their restaurant was the second El Cholo location and originally had 8 stools and 3 booths. The restaurant claims to be the first to serve the Tex-Mex dish nachos in Los Angeles, after San Antonio born waitress Carmen Rocha introduced the recipe (first created in 1943) to El Cholo in 1959. The restaurant is still owned by the descendants of the original owners.

(1928) La Golondrina Mexican Cafe17 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012.One of the earliest Mexican restaurants to open in Los Angeles. It originally got its start in 1924 as La Mision Cafe on Spring St. by Consuelo Castillo de Bonzo, a widow who had emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles in 1899. La Mision was demolished to build City Hall and in 1928 moved to Olvera Street, the oldest surviving street in the city. Olvera Street was getting a re-birth at the time by wealthy socialite, Christine Sterling who was fashioning it into a tourist destination full of shops and restaurants. The street had been neglected by the 1920s and Sterling succeeded in getting it closed to traffic in 1929 and opening the street as a marketplace in 1930. La Mision was renamed La Golondrina, after a popular Mexican song. It is located in the oldest brick building in LA, Pelanconi House, which was built in 1855.

(1931) El Coyote 7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036. El Coyote Restaurant was originally opened in 1931 by Blanche & George March. It started as a tiny cafe on La Brea & 1st Street, but relocated to its present location in 1951. With original mid-century signs, multi-colored bottle glass windows, burgundy leather booths, vintage light fixtures and a separate bar room, it is one of the best known original old-school Mexican restaurants left in the city. Its story includes the dark history of having served Sharon Tate and her friends their last meal in 1969 before they went home and were murdered by the Manson family hours later. The “Sharon Tate Booth” still remains and is part of the restaurant’s folklore.

(1934) Cielito Lindo 23 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tiny walk-up food stand,  with a few tables on Olvera Street, specializing in taquitos, but also selling burritos. The restaurant was started by Mexican immigrant Aurora Guerrero out of a shed and expanded soon after. It was named after an old Mexican song, Cielito Lindo, popularized by Mariachis.

(1937) Mitla Cafe 602 N Mt Vernon Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92411. A landmark on Route 66, this Mexican cafe was opened in 1937 as a lunch counter by Lucia Rodriguez and expanded its size in the 1940s. Mitla is the oldest surviving Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire and is still owned by Lucia’s grandchildren and great grandchildren at the same location. The exterior of Mitla is simple Spanish-style, with some river rock inlay. The interior still has a long wood laminate eating counter along with rust colored booths and tables, ceiling fans and old photographs. Apparently Glen Bell, who had opened Bell’s Hotdogs and Hamburgers across the street in 1950, “borrowed” Lucia’s taco recipe and began selling tacos himself in December 1951. Glen then opened several taco stands in the early ’50s and went on to open the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962 using the same recipe.

(1939) Sariñana’s Tamale Factory 2216 W 5th St, Santa Ana, CA 92703. Sariñana’s Tamale Factory was opened in 1939 by Juan and Felipa Sariñana, immigrants from Durango, Mexico. Located in a tiny former house, painted with exterior murals and modernized with plastic signs, it is the oldest surviving Mexican restaurant in Orange County. Ordering is done at a counter and eaten at a choice of six interior picnic tables or two outside. Though its founders passed away in the late 1960s, it is still family owned, by the 5th and 6th generations of Juan and Felipa’s descendants. Serving Mexican food in the Durango style, Sariñana’s is particularly known for their tamales, though their homemade hot sauce is exceptional as well.

(1943) Carrillo’s Tortilleria 1242 Pico St, San Fernando, CA 91340. Carrillo’s is a small self-serve style restaurant that grew out of a family owned hand made tortilla factory started by Guadalupe Carrillo and her husband Emilio in 1943. Since 1964 it has been owned by their daughter, Amelia Carrillo Luna and her husband Epigmenio. Located on a side street in San Fernando, CA, in a nondescript building with a plastic sign, the inside is simple, yet cozy, with an exposed brick wall, polished concrete floors, plastic molded booths, a few tables and festive Mexican-themed murals covering the walls. A display case sells a few grocery items, but an extensive eat-in menu serves Mexican breakfasts and combination dinners. They are especially known for their tamales, menudo & homemade tortillas.

(1948) El Adobe 31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. Opened as a restaurant in 1948 by Clarence Brown, a Rancho Mission Viejo farmer, the location comprises two different historically significant buildings dating back to before California become a state in 1850. The northern part of the restaurant, forming the walls of El Adobe’s cocktail lounge was built in 1797 as an adobe home for Miguel Yorba, while the southern part was built in 1812 as a court and jails. Filled with antiques, brick walls, wood beamed ceilings and clay tiled floors, El Adobe originally served Continental cuisine, but switched to a Mexican menu after Orange County native Richard Nixon, a fan of Mexican cooking, became an El Adobe patron during his presidency. Today the restaurant is owned by partners Steve Nordeck, Tony Moiso, and Gilbert Aguirre.

(1949) Bill’s Taco House 219 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90011. Small South Los Angeles fast food taco shop with molded laminate seating and a vintage sign out front. Opened by a man named Bill, it was one of the very first places to begin serving patty-style ground beef in a taco (called Cheeseburger Taco). The counter service restaurant is decorated with murals depicting famous moments in the civil rights movement. It has only had 3 owners and has been owned by a Korean woman named Eva Man since just after the 1992 LA riots.

(1950) El Toreo 21 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105. El Toreo Cafe opened in 1950 on Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena. A tiny, casual restaurant, serving Mexican food, it has brown booths, a drop ceiling, wood paneling and old Mexican-style paintings adorning the walls. Its original vintage sign still hangs out front.

(1950) La Chiquita Restaurant 906 E Washington Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701. La Chiquita opened in 1950 in the Logan Barrio area of Santa Ana, one of the first Mexican barrios in Orange County and once one of the only Santa Ana neighborhoods where Latinos could legally buy a house, due to discriminatory restrictions. Owned by Sammy Montoya since 1994, this Mexican cafe is small, with wood paneled walls, river rock trim, breeze block room dividers, original red clay-tiled floors, a “popcorn” ceiling and basic tables & chairs. Located in a square building with an original vintage bulb sign out front.

(1951) El Carmen 8138 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048. First opened in 1929 by Mexican immigrant Encarnación Elias Gómez, the wife of General Arnulfo Gómez, assassinated two years before while running for Mexico’s president, the widow started the Los Angeles business to support her family. El Carmen’s original location was at La Brea and 3rd Street, an area considered the boondocks at that time, but it moved west in 1951 as Los Angeles expanded. It was passed down through the family for a few generations, and finally sold to a non-relative in 1997. Popular with the Hollywood film crowd, guests once included D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Busby Berkeley, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and artist Diego Rivera. Dark and moody, with a rounded rattan ceiling trimmed with wood beams, tiled floors and more tile adorning the walls, the restaurant is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Encarnacion.

(1951) El Patio Cafe 34226 Doheny Park Rd, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624. Brightly colored, quaintly decorated cafe serving classic Mexican food that was opened by Lucy Saunderson in 1951. Lucy got her start at a Greek restaurant, where she convinced the owner to let her take over for a few days a week. She eventually took over the business with a friend as Alice & Lucy’s restaurant and then it became just Lucy’s. When the location was demolished to build a freeway, Lucy moved the business and started El Patio Cafe in 1951. Located in a small bungalow with a great vintage sign, the interior has pink walls and a long pink eating counter. Currently owned by Lucy’s son, Jack, who took over the business in 1989.

