One of the things that often bugs me about stereotypes of Los Angeles is that lots of people think that Westside is synonymous with white. Well, that’s simply not true, even in the more affluent community of Santa Monica. I’m not sure about numbers, but judging by the number of Oaxacan restaurants in the area, there a lot of Oaxaqueños on the Westside… and the food is good.
My first review of chilaquiles (a la El Chavo’s huevos rancheros reviews on the Eastside) will be at Juquila.
Now, I have to admit I’m totally biased toward Juquila. It’s the smallest and most humble of the three local Oaxacan restaurants I’ve visited (the other two are La Guelaguetza and Monte Alban). It’s also the cheapest, and the place where most of the patrons are transplanted Oaxaqueños rather than non-Mexican westsiders. I’ve also been going to Juquila several times with good friends and even had a first date there back when I was an undergrad. Yeah, lots of happy times.
I also almost always order los chilaquiles and horchata. Even though the menu offers cecina, tazajo or chorizo as sides, I always ask for a side of grilled chicken breast. The chilaquiles are always yummy (and big!), but this time they made me cry.
Ambiance: the place is small and L-shaped. There’s enough room for about 7 booths along one wall and four or so tables in the middle. The decor is homey, but inviting. They have colorful photos depicting festivals in Oaxaca on the walls and a flat-screen TV above the window to the kitchen (they had TV tuned to Univision for a Copa America match). I went around 3 pm on a Saturday, all the booths were taken up except for one. I could have taken advantage of their happy hour, but chose against it ’cause eating alone is already a little weird, but drinking alone?
Service: good, friendly. They serve yummy tortilla chips with red mole (colaradito) and queso fresco. Also, I only got to read a couple of pages of the book I had just picked up from the library before my food arrived. The young waiter tried to give me huge plate of carne asada before realizing he was at the wrong booth.
What I liked: generous serving; crunchiness of the tortillas lasts for a while, but not too crunchy; queso fresco on top; generous portion of side meat of choice, great for leftovers; affordable price, $7.99 for the dish, $2 for the drink.
What I didn’t like: a little too spicy (at least for me); large pieces slices of onion rings rather than finely chopped onions; they don’t look soggy, but they had a little too much sauce which was enough to soak the lettuce under the chicken; sour cream, I usually prefer my food without it; no side of beans.
Verdict: overall, a very good experience. I’ve ordered the chilaquiles at Juquila several times and will do so again in the future (unless I’m in the mood for mole).
Bonus: the guy across from me — who was annoyingly yakking away on his cell phone the entire time I was there — started talking to me as I was getting ready to pay. He first asked me about the soccer game on TV, since he could not see the TV from where he was seated. He then started trying to say he’d pay for my food if I had a drink with him. No thanks. He wasn’t attractive and had annoyed me, but I was still amused that he was flirting with me.
11619 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.