Monday, October 24, 2016

Echo Park and Silver Lake prepare to say “adiós” to Mexican restaurants

The margaritas will soon stop flowing at Barragan’s and El Conquistador as the two Mexican restaurants prepare to close their respective Echo Park and Silver Lake locations  later this month after decades of serving up drinks and platters of Mexican-American favorites.  But the restaurants are not going quietly. Barragan’s, which opened more than 50 years ago on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, is planning a going away celebration on Friday, Dec. 13, it’s last day in operation.   Meanwhile, about a mile west on Sunset in Silver Lake, residents have organized a public ceremony to celebrate El Conquistador’s 40 years in business.  “It will be a celebration and a funeral, both happy and sad,” said Vincent Brooks, who organized a Community Farewell Commemoration for El Conquistador on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.  at Polka Dot Plaza outside the Silver Lake restaurant.

Brooks and his wife have been patronizing El Conquistador for 35 years, with the couple dining at the restaurant virtually every week. “It struck us particularly hard,” said Brooks of the closure, which was announced in July in the wake of new landlords and a stiff rent increase. “We had a special relationship with the place.”  Brooks, in an email to residents, explained what made El Conquistador so special:

The occasion of course will be bittersweet, as El Conq (as the place is fondly known), which closes its doors for good on Dec. 22 after 40 years, has become a Silver Lake institution. It earned this distinction not only from its great food and the best Margaritas in town, but also from the festive atmosphere and joyous spirit created by its owners, Jesse Pinto and Alberto Curiel, and its loyal personnel, many of whom have been there for decades.

Brooks said the restaurant is scheduled to close Dec. 22

In Echo Park, Barragan’s will be holding a day-long farewell part on its last day – Friday, Dec. 13 – with a mariachis and a DJ. Owner Armando Barragan announced the closure of the restaurant in October after agreeing to sell the property; his family’s restaurants in Burbank and Glendale will remain open.


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  1. El Conq had the worst Mexican food I had ever tasted the other night when i went there

  2. Bye bye, Echo Park and Silver Lake.

  3. I’m sure the families behind these two Mexican restaurants are amazing and hard working but their shuttering is a sign of the up and coming taco game here in LA, finally man. Wet burritos out, tacos de guisado on handmade tortillas in!

    • They were never just taco places; true, they were old school. But a taco de guisado (or for that matter, Guisados) is a different kind of restaurant. It was about the margaritas, chips, salsa, and guac – and El Conq had it.
      El Conq would have been fine but for the new landlords and jacked rents.

  4. Never been to Barragan’s. El Conquistador serves up that old school, fake Mex where they inexplicably douse everything with a layer of cheddar cheese and/or sour cream. I can’t imagine there’s much of a demand anymore for this kind of dated cuisine. I think this was originally conceived of as a way to introduce nervous gringos to Mexican food decades ago, but most people in LA have moved beyond that.

    • First, Conquistador was more of a gathering place than a foodie demonstration shop. Second, the margaritas. Third, Tex-Mex or “broiler Mexican” can be part of an enjoyable menu. It’s not challenging food, but not everything has to be (hence, pizza and burgers). I don’t know what “fake” means when referring to food. Authenticity is both hard to define, and not always tasty.

      • I understand the sentiment. They could have kept the cheap margaritas around and evolved the food a little bit to accomodate changing tastes. Menus and recipes are not set in stone. You keep some of the classics popular with older folks/long time customers but introduce new items for more traveled and younger customers who expect other flavors than cheddar cheese when it comes to Mexican food. If the margaritas were enough to keep them going, they’d not be closing.

  5. The two places are analogous to the almost-completely-gone chop suey house that served the old-style Chinese/Cantonese dishes: hom yu, chow mein, sweet and sour pork, bean cake and char siu in black bean sauce, almond chicken, pork tenderloin slices, almond duck in brown gravy on a bed of sliced lettuce. The stuff they would have eaten in ‘Chinatown.’ And now we have all manner of way-too-hot-and-garlicky Hunan-Schezuan-Shanghai-whatever-seafood kinds of joints, foods far removed from the simple stir-fried Cantonese many grew up with here in LA and in other American cities. Even in Mexico, where there is a grand tradition of families eating at a Chinese restaurant.

    Such restaurants filled that post-war niche for ethnic eating that wasn’t too extreme — the hot, garlicky stuff dished out today in the San Gabe valley wouldn’t have made it in, say, 1955, too hot and radical. Same for Barragan’s and Conquistador, El Chollo or Coyote. For their day — and patron’s tastes — they were right.

  6. …just thought that if Angelenos would have seen the taco trucks and sidewalk sellers of foods in, say 1955, good round pre-Beatles year to cite, they wouldn’t have gone near them — LA was a majority Anglo city that year, and ethinic dining was the old smogarsborg restaurant, or a Chinese place.

    And the LAPD would have arrested the sidewalk vendors in a heartbeat.

  7. Now El Compadre is the last one standing!

  8. Conquistador’s margaritas are a great bang for your buck. I had two one time and didn’t remember anything from my walk home.

  9. I have never had good Mexican food in Echo Park or Silverlake. These two places being some of the worst so I am not surprised to see them shut down.
    Hello to the new yuppie restaurants *facepalm*

  10. I’m fairly new to the area, moved to Echo Park from middle America nine years ago. I’m sad to see these places go; I understand the need to rate restaurants, talk trash about the good the bad and the ugly, but most restaurants are, at their roots, just informal meeting places for the various groups in an area. Changing tastes and local demographics aside, these longstanding places are an especially precious commodity in a quickly-evolving city like Los Angeles, and my only hope for the future is that there are places that are transplant like myself can continue to identify as home, if only for as long as it takes to eat a meal and say hi to a familiar face.

  11. been enjoying Barragan’s for 35 years. Never thought of it being more than a good restaurant with good sized servings, reasonable prices and a much loving crew of workers …… Three out of three is hard to beat, KIDS !!

  12. “Cal Mex” is what the enchiladas + beans-and-rice type cooking often gets called….Within the last year or so Gustavo Arellano treated us all to a sneering, patronizing, ethnically chauvinistic and comically provincial bit in LA Weekly on the closing of the “Acapulco” restaurants to the effect of, “Cal Mex is dead….”….cuz, you know, it was only there for bland, boring ole Whitey.

    But Acapulco didn’t close because “Cal Mex Is Dead.” Acapulco closed because it’s crap. “Cal Mex,” deliciously prepared with fresh ingredients, is a delightful genre of cheap, plentiful Comfort Food in and of itself, and in the last holdouts where it’s done well, the crowds still line up, and they come in all colors including Latino….Let’s hope the Burbank and Glendale Barragan’s live long and prosper….

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