(1952) Ernie’s Mexican Restaurant 4410 Lankershim Blvd, N. Hollywood, CA 91602. Opened in 1952 by Ernie and Albina Cruz as the second location to an Ernie’s Mexican they opened in 1944 in Lincoln Heights. The family also operated two additional Ernie’s Jr restaurants in Eagle Rock (1950-2014) and Pasadena (1955-1998).  This classic mid-century North Hollywood restaurant is the only surviving location and has two dining areas and a bar. The interior is dimly lit with burgundy leather booths, knobby wooden room dividers, stained glass chandeliers, wood laminate tables and plenty of wrought iron and Mexican decorative elements. The exterior has vintage signs and tile work.

(1952) Josie’s Place 16616 S Normandie Ave, Gardena, CA 90247. Opened in 1952 on Normandie Avenue in Gardena, Josie’s Place is located next to rail road tracks in a little shack built in 1940. Specializing in authentic Mexican take-out food, the restaurant is now owned by the Lopez family. The building’s exterior features a plastic molded sign, while the interior has wood paneled walls, a take-out counter and a small display case of knick knacks.

(1952) Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe 812 N Evergreen Ave, L.A., CA 90033. Opened by Manuel Rojas and now run by his daughter, Elena, and grandchildren. Casual Boyle Heights neighborhood Mexican cafe with counter known for their massive burrito, called The Hollenbeck; vintage exterior river rock front & original sign.

(1953) El Paseo Inn 11 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 900121. This Mexican restaurant opened in 1930 at another location on Olvera Street, but was purchased by Elena Peluffo and Frank Webb and in 1957 it moved to its present location. The building was constructed as Pelanconi Winery, operating from 1870-1914, and was then remodeled into the restaurant Café Caliente. The space originally possessed a large central dance floor which featured Mexican traditional dancers and a Latin orchestra, but that was eventually removed. The current interior features beamed ceilings, painted brick walls, a long bar and contains a mural-sized painting made by artist Rubén Lara Campos in 1946. Cesar Chavez was a guest as well as later on Bill Clinton. An exterior brick patio has tables with black iron cafe chairs, good for people watching on Olvera Street. The restaurant was bought by Andy Camacho in 1984.

(1954) Ramona’s Mexican Food Products 6900 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90003. Opened in 1954 on San Pedro St in a rough around the edges part of Huntington Park. Serving fast food Mexican food take-out style, this place always has huge lines and is a neighborhood favorite. The restaurant got its start in 1947 out of a house at Temple & Beaudry before moving to this location in ’54 and opening another in 1962 on Western Ave in Gardena. The interior here has been completely modernized, but it still has a somewhat vintage exterior and old school plastic signs.

(1955) El Charro 3741 N Verdugo Rd, Montrose, CA 91020. Originally opened in as a four table, eight stool restaurant in 1955 at another location in Montrose, owners John & Grace Chagolla moved it to its present, larger, Verdugo Road location in 1960. The sauces were recipes that Grace had learned growing up in Texas. The interior is decidedly vintage, with wood paneled walls, knobby wood booth dividers, olive green leather booths and Mexican lanterns hang from a drop ceiling.

(1956) Casa Vega 13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Opened in 1956 by 22-year-old Raphael “Ray” Vega, the son of Tijuana-born immigrants who operated Cafe Caliente restaurant for 18 years on Olvera Street beginning in the 1930s. Originally located two blocks east on Ventura, Casa Vega moved after two years to where it presently stands. Marlon Brando, Cary Grant and countless other Hollywood luminaries were regulars. The entrance walls are made of river rock, with a heavy carved wooden door and the wonderful exterior neon sign is original. Inside is a dark, romantic Mexican restaurant with burgundy leather booths, brick walls and a separate bar. The restaurant is now run by Ray Vega’s daughter, Christy.

(1959) La Luz del Dia 1 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Located in a historic building on L.A.’s oldest street, this Michoacan-style Mexican restaurant was opened by Jack Berber and his cousin, Pancho Cazares. Jack had owned a market with the same name a few blocks away, but opened this restaurant after receiving permission from Olvera Street’s founder Christine Sterling in 1959. Beginning in 1926 Christine campaigned for several years to have Olvera Street preserved and turned into a tourist area celebrating Mexican culture and was successful in 1930. The restaurant is filled with beautiful tile work, red clay tiled floors, original brick and wood trim. Food is served from a take-out window and has a central dining room and an outdoor patio area. It is now owner by Jack’s son, Henry Berber and grandson, Gregory Berber.

(1959) Tito’s Tacos 11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230. Much beloved Americanized hard-shelled tacos served at an outdoor stand with notoriously long lines. This taco stand was opened in 1959 in Culver City by business partners Benjamin Davidson and Benny Vizcarra, but has been owned since 1981 by Davidson’s granddaughter Lynne Davidson.  The interior is remodeled fast-food simplicity with basic tables and ceiling fans. Picnic table seating is also available outside. A bright yellow plastic sign out front is likely ’70s era.

(1959) Tortilla Inn 18114 Parthenia St, Northridge, CA 91325.  Though this family-owned Mexican restaurant is located in a somewhat off-putting strip mall with a modern plastic sign, inside has a feeling of hidden treasure, an old school restaurant that has kept much of its mid-century decor and integrity. With a dimly-lit atmosphere, red leather booths and separate bar, the interior is paneled with both wood and brick.

(1962) Casita del Campo 1920 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Rudy del Campo was a Broadway and Las Vegas dancer who had a role playing one of the “Sharks” in the 1961 film version of West Side Story. The year after the movie was released, Rudy, with his sister and first wife, purchased a house on Hyperion Avenue in Silverlake and remodeled it to open Casita del Campo. Serving Mexican food, the restaurant is dark and romantic, the main room filled with knobby mid-century wood and red leather booths tucked under a wooden portico, Mexican-inspired art and a large bar with stools and ’70s era deco inspired stained glass. A brighter middle room has trees and foliage, while an outdoor patio features outstanding, primary colored mosaic tables. A theater in the basement mainly hosts alternative stage work and cabaret. Though Rudy passed away in 2003, the restaurant is still owned by his children and widow, Nina, who has been part of the business since 1965.

(1962) El Cholo 840 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, CA 90631. A second branch of El Cholo restaurant opened in 1962 on Whittier Blvd in La Habra, CA by Ron Salisbury, the son of the owners of the first El Cholo, George & Aurelia. The original El Cholo is the oldest surviving Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles and has been on Western Ave in Los Angeles since 1927. The interior of this La Habra location features dark wood booths, beamed ceilings, traditional Mexican decor and a big outdoor eating courtyard. Ron now owns the original restaurant as well.

(1962) Pepe’s 511 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803. Walk-up and drive-through fast food shack serving Mexican food, opened in 1962 by three brothers, Joe, Tony and Fred. The restaurant was apparently names Pepe’s to commemorate a nephew of the same name who was sent to fight in Vietnam that year. Food quantities are large and heavy on the cheese and grease. Eating can be done out front under a metal awning shading several bright yellow 1960s built-in picnic tables.

(1962) Ramona’s Mexican Food Products 13633 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90249. This is the second location of a fast food Mexican restaurant which opened in 1954 in Huntington Park. Ramona’s got its start in 1947 out of a house at Temple & Beaudry before opening their restaurants. This location still is amazingly vintage with beautiful tile work on both the exterior and throughout the interior, including the floors. The interior of the original Huntington Park location has been completely modernized, but both locations have their original plastic signs.

