The following are some restaurants that, in some way, tell the story behind Gentefied. Also check out our list of the Best Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles.
This iconic food stall was founded on DTLA’s historic Olvera Street in 1934. While the menu is made up of a handful of Mexican classics like tamales, chile rellenos, and burritos, it’s most famous for its freshly-fried rolled taquitos, perfect for dipping into their avocado sauce. Much of the place remains the same as it was in its early days, with a walk-up window where customers line up to buy paper trays of the iconic taquitos.
El Cholo Cafe
The second-oldest continuously run Mexican restaurant in the United States, El Cholo Cafe opened its doors in 1923 and ranks as one of the pioneering innovators of the combo platter (which originated in Texas). Platters are known for exceptionally large portions of dishes like enchiladas or chile rellenos -- usually topped with a mountain of yellow cheese -- and accompanied with refried beans and Spanish rice, as well as oversized Cadillac margaritas. The combo platters here were added to the menu in 1938, but the restaurant got its start with dishes like its Sonora-style enchiladas, albondigas soup, and chile Colorado.
The menu here changed the game for Mexican-American cuisine, though indirectly. Mitla opened in 1937 as a simple lunch counter along the historic Route 66. Decades later, Bell took notice of the diner’s popular tacos dorados -- hard shell tacos stuffed with meat, grated cheese, and tomatoes -- and went on to create his own line for what would become Taco Bell. A legend in its own right, Mitla Cafe remains a family-owned business and is now a popular roadside attraction.
The makers of Gentefied filmed quite a bit on-location in Boyle Heights, and were met at times with protests from community activists over contributing to the very problem of gentrification that it was seeking to address. To capture the essence in the neighborhood though, Chávez and Lemus worked with a scout to identify what would become the exterior of the fictional Mama Fina’s (the interior shots were on a set). What they found was La Ronda Restaurant, a longtime eatery that specializes in Mexican seafood, like fried whole mojarra, shrimp cocktails, and outsized micheladas.
Teddy’s Red Tacos
South LA, Venice, Echo Park
LA has officially reached a peak-level birria de res craze with more and more restaurants, taco trucks, and pop-ups serving up the cosomme-rich, finger-staining slow-cooked, marinated beef. In particular, it’s birria tacos that are all the rage, and one of the signature spots to find it is at Teddy’s Red Tacos., According to L.A. Taco, founder Teddy Vazquez started by selling his birria to his Uber customers from the trunk of his car. Then he started selling outside of a bar in Long Beach. Soon the viral sensation launched a taco truck in south LA, a sleek, modern-looking brick and mortar in Venice, and a second taco truck in Echo Park.
Guerrilla Tacos opened its minimalist eatery and bar to much anticipation after receiving critical acclaim from the likes of the late, great Jonathan Gold, the legendary former LA Times food critic. Here, diners can experience a rotating array of the inventive tacos offerings that founder Avila became famous for, like an Indian-inspired vegetarian-friendly filling of saag curry eggplant, grilled swordfish, and pork belly with smoked trout roe, according to recent menus. Having a permanent home enables him to serve an extensive craft cocktail menu prominently featuring tequila and mezcal drinks, plus an exclusive reservations-only omakase chef’s table tasting menu experience.
The interior of this popular San Fernando Valley brunch spot is lined with paintings from local artists. The brunch menu that made it famous features items such as its gigantic breakfast tortas, banana split pancakes, and chilaquiles eggs benedict, as well as outlandish menu items like its jaw-splitting Bro Snicker Burger, whose patty is stuffed with bacon and Snickers and then topped with cheddar.