This is another of our Olvera Street getaways, with brick arches and black iron chairs. Find a table inside the cavernous old room that used to be a winery*, or do as we do, and sit outside on the patio. Gaze out onto the middle lane of Olvera Street, listening to trios of old men with guitars, vihuelas and maracas stepping between the tables, wailing plaintive rancheras. Little birds sweep past under the low ceiling.
The tortillas are house-made on the large white tortilla dome inside; the chips are dry but warm, and the soft corn tortillas are wonderful things, thick and slightly scratchy. The salsa is a spicy red.
The plates are very home-kitchen style, comfortable heaps of variety. The cheese is welded to the unashamedly lard-heavy beans, the hard-shell tacos and enchiladas exactly as desired. The carne asada, seasoned with a subtle touch, is done heavier than you ordered, so go medium rare. The veggie burrito is a bulky exercise in gardening, with no shortage of veggies; broccoli, cauliflower and carrot number among the expected bell peppers and onions.
El Paseo does them very well, but Bianca and I shake our heads at those who order sizzling iron plates of fajitas, or Lady of Guadalupe forbid, U.S. American food. (Bianca: people who order burgers and fries at Mexican restaurants should go home.)
They have a few drinks available, such as sipping tequilas and a few named classics. The Latin Lover is amaretto-flavored coffee, Kahlua and tequila topped with whipped cream, sultry and hot, slightly heavy on the Kahlua. The El Paseo Margarita is automatically on the rocks but in a massive glass, with Don Julio, Grand Marnier and sweet & sour; it's smooth and confident.
El Paseo Inn is owned by Camacho's, and I'm all right with that.
* That is, before 1953. Before that, the E-11 location was Café Caliente. Before that, it was the Padre Vineyard Company. Before that, it was the Cucamonga Winery. Before that, in 1871, it was the Pelanconi Winery. Isn't L.A. history grand?
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, East Side/Downtown )
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