(1962) Viva Cantina 900 W Riverside Dr, Burbank, CA 91506. Viva Cantina Mexican restaurant opened in 1962 in the equestrian part of Burbank, CA on Riverside Drive. Consisting of two separate rooms with two bars, two stages and two patio areas, there are often multiple acts of live music going on at the same time. The restaurant decor itself is decidedly 1960s with dark wood paneled walls, slatted wooden ceiling, dark burgundy colored leather booths and mid-century lanterns. The restaurant’s setting next door to Griffith Park and the Equestrian Center, gives it a rural feeling and there is even an area to tie horses when their riders are in the restaurant eating.

(1963) Casa Calderon 622 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776. Classic Mexican food in a building reminiscent of a castle, with a turret and large arched window, built by owners Calixto and Esperanza Calderon in 1963. The interior has had minimal remodeling or redecoration and has an authentic Mom & Pop feel with original red and blue linoleum floors, mint green booths, pink walls and American colonial-style chairs. The Calderon’s daughter, Linda, now runs the restaurant.

(1963) La Cabaña  738 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291. La Cabaña restaurant was opened on Rose Avenue In Venice, CA in 1963 by Nina and Carl Haro, and is run today by their children. Originally located in a small thatched roof hut-like building, today the exterior is white washed plaster with a river rock enclosed porch, 1960s plastic signs and a Mexican tiled roof. The interior is dimly lit and carries the mid-century Mexican restaurant look with more river rock, exposed brick, knobby wood posts and more tile. Mariachis are often on duty to serenade, while a tortilla maker molds homemade tortillas in view of restaurant patrons.

(1963) The Red Onion 736 Silver Spur Rd, Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274.
Once a nationwide chain of 26 Mexican American restaurants, this Palos Verdes location is the only survivor, the rest had closed by the early ’90s. The first Red Onion got its start in Inglewood in 1949 as a 19-seat Sonoran-styled Mexican diner opened by Harry Earle, while a second location was opened in 1958 by his son Bart in Hawthorne and this third location opened in Palos Verdes in 1963. Owned by Bart’s son, Jeff Earle, since 1996, the interior is dimly lit with cozy carpeting, filled with dark wood, beamed ceilings, brick and crowded with framed art and antiques. The exterior has a paved brick entranceway and fountain,

(1964) Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe 5536 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe was opened in 1964 by the late Lucy and Frank Casado. Serving Mexican food in a stylized mid-century adobe building, the interior has several separate dining areas along with a romantic outdoor courtyard featuring low river rock walls, old brick floor tiles and a rustic stone fountain. The inside features brick walls, polished Mexican paved floors, brown leather booths with wood laminate tables, a built in bar and hundreds of framed celebrity headshots covering the walls. Across the street from Paramount Studios it has been a casual celebrity hangout since it was built and was specifically known as a favorite of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles.

(1964) The Talpa 11751 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. La Talpa Mexican restaurant opened in 1964 on Pico Blvd in Los Angeles, not far from the border of Santa Monica. It is small and family owned, having had several owners since its original opening. The exterior is covered in brick and has an amazing neon sign of a man in a sombrero taking a siesta under a cactus. The simple interior is decorated with festive murals and front facing stained glass windows. There are wood paneled walls, red leather booths and a cozy back room bar with additional seating.

(1964) Vargas Mexicatessen 4608 Durfee Ave, Pico Rivera, CA 90660. With a hand painted sign announcing Tamales-Tacos-Burritos-Menudo, this store front deli opened in 1964 and serves Mexican food to go from a take-out window. Family run by Mike Vargas.

(1965) Mexi-Casa 1778 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801. Mexi-Casa opened in 1965 on Lincoln Street in Anaheim, CA. Its first location was two doors down from where it resides today. The original spot became the El Conejo club and then Cuban Pete’s, both now closed. Today this old school Mexican Restaurant stands at 1778 W. Lincoln Boulevard. The exterior is brick and wooden trim with a heavy door. The interior is very cool and has a distinct ’70s vibe with wood paneled walls and a wood paneled bar, dark burgundy tufted leather booths, a massive brick fireplace, knobby wooden room dividers and wall insets made of cement breeze block, 1970s hanging lamps, laminate wood tables and ’70s colonial-style wooden chairs. This location was once the restaurant for the Kettle Motor Motel, and fits perfectly with the Mexi-Casa ambiance, which is well known for large servings and extremely inexpensive prices.

(1965) Mexican Village 3668 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004. The Mexican Village is an old-school family-owned Mexican restaurant located on Beverly Blvd, just outside the border of Silverlake, often overlooked by those in the neighborhood. Opened by Abel Olivares  in 1965, it is now run by his children, Abel Jr., Diana and  Blanca. The interior is spacious, with tables and chairs, rather than booths, and features Saltillo-tiled floors and traditional Mexican decor.

(1966) Al & Bea’s Mexican Food 2025 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Located in a small, brick fronted Boyle Heights shack, Al & Bea’s was opened by husband and wife, Albert & Beatrice Carreon in November 1966. Serving fast-food Mexican from a pick-up window with a few picnic tables for on-site dining, a hand painted sign informs customers that their specialty is burritos. The business is now run by the couple’s son, Ryan Carreon. Both Al and Bea passed away within two months of each other in 2018.

(1966) Avila’s El Ranchito 6703 Santa Fe Ave, Huntington Park, CA 90255. Opened in 1966 by Salvador and Margarita Avila, immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico, this Huntington Park Mexican restaurant started with five tables has now expanded into a chain of 12 other locations throughout Orange County. Festive and brightly colored with a Mexican motif and built-in wood trellis work, most of the ’60s decorating elements have been wiped out, but the large corner building was constructed in 1925, so the high interior exposed brick walls are able to reflect a little history.

(1966) El Matador 1768 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Opened in 1966 by Marcial Gallardo, an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico, this Costa Mesa Mexican restaurant was owned by its founder for nearly 40 years, until his death in 2003. A family feud about its inheritance followed, causing the eatery to be placed at public auction and allowing Greg and Jana McConaughy to pick up the reins in 2005. The couple remodeled the interior and exterior and doubled the restaurant in size by adding a second dining room. The result removed the majority of the vintage, though the history is still there.

(1966) La Paloma 2975 Foothill Blvd, La Verne, CA 91750. La Paloma Mexican opened in July 1966 by Joe Parker, who already owned Mexican restaurants in San Bernardino. Today it is still owned by his family. Located in a former orange grove, its building was constructed in 1930 as Wilson’s Sandwich Shop and then  enlarged to become Wilson’s Steakhouse from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. La Paloma’s interior features the original steakhouse’s wood beamed ceilings, wrought iron, red leather booths and stained glass taken from a demolished church. An amazing original 1960s neon sign stands out front.

(1967) Casa Escobar 2500 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403. With its amazing mid-century sign looming over Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, Casa Escobar is one of the neighborhood’s few remains of what the westside once looked like. This restaurant was part of a chain of several Casa Escobar restaurants throughout the Los Angeles area, including Eagle Rock Plaza, Marina Del Rey, Malibu and Puente Hills, originally started by Juan and Rosa Escobar in 1946. This location and the Malibu branch are the only ones left, run by two separate descendants of the Escobar family. The menu is an American take on classic Sonoran Mexican food. Besides its lovely vintage exterior, the restaurant has thankfully hung on to its original interior as well. The lighting is kept on the dark side, barely illuminating deep red leather semi-circular booths, brick walls, a long wood laminate bar trimmed with padded black leather, late ’60s hangings lamps and original room dividers made from knobby wood with textured colored glass.

