El Cholo: Santa Monica - Beach Boy Latin Love

El Cholo invented nachos. 

I figured nachos just happened, like at some guy's house one night when he had some people over to watch the game.  A bag of chips in one hand, a jar of salsa in the other, and touchdown! The gang cheered and high-fived, spilling salsa on the chips, creating an easy to make and easy to eat snack. Also the source of bro-mance.

But nope -- universally loved nachos were created at El Cholo in 1959 by Carmen Rocha, a woman with a heart as big as her panties. She simply shared a dish she made in San Antonio.

A proud, tradition-honoring people, Mexicans are willing to give only so much of their flavor to us. Pedro marries Jessica, and gives her his heart, but not his mole recipe. The Rio Grande slashes across the Southwest, carrying people and their cuisine coursing through, and sometimes across, the border. By the time they dry off, what we get is a diluted, more white-man palatable cuisine on our plates, known as Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, or as I say, Texican.

Los Angeles is it's own movie, based on the movie industry. Sets pop up and are torn down, so are buildings, actresses, and restaurants. El Cholo has survived. They have been serving delicioso food since 1922, from the original downtown location and in Santa Monica since 1997.

They slam a basket of freshly-fried handmade tortilla chips with a ramekin of fresh salsa down on your table before they even offer you one of their legendary margaritas (first bar to use Quervo 1800!).

El Cholo chips and salsa

The best time to eat there is, well, right this second, but if you go in high season, May-October they have their signature, soft green corn tamales. You may only know the semi-hard, gelatinous masa tamales with mysterious animal parts hiding inside like they are being smuggled in, but these kinder, softer tamales are a must-have. Peel open the corn husk only part-way, and greedily dig into the gooey, cheesy soft corn mixed with love, chiles and butter.

El Cholo green corn tamales

They have classic, reliable combination plates for about $10, with perfectly good enchiladas, tacos, and chile rellenos. I imagine the founders grandson, just graduated from USC and pleading with his abuela in the kitchen, Look old woman, no one wants your tired old tamales! We need to please the twitter foodie crowd and offer exotic shit like cumin souffles and do some ancho chile molecular gastronomy.  She gave him her you gotta to dance with the one that brung you speech for the hundredth time, which goes: Take these tacos out to the thousands of customers who come back day after day. They pay your rent you MBA idiot.

If I need to take a break from my non-stop cheese fiesta, I like their blue corn enchiladas with black beans and guacamole. I still get my queso on, just less:

El Cholo blue corn enchiladas

As I walked into El Cholo last week, I noticed a Bentley in the parking lot, trying to look less conspicuous huddled between two ubiquitous Priuses. But you can't hide that ride under an eco-friendly bushel, so I struck my usual pose and stood against the driver's door, waiting for someone to see me. Then I pulled away like I had just parked and was closing the door to my wicked whip of the west, praying I don't trip the alarm.

I love the high-backed booths in their dining room and the privacy they provide.  I also love the good acoustics. I overheard a man in the next booth preaching fuego and brimstone to his dining companion. "Your soul is eternally damned; it is up to Jesus to forgive you and welcome you back into his flock."  I thought he said your salsa is eternally damned and I dropped my chip, picturing myself praying to the porcelain god later -- but the preacher stood up for emphasis and/or to leave, and revealed thyself to be none other than holy rock-and-roller Mike Love, of Beach Boy infamy.  The Bentley mystery was solved.

Dining at El Cholo invokes the feeling that you're visiting the home of a loving, huge Mexican family that everyone wants to be part of. Sometimes it is packed with other "relatives",  but the wait is short. Their hospitable spirit ensures that your drinks and food is served quickly. Every time I have ever been, the waiter warns hot plate. My OCD kicks in and I touch it lightly anyway, just to do it. The waitresses often have a flower in their hair, and wear long, colorful full skirts, that make you think they are going to break out in a swirling festive dance at any moment.

Enjoy your time at El Cholo, that is their intent from the moment you walk in their welcoming door.  They will have you at ola.

El Cholo Santa Monica

Oh, I feel I should probably tell you that a Mexican restaurant in Tijuana created the Caesar Salad.

El Cholo. 1025 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA, 90401. (310) 899-1106

1 comment:

  1. This food are really good for beach. Good thing that it is available now.


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