Friday, October 1, 2010

Food Field Trip SoCal: Vintage Venice

The only thing I knew about Venice Beach before visiting last week was that it was the setting for Showtime’s quirky Californication and home to Hank Moody. I didn’t expect to stumble upon some of the best Mexican food I have enjoyed on this side of the border at La Cabana.

La Cabana is not fancy or high-brow, or modern. It is in fact a quirky throwback, and walking through the doors seems like stepping back in time to 1970-something. The dark wood interior is full of once vibrant Baja-style colorful tiling, and a wood-fired tortilla oven is manned by a grand-motherly looking tortilla steward that must have been old at the restaurant’s opening.

The food was hearty, traditional, and textbook vintage Mexican cooking.

My tortilla soup had a moderately spicy broth which was studded with corn, peppers, and queso fresco and topped with crunchy tortilla strips.

The beef in my quesadilla tasted like it had been braising for weeks, and also included outstanding cheese and avocado. The core ingredients came together in a way that elevated it from simple to memorable.

The marinated pork had a subtle heat, was fork tender, and the accompanying refried beans were not the mush that you so often find. The piping-hot homemade tortillas were simply divine.

Prices are also a welcome throwback at $8 - $15 for huge portions, and authentic Mexican home cooking. It is worth the trip to Venice and is located about a mile off the infamous strip. For a complete evening and a real feel of Venice, I recommend starting on the strip with a sunset, pre-dinner beer at Danny’s Venice.

La Cabana on Urbanspoon

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