(1967) El Sombrero 3550 Santa Anita Ave, El Monte, CA 91731. Though this El Monte Mexican restaurant opened in 1967, the interior provokes a more modern, perhaps ’80s, chain restaurant vibe. With a banquet room, a buffet, karaoke and plastic laminated menus, it has a casual family feel.

(1967) J & S 887 S Garfield Ave, Montebello, CA 90640. This cash-only fast food Mexican food spot has been on Garfield Avenue in Montebello since 1967 and is open 24 hours, 7 days per week. Ordering is drive-through or from a pick-up window in the side of this little brick building. Built-in ’60s picnic tables (stainless steel outside and bright orange inside) allow patrons to eat indoors or outdoors. The interior is sparse, with brick walls, the orange tables and a couple of vintage video game machines.

(1967) Los Cincos Puntos 3300 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, L.A., CA 90063. Market and authentic carniceria specializing in homemade tortillas, hand carved carnitas, tamales and other Mexican food served take-out counter-style. It is named Cinco Puntos (Five Points) because of the 5 points of intersecting streets at Chavez (Brooklyn), Lorena and Indiana. It has a market-style set up with a take-out counter and is a popular neighborhood favorite. Because of that, lines get long during lunch time. There are a few outside and indoor tables for eating.

(1967) Los Toros Mexican Restaurant 21743 Devonshire St, Chatsworth, CA 91311. Opened in 1967 on Devonshire Street in Chatsworth by Nicolas and Dolores Montaño, the original location of the restaurant was located further down Devonshire, but moved to its present location in 1971, formerly the Magdalena Mexican Deli. At that time, the restaurant boasted the first sit-down restaurant patio in Chatsworth. The menu is traditional family-style Mexican cuisine, and presently hosts a great happy hour. The interior features exquisite ceramic tile work throughout, including a gorgeously tiled bar, colorful murals, brick alcoves and red saltillo floor.

(1967) Mario’s Tacos 9247 Whittier Blvd, Pico Rivera, CA 90660. This Pico Rivera neighborhood Mexican restaurant was opened in 1967 by Irenero “Mario” Jimenez, an immigrant from Huitzuco, Guerrero, Mexico, who passed away in 2013. Still run by his family, it features casual counter ordering and much of the decor has its late ’60s to mid ’70s personality intact. From wood paneled walls, Mexican tile, knick knacks galore, framed headshots of all of the American presidents, wooden Colonial-style tables and chairs, chandeliers, brick trimmed doorways and much more, it is eclectic and inexpensive.

(1967) Taco Lita 120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006. Opened as a franchise by Elias “George” Muniz and wife Dixie in 1967 as the 15th restaurant in a chain of Taco Litas, which had gotten their start in 1958, San Bernardino. With locations throughout Southern California (Ontario, La Habra, West Covina, Upland, Pomona, San Gabriel and more) this Arcadia branch is the sole surviver. Serving Americanized Mexican fast food and beloved for their packets of hot sauce, the restaurant has become a neighborhood institution. The boxy, glass paned building is a model example of late ’60s fast food architecture. With bright orange, yellow and red tiled counter and floors, blue molded plastic seats and spectacularly mod plastic signage, its original surviving decorative elements are an amazing time capsule.

(1968) Lares 2909 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Lares restaurant is a long standing favorite on Pico Boulevard near 30th Street in Santa Monica. Originally a small coffee shop called Irene’s Cafe, it was bought by Jesse Lares, who had been working the grill down the street at Rae’s Diner, and his sister Aurora in 1968. They turned the coffee shop into a four table Mexican restaurant with living quarters upstairs for the siblings. The restaurant has expanded over the years, engulfing the living quarters, to two large levels with beamed ceilings, wooden tables and chairs and an ornately carved wooden bar, still run by the Lares family.

(1968) Lucy’s 4151 N Sierra Way, San Bernardino, CA 92407. This family-style San Bernardino Mexican restaurant was opened in 1968 by Daniel and Lucy Rodriguez. Probably last remodeled in the late ’70s to early ’80s, the vibe is casual with tan vinyl booths, laminate tables, cozy homestyle decor and some trompe l’oeil Mexican murals. The exterior is a free-standing, brick-trimmed house with a late ’60s wrought iron lantern topped the fairly new plastic sign. Daniel passed away in 2004 and Lucy’s is now owned by his son, also named Daniel.

(1968) Pablo’s Taco Bender 1232 W Base Line St, San Bernardino, CA 92411. Opened in 1968 by Pablo Perea, this brick Mexican American fast food stand with a few picnic tables and window ordering is particularly celebrated for their chili fries.

(1968) Sabroso 19714 Vanowen St, Winnetka, CA 91306. This Valley Mexican restaurant got its start in 1968, in a freestanding building with an odd church-like peak. With counter ordering, its not even close to fancy, but its solid. Serving beer and wine, not always common for a counter joint, the interior is unremarkable except for some painted murals and an outdoor patio that bring in a little life. The owner is listed as Jorge Schneider, but there’s no verification whether he’s the founder as well.

(1969) Burrito King 2109 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Burrito King was started by Julian E. Montoya, an immigrant from Colombia who learned about burritos while stationed in San Diego with the US Navy. In 1969 Montoya took over a failing taco stand on the corner of Sunset and Alvarado in the Echo Park neighborhood and began serving the fast-food burritos he had learned about. The stand eventually grew to 20 locations throughout Los Angeles, even expanding to Bogatá, Colombia and Houston, Texas. This original location, beloved by many, is the only one left in the chain, which has been celebrated in photo by many from ex-California Jerry Brown to Gram Parsons and his Burrito Brothers. Located on a corner, with a plastic sign and take-out window, there are a few stools for eating at a stainless steel counter.

(1969) Don Cuco 3911 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake, CA 91505. Opened in 1969 by Mexican immigrant Augusto “Cuco” Salazar, who had started out in 1966 owning a bar next door called the Bucaneer in Toluca Lake and sold it to purchase this lot to build a restaurant. The exterior of the building is dressed like a Spanish villa with faux brick, old fashioned lanterns and clay tiles roof. The dark interior is rich with gorgeous stained glass, tile work, wrought iron and red leather booths with knobbed wood partitions. Serving old school Mexican food.

(1969) El Abajeno 4513 Inglewood Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230. The word ‘abejeno’ means coastal dweller. El Abajeno is a cafeteria-style Mexican restaurant owned by the same family since 1969 on Inglewood Boulevard in Culver City. Meals are eaten in a remodeled dining room decorated with Mexican touches, such as tiled tables, exposed brick around the doorways, 1960s lanterns and a clay tiled floor.

(1969) El Tarasco 316 Rosecrans Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. This tiny hut serving Mexican food can constructively be viewed as a hole in the wall. Opened by Celia and Moises Palomo, immigrants from Michoacan, Mexico, they opened a second location in El Segundo in 1977 that is still in operation. Celia passed away in 1997 and Moises in 1998. With tons of character, including walls covered in stickers, exposed brick, a wooden ceiling where posters, license plates and other ephemera are hung willy-nilly, the only anomaly is the eating counter made of polished marble- not the cool kind, but the kind found in bad home remodels starting in the early 2000s. With counter eating only, about a dozen black vinyl stool line both sides of the very thin room. The exterior is a festive bright yellow, with Mexican cartoon murals, located about 5 blocks from the ocean. There is rooftop outdoor table eating accessed by an outdoor side staircase.

