Velvet Margarita Cantina: Tarantino Tijuana for the Senses, but in a Good Way

— by Caroline on Crack

Velvet Margarita Cantina

The Velvet Margarita Cantina is my new favorite Mexican restaurant and I never even had the food.

I first read about it on CitySearch and other city guides and they called it a hip Gothic Mexican restaurant that looked like it was designed by Tarantino. Sumptuous with red velvet everywhere but with a dark side. And LA Weekly even dubbed it “The Best Place to Pee Sitting Down.”

It sounded like a really fun place to maybe celebrate a birthday party. Seating is first come first serve but if you have a group of four or more you can reserve a table. And how fun would that be to gather an intimate group of friends together for a night of drinking margaritas and specialty cocktails with names like Velvet Elvis, Blue Velvet and Pink Puta?

As for the food, AOL’s CityGuide review made it sound like there was actually some substance behind all that gothic style:

Serving a Nuevo Latino menu that’s a composite of Big Daddy Carlos’ grandmother’s classic recipes, Velvet Margarita’s specialty items are superior to what you’d expect from a traditional Mexican restaurant. The ‘chile relleno,’ Ahi tuna tacos, ‘carne asada’ and enchiladas have enough kick to startle a donkey. Then there’s the ‘ceviche’ and the Caesar salad with a fantastically flavorful garlic-cheese clump. The prices are preset ($15 for dinner; $11 for lunch), which should eliminate any serious math challenges while settling the bill at 3:45AM.

When I walked into VMC for the first time, I immediately wanted to touch EVERYthing as there really was velvet everywhere. We walked past the restaurant area straight to the bar where two TV screens loomed overhead showing black and white movies. Pinatas hung from the ceiling like chandeliers, religious icons were everywhere. On the second floor, a dj spun records while he looked over the restaurant area.

I picked up the cocktail menu and tried to make sense of it in the dark. The lights were turned down so low, it was difficult to read. And all the tequila-based specialty cocktails were unfamiliar and that was a bit intimidating. The Pink Puta had strawberries and half and half, along with tequila, and seemed to be a favorite of the group of loud girls who sauntered up behind us….hmm, pass. Frida’s Brow (heh) had creme de cacao….um, no. I know, chocolate, but it didn’t sound appealing. Maybe it’s because of the tequila? Finally I gave up and asked the bartender what he recommended. Surprisingly, he pointed out the pina colada. In a Mexican restaurant?! OK, if you say so.

It was actually pretty good and strong. I guess VMC would be perfect for big tequila drinkers, of which I am not.

But if you’re craving Mexican food and want a hip Hollywood experience to go with your burrito, consider this cantina.

1612 N. Cahuenga
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 469-2000
Cross Street: Selma Avenue
Sun-Wed 11am-2am
Thu-Sat 11am-4am

PS: I finally went here for dinner and although the food was very good, the service sucked. We went there at 7:30 on a Monday evening and it was virtually empty but the host still had us stand around for 10 minutes until he finally sat us. WHY? The restaurant had only two occupied tables, everything else was free. This little annoyance disappeared as soon as they brought us our food but then reappeared when our server kept avoiding our table when we wanted to pay. We waited for half an hour and watched him in disbelief as he serviced other tables nearby but never glanced our way. Finally we flagged him down and got our bill. OH, and you know how LA Weekly called this “The Best Place to Pee Sitting Down”? Well, they should have called it the scariest place to pee sitting down. In one of the stalls is a dark alcove that has an opening covered by a black curtain. I’m assuming that was storage but it made me uneasy thinking that at any moment someone or something was going to pop out from behind that curtain. I couldn’t sit down and wanted to get out of there right away. So Velvet Margarita: good for drinks, not so much for good restaurant service.