El Cholo: It's All About the Margaritas

— by Caroline on Crack

Flickr Shot by dotsara (detail)

Flickr Shot by dotsara (detail)

I went to El Cholo in Santa Monica last night and all I really walked away with afterwards was the beginnings of a hangover and a “What’s all the fuss about?” I can appreciate how it’s an L.A. institution since it’s been around since 1923 and L.A. doesn’t keep anything around for THAT long, but I found that the food wasn’t all that impressive. Sure, I only had a couple of appetizers but that was just because looking at the entree offerings left me uninspired to order anything else.

Finally we settled on the Western Ave. Quesadillas (Mozzarella and Jack cheeses, smoked corn, mushrooms, and fresh herbs–$7.25) and then just the traditional cheese nachos ($6.95). They were mediocre dishes. Not as savory as I had hoped. The only really flavorful aspect of this meal was the side of jalapeno.

Nice presentation but the portions were small for the price. Is it because I’ve just had too many El Torito happy hours? I know, blasphemy! I’m comparing this institution to a chain restaurant. But at El Torito, you can get a big fat carne asada burrito for only about $4 during happy hour. Oh, and El Cholo? No happy hour whatsoever but “We’re always happy here” offered the waitress. Heh. No.

Flickr Shot by dotsaraBut after I ordered my first of several margaritas, I discovered just what makes El Cholo really special: their very potent cocktails. They range in price from the $6.75 house margarita to the $24 24KT. margarita. I had a couple of Cadillac Margaritas (traditional 1800, Cointreau and a float of Grand Marnier–$8.75) and one of their Patron Desert Berry tequinis (Patron Silver, Chambord and Cointreau served in a martini glass–$8.75).

Although I didn’t really care for the taste of the Desert Berry (it tasted sorta like berry-flavored cough syrup), without the ice it was so powerful it was like sipping a shot. Not that there was anything wrong with its potency.

Another highlight of the menu was the vanilla flan. We had placed an order with the waitress telling her that one of the guys in the party was celebrating his birthday today (really we were just celebrating his last day with our company). So she rounded up the other servers and with much hoopla and clapping, they presented the unsuspecting “birthday” boy with the vanilla flan complete with a lit birthday candle. He ended up not wanting to eat it but I had at it and it was goood. Not too custardy, which I usually don’t like anyway.

So, yeah, El Cholo: Forget the food, come for the margaritas, stay for the flan.

1025 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90401
(310) 899-1106