(1969) La Abeja 3700 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065. La Abeja, which means The Bee in Spanish, opened in 1969 on Figueroa St in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. It is a small, authentic Mexican restaurant with wood paneled walls and ceiling, wood laminate tables and burgundy vinyl booths. Located in a rounded building on a corner, the exterior is covered with murals inspired by Aztec and Mexican themes and was painted by artist Leo Limón. The restaurant, is now owned by Rogelio Fonseca, but was opened as a corner store with attached kitchen by his parents Jose and Gloria. It caters to locals, serving homey Mexican food and menudo on weekends. It has no liquor license, but beer can be brought in. (August 2019: Owners have announced that La Abeja will be closing soon).

(1969) La Villa Mexican Restaurant 15333 Crenshaw Blvd, Gardena, CA 90249.         La Villa Mexican Food was opened by Israel and Elisa Becerra in 1969, a married couple who had immigrated to Southern California just over a decade before from Mexico. Located on Crenshaw Boulevard in Gardena, the restaurant eventually expanded to two other branches in Redondo and Manhattan Beach, but only this first location remains. Serving traditional Mexican food in a brick fronted and shingle-roofed building, the interior decoration leans towards late ’60s country cottage mixed with a Southwest flavor, incorporating natural wood and terra cotta tiled floors. La Villa is now owned by the couple’s youngest daughter, Maria Gardner.

(1969) Taco Treat 74 East Live Oak, Arcadia, CA, 91006. Family owned fast-food Mexican served from a small take-out shack, built in 1950, with a cool old sign. They specialize in crispy, deep fried burritos. The original owner, Harold Morrow, who was also a South Pasadena postman, passed away in 2011. Taco Treat is now owned by his daughter. There are picnic tables on the side for eating.

(1970) Antonio’s Restaurant 7470 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Antonio’s Mexican restaurant was opened in 1970, by Antonio Gutiérrez, an immigrant from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Existing since before Melrose became a trendy shopping destination, the interior is dark, with an old school feel, including brown tufted leather booths, dividers made of knobby wood and wrought iron, saltillo floors, beautiful Mexican ceramic tile work and walls full of old photos. Though Antonio still often greets patrons, the restaurant is now formally run by his daughter.

(1970) Casa Gamino 8330 Alondra Blvd, Paramount, CA 90723. The first location of a small Mexican restaurant chain opened by Cipriano Gamino  in 1970. Other locations are in Inglewood (1981) and Anaheim (1996). A Pico Rivera branch changed owners and is now called Casa Camino. This original location has been remodeled, but the Inglewood restaurant still has a great late ’70s vintage feel.

(1970) Zamora Bros 1503 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Zamora Bros was established in 1970 in Boyle Heights by Mauro “Chato” Zamora who immigrated to Los Angeles from  Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. Zamora started his business with a street cart, selling carnitas at local soccer matches and then opened this market and carniceria afterward. Located in the same building since its inception, the street name was changed from Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in 1994 to honor labor leader Chavez, who died the year before. Though Zamora Bros is more of a market than a restaurant, carnitas, birria, chicharrones and other Mexican food can be ordered from a long take-out counter with chalk board menu and tables are available for eating on premises. The building, painted bright red, white and blue with a portrait of the Virgin de Guadalupe on the side, is brick trimmed and has a tiled front side walk.

(1971) Alfredo’s Granada 1100 W Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91506. Alfredo’s Granada Mexican restaurant was opened in 1971 on Victory Blvd in Burbank by Alfredo Bernal in the location of the former Sargents Restaurant. When Alfredo died in 2003, it was run by his family members until 2010, when it closed down and then re-opened yet again. Featuring early 1970s decor, olive colored booths, brick walls and a tile-roofed Mexican “hacienda” disguising the kitchen, it also has a separate attached bar area.

(1972) Little Onion 110 W MacArthur Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92707. The first location of Little Onion Mexican restaurant was opened in 1969 by Lorin “Lorenzo” in Hawthorne, CA. He then he moved the restaurant to Santa Ana in October 1972. Located in a two-level freestanding building with a clay-tiled roof, the inside is spacious and dimly lit, filled with rich colors, dark wood, rustic brick and beautiful Mexican tile. The vintage leather booths are either burgundy or dark brown, depending on which section, and the tables are early ’70s wood laminate. A separate bar area also features an eating section.

(1972) Lupe’s #2 4642 E. 3rd St. in East Los Angeles. This little East L.A. fast food taco stand was opened by Manuel and Adeline Portillo in 1972. With some built-in stools around the perimeter and a red, white and blue striped awning, this divey little hut is a neighborhood favorite. A mural is painted on the side honoring founder Adeline, who passed away in 2010.

(1973) Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant 322 PCH, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant was opened in 1973 on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach by Rosa Perez, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her husband in 1966. Though Rosa retired and sold the business in 2010, this small, bright and festively painted storefront restaurant has had the same chef since it first opened. The walls are covered with multi-colored murals, the ceiling is sky blue and the tablecloths are in deep primary colors.

(1974) Cortez Brothers 16100 Old Valley Blvd, La Puente, CA 91744. Located in a little river rock fronted house with plastic signs, Cortez Brothers is part market, part restaurant. With red leatherette booths and red laminate tables, wall murals, a takeout counter and a CD jukebox, this is truly a neighborhood spot, serving homey Mexican food. Founded by Ignacio Cortes Correa and Rita Martinez de Cortes, it was owned by Rogelio and Carmen Cortez until 2019 and now has a new owner.

(1974) El Farolito 201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870. El Farolito, which translates to the “light of hope,” was opened on Bradford Ave in Placentia in 1974 as the dream of Mexican immigrant family, the Sandovals. Still family owned, more than half of the 30-something employees are family members. Located in a small freestanding building, the interior is bright, casual and simple with clay tiled floors and walls lined with paintings of Mexican images.

(1974) Gilbert’s El Indio 2526 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Opened by Gilberto and Carmen Rodriguez in May 1974, Gilbert’s El Indio serves Mexican food in a stuccoed early 1970s building with brick trim, a Spanish clay tiled roof and a vintage plastic sign. Entrance is through the back, past “El Indio,” a well-loved life-sized wooden Indian statue. The ’70s feel continues with an interior of wood paneled walls plastered with photographs, stained glass lamps, wood laminate tables and burgundy colored booths. The cluttered decor adds to the ambiance and is a mixture of Mexican and Native American themes. The restaurant is still run by Carmen, her children and grandchildren.

(1974) Sagebrush Cantina 23527 Calabasas Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302. This popular Mexican restaurant and party spot was opened by Bob McCord in 1974, when Calabassas was merely a dusty, dry area off the 101 Freeway that once had a stagecoach stop. McCord had worked as a Hollywood sound man on the TV show ‘Death Valley Days,’ and while on location in Arizona he was in a small plane crash that killed the two co-workers who were with him. McCord survived with a broken back and broken ankle, but had to wait two days to be rescued. He used his settlement money to rent a storefront next to the historic 1844-built Leonis Adobe and created Sagebrush Cantina, a one room restaurant using a hot plate, a few tables and two employees. The storefront was built in the early 1920s by Lester Agoure. What is now the cantina’s parking lot once was the local jail. By the early ’80s the success of his Mexican spot was so great that he had expanded the restaurant to seat 800 people and had 150 employees. The large restaurant, features high wood beamed ceilings, a cement floor is filled with western-style props, a small plane hanging from the ceiling, saw dusted floors, model ships and a small train in the parking lot. McCord passed away in 2008.

