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A Brief History of Mexican Food in Los Angeles

There's nowhere in America with better or more Mexican food than Los Angeles. A rich history has evolved into an unbreakable tradition of delicious Mexican dining in the City of Angels. The tale began close to 100 years ago with a couple of families.


Casa La Colondrina came to LA in 1924 and nearly didn't survive the Roaring Twenties. The City threatened an imminent domain destruction before founder Castillo Consuelo De Bonzo relocated to its current location, where it has operated without interruption under the watchful eyes of De Bonzo's descendants. The recipes are 100 years old and the definition of authentic Mexican.


El Cholo claims the title of being the first Mexican restaurant in Los Angles, having been established a year before Casa La Colondrina. The Salisbury family started and continues to operate the now chain. The first location was on Western Avenue in Mid City, and flaunts many of the original features of the first El Cholo. A notable figure in El Cholo history is Joe Reina, its first cook. Reina cooked at El Cholo for 54 years and is responsible for many of the recipes used to this day.


The first LA Mexican restaurants came at a precarious time in American history, with the Great Depression, World War II, and prohibition all setting the scene. But the way Mexican cuisine thrived and restaurants sprouted up from the pavement makes it seem like success was inevitable.


While Los Angeles is known for incredible, authentic Mexican food, there's no denying the impact of an American mega-chain on the industry. Taco Bell originated in Los Angeles County in 1962. Founder Glen Bell purposely put Taco Bell locations in middle class neighborhoods to make a different kind of clientele clamor for Mexican food. His idea spread throughout Los Angeles and is an undeniable influencer of LA cuisine. Taco Bell can be thought of as a gateway cuisine for the real thing, and non-Latino Americans have subsequently embraced California's authentic Mexican scene.


A sad chapter in the history of Mexican food in Los Angeles saw Mexican restaurants referring to themselves as "Spanish" food restaurants due to racism. They were Mexican through and through, but couldn't claim their heritage due to the discriminatory perception of anything Mexican in the first half of the 20th Century. Today, Mexican food and culture is such an essential part of Los Angeles, let alone all of Southern California.


In 2022, the Daily Meal labeled Los Angeles as the best city in the US for Mexican food, and noted its representation of Mexican food from every region of Mexico. List after list of the best Mexican restaurants feature locations in the City of Angels.


Cinco continues upon a wonderful history and tradition of Mexican food in Los Angeles. With its Oaxacan-inspired dishes, Cinco will become a staple for you in LA and keep you coming back for more. Book your reservation today.


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