(1975) El Burrito 1095 W Colton Ave, Redlands, CA 92374. El Burrito got its start in 1949 Colton, CA when Robert L. Meister, a railroad worker, built ABC Drive-in to sell hamburgers, hotdogs, milkshakes and soda out of a 400-square-foot shack with a counter window and outdoor tables. Eight years later, in 1957, he realized that Mexican food was the direction he wanted to head in and changed the shack’s name to El Burrito. His son, Jim Meister, then opened a second El Burrito in San Bernardino (closed in 1999) and in 1975 opened this third Redlands location as well. Located in a red painted brick building, it consists of a take-out window and outdoor seating.  The original location closed in November 2015 and the Redlands El Burrito is the only one surviving, owned by Ted Nece, the grandson of original founder R.L. Meister.

(1975) El Compadre 7408 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029. El Compadre Mexican restaurant was opened by David Castro and Mario Jimenez on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood in 1975. Dark and atmospheric, with a mysterious old world hacienda feeling, the restaurant features dark red leather booths, wood beamed ceilings, wrought iron, stained glass hanging lamps, vintage knobby wood partitions and Mexican themed paintings on the walls. Known for their flaming margaritas, mariachi bands and homemade tortilla chips, two more locations were opened in Echo Park (2004) and downtown L.A. (2014).

(1975) King Taco #1 1118 Cypress Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90065. This is the first location of the worshiped fast food taco chain now comprising 22 locations throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. In 1974, Raul Martínez, a Mexican immigrant who was once employed as a Mexico City traffic cop and then a Los Angeles dishwasher, converted an old ice cream truck in to a mobile lunch wagon and began selling his tacos on the street. The truck was so successful that he saved up enough money to start this brick and mortar store six months later. His store eventually became the blueprint of fast food taco shops nationwide. Raul passed away in 2013.

(1975) Paco’s Tacos 4141 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Paco’s Tacos is a full-service Mexican restaurant opened in 1975 on Centinela Ave by Paco Francisco. Located in a brick-fronted building with a Spanish tile roof, it has mid-1970s plastic signs out front. The interior features lively, fun interior decor with tile bordered walls, Mexican-themed murals, large fishtanks, stained glass, painted wooden ceiling beams and eclectic fishing and hunting ephemera hanging from the ceiling. A scene from the film Jerry Maguire was filmed here.

(1976) La Barca 2414 Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007. Established in May 1976 by the Padilla family in the University Park area near USC, this traditional Mexican restaurant has been popular with students for decades. Located in a building that was constructed in 1904, there is a feeling of history in this restaurant that somewhat transcends the restaurant’s mid-’70s roots. Dark and atmospheric, its walls are painted to look like a Mexican courtyard, bricks and clay roof tiles added to give semblance of a village and its ceiling painted with clouds and blue sky.  The restaurant is still owned by the same family and is now run by Guillermo Padilla who opened a second branch in Downey in 2012.

(1976) La Paz 514 Center St, El Segundo, CA 90245. This little store front Mexican restaurant is located in an El Segundo strip mall was opened by Jose and Josefina Mendez. The interior consists of several casual diner-style rooms with booths and vintage linoleum.

(1976) Leo’s Mexican Food 16006 Inglewood Ave, Lawndale, CA 90260.
Opened by Leo and Josephine Presiado on Inglewood Boulevard in Lawndale, this Mexican restaurant first opened in 1948. It has been owned since 1967 by the couple’s son, Lionel, who constructed a new, larger building in 1976 and moved the restaurant seven blocks up the road. The inside is light and bright, with wooden tables, red saltillo floors and Mexican decorative touches, while the exterior features a Mexican clay-tiled roof, stuccoed walls and plastic signage. An eating patio is covered in wood trellis and has a central fountain.

(1976) Mi Casita 8069 Foothill Blvd, Sunland-Tujunga, CA 91040. Mi Casita opened in 1976 on Foothill Blvd in Sunland-Tujunga. This small Mexican restaurant features burgundy leather tufted booths, festive painted murals and red brick walls. Owned by Roe Rodrigez.

(1976) Moreno’s 4328 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92869. In October 1969, Javier and Nora Moreno opened a little bakery on Esplanade and Chapman Avenue in the town of Orange and ran it for several years, eventually serving Mexican food as well. After outgrowing that first location, in 1976 they moved their little restaurant into a much bigger spot- an old Quaker church building and meeting house that had stood further down on Chapman Avenue since 1887. The couple’s intent was to create a romantic old world Mexican feeling restaurant with interior and exterior fountains, brick walls and fireplaces, saltillo-tiled floors and patio dining. After some basic remodeling, including adding Spanish arches, painting murals, landscaping and tile work, the current Moreno’s was born. Moreno’s architecture comprises the Quaker church’s original gabled roof and cupola, as well as a separate bakery area to purchase their well-known baked goods and tamales to go.

(1976) Olamendi’s 34660 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, CA 92624. First opened in San Clemente in 1973 by Jorge, an immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico, and his wife Maria Olamendi, from Jalisco, this Mexican restaurant moved to a bigger location in Capistrano Beach, three years later. Jam packed with vibrant art, incredible Dia de los Muertos puppets and ornaments hanging from the brightly colored rafters, there is also a significant amount of photos and memorabilia commemorating Orange County’s native son and one time resident Richard Nixon. The resigned president was a customer here for two decades, until his death in 1994. Also popular with surfers because of its beachfront location, the exterior is painted in technicolor as well. In 2012 the Olamendi’s also marketed their own brand of tequila and have recently opened a market in Laguna Nigel.

(1976) Yuca’s 2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Yuca’s was established in 1976 by owners Socorro and Jaime Herrera who turned an 8×10 foot shoeshine stand into a James Beard award winning taqueria, serving a small menu of tacos, burritos, tortas, hamburgers and hotdogs. With outdoor seating under a wooden canopy, the small restaurant is particularly recognized for their ochinita pibil, a slow-roasted stewed pork recipe of the Yucatan area from where the Herrara’s emigrated. A second location was opened in Pasadena in 2017.

(1977) Arturo’s Puffy Taco 15693 Leffingwell Rd, Whittier, CA 90604. Puffy tacos (sort of a bubbly, chewy deep-fried cross between a hard shelled taco and a soft one) are apparently a thing originating in both San Antonio, Texas and Whittier, California. The lineage goes back to Texas when the brother of Arturo Lopez, opened up Henry’s Puffy Taco in San Antonio, based on a recipe of their father, owner of Ray’s Drive-in. Arturo, who had moved to Southern California in the mid-’60s, opened up his own puffy taco restaurant in 1977, first in La Habra and then in Whittier. The Whittier branch is still going strong in a ’70s- style fast food building with red vinyl and white plastic booths, clay-tiled floors and a take-out counter. A patent for the unique puffy tacos was filed by Arturo in 1992, and the restaurant is still run by his daughter and grandchildren.

(1978) La Parrilla 2126 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033.
Opened in 1978 by Maria del Carmen Salas, an immigrant from Sinoloa, Mexico, this small  Boyle Heights Mexican restaurant is filled to the brim with over-the-top festive decor, brightly colored murals and singing mariachi. The original late ’70s details are evident under the clutter, touches of knobby wood, a few original burgundy vinyl booths, alongside those added later, and brick work. The name La Parrilla is a style of Mexican barbecue-grilled meat and the restaurant is known for their parrillada plates, homemade tortillas and tableside preparation of guacamole  A second location of La Parrilla was opened in 1996 on Wilshire Blvd, in the Westlake neighborhood, near downtown L.A. and is on this list as well.

(1978) Los Tres Conchinitos 3111 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90031. Opened in 1978, Los Tres Conchintos (The Three Piggies) is bare bones and basic, a little freestanding Mexican restaurant in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood that’s open for breakfast and lunch and accepts cash only. This unadorned “hole in the wall” serves authentic menudo, birria, tamales along with other Mexican favorites. There’s also two other local Los Tres Conchinitos in Wilmington (1973) and Commerce (1980) but they appear to be unconnected.

(1978) Raul’s Mexican Food 13908 S Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250. Raul’s Mexican restaurant opened in 1978 by Raul Ornelas, also owner of Raul’s Casa Sombrero, a similar Mexican spot on Hawthorne Boulevard. With deep burgundy tufted vinyl booths trimmed with gold buttons, wood laminate tables, polished brick floors, knobby wood room dividers, wall murals and vintage lighting, the interior has had minimal remodeling since the restaurant opened. An original plastic sign with vintage font hangs out front. Raul sold the business to Gelberto Bermal in 2018.

(1979) La Fuente 5530 Monte Vista St, Los Angeles, CA 90042. This small Highland Park Mexican restaurant was opened by Jose Abel Sapien in 1979 and has kept its late ’70s authenticity in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Located in a small house with original vinyl booths, laminate wood tables and old-world Mexican touches, such as iron lanterns, brick-edged porticoes and wood beamed ceilings. In 1993, the same owner opened another location of the restaurant, La Fuente #6 on Figueroa Ave in Highland Park, though not as old, it still has a vintage feel. His brother, Humberto Sapian, owns La Fuente #4 (1988) on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock.

(1980) Azteca 12911 Main St Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840. This Mexican restaurant was originally opened by Connie Skipworth in 1957 on Garden Grove Boulevard before she moved it to its current spot on the town’s Historic Main Street in 1980. It is jam packed with Elvis memorabilia in every available crevice, from floor to ceiling, and includes an Elvis-themed bar called The Crooner’s Lounge. The Elvis collection was added to the restaurant in 1993, when Connie’s nephew, J.J. Jauregui, inherited the business from his Aunt. He owned the restaurant, constantly adding to the collection, until 2014 and it has been owned by Jennifer Stewart since.

(1980) King Taco #2 4504 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90022. This is the second location of the worshiped fast food taco chain now comprising 22 locations throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Built in 1980 in East L.A, this massive 4,000 square foot branch is considered the chain’s flagship store. The exterior signage is bright and attention getting, ordering is done through a series of exterior take-out windows and seating is available at outside picnic tables. Open 24 hours a day from Thursdays to Saturdays, the rest of the week this shop stays open until 3am. The first location, King Taco #1, is still surviving, opened in the Cypress Park neighborhood in 1975 by Raul Martínez.

(1980) Casablanca 220 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291.
Casablanca restaurant was opened in 1980 by movie buff Carlos Haro, an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico who had worked as a radio DJ and nightclub owner south of the border. Located on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, the spot serves classic Mexican food with a decorating theme based on the 1942 movie Casablanca. With a life-sized fiberglass statue of Humphrey Bogart, movie memorabilia covering the walls, movie-themed murals, cast autographs and props on display, the restaurant claims one of the largest collections based on the film in the world. The restaurant has been owned by Haro’s son, Carlos Jr. since 1982.

(1981) Casa Gamino 4937 W Century Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90304. This is the second location of Casa Gamino Mexican restaurant, first founded in 1970 by Cipriano Gamino in Paramount. This location, in a freestanding building, has had little remodeling and still has a late ’70s feel with brick work, a green leatherette upholstered bar, Mexican tile and stucco ceilings.

(1981) Joselito’s 2345 Honolulu Ave, Montrose, CA 91020. This Montrose location evolved out of a Mexican restaurant opened by Jose and Myrna Grijalva in Burbank in 1977, named after their son, Jose Jr.. The interior is shades of rust and brown booths, with Mexican tiled tables, wall murals and a cozy outside patio. A second location was opened in Tujunga in 2000.

(1981) Las Hadas 9048 Balboa Blvd, Northridge, CA 91325. The early ’80s feel is still omni-present at Las Hadas Mexican restaurant, with a wood laminate paneled bar and a country kitchen decorating scheme with floral upholstered booths, airport lounge-style carpets and wood table dividers. A dance floor, with its own disco ball and ’80s neon tube lights, features mariachis on Tuesdays and gets festive on weekends.

(1982) Don Antonio’s 11755 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. Don Antonio’s Mexican restaurant was opened in 1982 on Pico Blvd in West L.A., by Antonio and Amalia Hernandez, who had previously owned Gilbert’s El Indio (opened 1974) located down the same street in Santa Monica. This dark and cozy restaurant has red leather booths in one room and another “cave room” complete with wall surfaces and a ceiling that resembles stalactites. The exterior has a vintage feel with Mexican tile, river rock and saltillo roof tiles. There is a separate bar area and an outdoor patio with tables in the back. The amazing neon sign of a man in sombrero with mustache, that stood out front fell down in a windstorm in 2017 and was unfortunately not replaced.

(1982) Las Fuentes 18415 Vanowen St, Reseda, CA 91335. Opened in 1982 by Alejandro and Norma Morales, this colorfully decorated Mexican restaurant has been expanded three times over the years. Ordering is done at a counter and served when the order number is called. The decor is festive, with Mexican murals and bright folkloric art pieces.

(1983) La Capilla 1332 Sartori Ave, Torrance, CA 90501. Opened by the Munoz brothers in 1983, immigrants from the small village La Capilla, Mexico, this Torrance Mexican restaurant has black vinyl booths, wood laminate tables, ’70s faux Tiffany-style lamps hung above each table, a wooden bar and Mexican murals and decor throughout. The feel is unremodeled late ’70s to early ’80s.

(1983) Gloria’s 7823 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park, CA 90255. Gloria’s was opened by Juan Sanjuan in 1983, an immigrant from Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico and is now run by his family. Located in a freestanding building with stained glass windows, clay tiles floors and a large parking lot, this family-style Mexican restaurant is known for their parrillada, mariscos and ceviche. Featuring a live mariachi band Thursdays through Sundays, they also have a nightly happy hour.

(1983) Marix Tex Mex Cafe 1108 N Flores St, West Hollywood, CA 90069. With a California rustic vibe, Marix Tex Mex Cafe is surrounded by greenery and has the true feeling of Los Angeles in the early ’80s, from the font of its neon sign, to its bent wood-styled chairs to its retractable patio roof. The Texas meets Mexican concept was also on the revolutionary cusp of food culture back then, so now this once “nouveau” restaurant has finally crossed into vintage territory, a concept the L.A. Times labeled as Texican back in April 1985. Opened by Mary Sweeney and Vickie Shemaria, who had been an immigration attorney in San Antonio, the restaurant today additionally features a reasonable Happy Hour.

(1984) Mijares 145 Palmetto Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105. Though Mijares has a long history in Pasadena, the current building dates to 1984, so because of its architecture is further down on this list than some might expect. The restaurant got its early start in 1920 as a tortilla factory opened by Jesucita Mijares, who immigrated to the United States after fleeing the revolution in Mexico. The little tortilla factory and restaurant moved to its current location in 1940, but was completely destroyed by arson in 1978. The current building, re-built in the same location, was contructed in 1984. The architecture and decor is early ’80s Mexican inspired.  Jesucita Mijares passed away in 1988. A second location has since opened, also in Pasadena.

(1996) La Parrilla 1300 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Mexican restaurant just west of downtown in the Westlake neighborhood which has an authentic traditional vibe with burgundy leather booths. It is on the “newer” side of this vintage restaurant list, having opened in 1996 as the 2nd restaurant of La Parilla Boyle Heights (1978), but its location echoes with history. The building it is located in is a former home built in 1905 and once owned by Charlie Chaplin. The back part of the building is Storybook-style with curved thatched roof and is one of the oldest remaining buildings on Wilshire, back when it was called Orange Street. This place is worth a visit for good food and tasty pitchers of sangria.

Nikki Kreuzer

About Nikki Kreuzer

Nikki Kreuzer has been a Los Angeles resident for over 30 years. When not working her day job in the film & TV industry, she spends her time over many obsessions, mainly music, art and exploring & photographing the oddities of the city she adores. So far she has written 110 Offbeat L.A. articles which are published at the Los Angeles Beat. She also is a regular contributor to L.A. Weekly and Blurred Culture and has been published by Oddee.com, Twist Magazine, Strobe and Not For Hire. Nikki is also a mosaic artist, working actor and published photographer. Her photography has been featured in the print version of LA Weekly and as part of an exhibit at the Museum of Neon Art. In the band Nikki & Candy, she played bass, sang and co-wrote. Find Nikki & Candy music on iTunes, Amazon or at NikkiandCandy.com. Nikki is a radio DJ at Dublab.com with co-host Becky Ebenkamp for the monthly show Bubblegum & Other Delights. For more photos, adventures & music history follow @Lunabeat on Instagram or @NikkiKreuzer on Twitter. Please check out Nikki Kreuzer's entire portfolio (writing/music/radio shows/videos) at OffbeatLA.com.
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51 Responses to Offbeat L.A.: The Oldest Surviving Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles

  1. aitchcs says:

    Fantastic list, thanks.

  2. Greg Butler says:

    Thanks!

  3. Dixon James says:

    I am surprised you didn’t list La Tolteca in Azusa, which opened in 1948, and is still extremely popular!

  4. Dixon James says:

    I am surprised that you didn’t list La Tolteca in Azusa, which has been doing business since 1948. It is extremely popular and is known for its fantastic chips and salsa!

    • La Tolteca is amazing, but the current restaurant, in its present location, dates to 2008. The tortilla factory (not the restaurant) goes back to 1948 and has an amazing vintage sign.

      • Diane says:

        They had a smaller restaurant before they moved. It wasn’t just a tortilla factory. I used to eat there with my parents on the ‘60’s.

        • Yes, they did have a great little restaurant that transitioned from the tortilla factory, but that is no longer there. The new restaurant was built in a different location in 2008 and is very modern. I really wish I felt it fit this list, but it is too new.

  5. Wayne Schotten says:

    Not exactly a full restaurant, but a stand, my favorite is Burrito King, Sunset and Alvarado.

  6. Vicki Fisher says:

    You need to include Senor Campos in La Habra. It’s been around since the 1970s.

  7. fassariMike says:

    Mario’s on Whittier Blvd. in Pico Rivera and Vargas’ Mexicatesan on Durfee in Pico Rivera. Both date to the 60’s

  8. Russell Waite says:

    Carrillos is my current favorite, but from the old days there was Las Delisious in San Fernando, where I acquired my love of Mexican food as a very young ‘gringo’. Ed Sierra’s was another San Fernando favorite.

  9. Frank says:

    Not on this list Mario’s Tacos and Vargas in Pico rivera both around for over 50 years. And in what world is Tito’s Tacos considered Mexican food? Just because they roll things in tortillas and fill up corn tortillas with slop doesn’t make it mexican…sorry, not sorry…cause then Taco Bell and Del Taco need to be on this list.

  10. Don Cicchetti says:

    I think that the Chili Pepper in Santa Ana likely has the best Chili Colorado in the country. Everything is good as well.

    https://www.thechilipepperrestaurant.com/

    I’d include them and they opened in the early 70’s.

    Thank, Don

  11. Mark Alexander says:

    probably been to a third of them!!

  12. Grace Desi Schmidt says:

    My parents George & Magda Desi were partners with Ernie Cruz in the 60’s &70’s until Ernies death. At one time they owned almost a dozen Ernies. I have tons of original photos and invitations to all the openings!

  13. Joe Acosta says:

    Didn’t see my favorite place La Tolteca in Azusa Ca on your list… They are celebrating their 70’th anniversary.

  14. Sara L says:

    What about El Adobe in San Juan Capistrano? I thought they opened in the 40s.

  15. Kevin Tikker says:

    Does Villa Taxco survive?

  16. Jose says:

    I can’t believe how many restaurants on this list I have visited and for how long… some as early as 1963! WOW! We have great Mexican food in Los Angeles (Southern California)!

  17. John T. Garcia says:

    Las Fuentes in Reseda. Same location (on Vanowen near Reseda Boulevard) since 1982. If you are driving, it’s between Tortilla Inn and Sabroso’s.

  18. Quidam Q. Agathezol says:

    You missed Barragan’s! Even though only Burbank remains, the mini-chain goes back to the late 60s (1969, i believe?) and the Burbank location goes back to the 80s.

    • Hi! The Barragan’s first location on Sunset in Echo Park had opened in the late ’60s, but unfortunately closed down. The Glendale location (1981) has now also closed. The remaining location in Burbank opened in 1985. I will add it to this list next year when it turns 35 years old.

  19. Echo the love for La Tolteca. Best flautas in LA County.

    • La Tolteca is amazing, but the current restaurant, in its present location, dates to 2008. The tortilla factory (not the restaurant) goes back to 1948 and has an amazing vintage sign.

  20. Damián says:

    An exhaustive list, but, missed GARDENS OF TAXCO in West Hollywood! 🤷🏻‍♂️

    • Gardens of Taxco was one of my very favorite local Mexican restaurants. Sadly it closed and I believe is only serves through delivery service now. The wonderful experience of having a waiter recite the menu is now gone.

  21. Russell says:

    What a great list! I’m surprised by how many of these places I’ve actually been to. One place I expected to see was Lucio’s in Torrance. Keep up the great work!

  22. Marlene Steinberg says:

    Interesting list for sure. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and have eaten at many of these locations. Each one is special for different reasons. Some are close and visited often and some I drive a ways for to get that certain something.

    Great article. Thanks!

  23. Pingback: Offbeat L.A.: The Oldest Surviving Los Angeles Restaurants… A Master List of the Vintage, Historic and Old School | The LA Beat

  24. Joe says:

    Burritos El Chavo on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood has been there, oh, let’s say forever. Love it and have been eating there for decades. Family run.

  25. John McGavock says:

    Joselito’s best Mexican food anywhere. Been going there since Cory’s parents started the Restaurant.

  26. Manny says:

    Great list, and good to know these locations have lasted this long and continue to thrive. I’ve visited about 7 of them. My favorite is Casita Del Campo. The food is great and consistent, there’s easy surface valet parking and the loyal staff is fun and friendly. We’re happy to take the sometimes 40 minute drive every week for a visit. Why go anyplace else if you can go to Casita Del Campo!

  27. Cyndi Goodno says:

    Excellent list of old school Mexican Restaurants. Maybe you can do the same thing for the San Diego area.

  28. Pingback: Gilbert’s El Indio featured in Offbeat LA “The Oldest Surviving Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles” – Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica,

  29. Hendel Thistletop says:

    Mi Casa in Costa Mesa since ’72 – we haven’t been regulars there *quite* that long, but it’s been our favorite for decades.

  30. great list! love your research

  31. Steve says:

    How about Mario’s in Huntington Beach? 2 locations, Springdale & Edinger, plus Main St 5-points Center.
    I think they both opened in the 60’s

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