Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

El Carmen

8138 W. Third St. (La Jolla Ave.) Send to Phone
323-852-1552 | Menu
The food chain in this blood-red hipster hangout is as follows: drinks are first, food is secondary; the twist is that the Mexican fare here is actually better than average.

Dinner nightly
Open past midnight

* Click here for rating key

El Carmen Restaurant Review

: This Tijuana-inspired tequila and taco bar is a longtime favorite among the L.A. hip. Decorated with deep-red walls, dark woods, colorful (though dim) lanterns and traditional Mexican wrestling masks, the atmosphere is definitely unique, oddly festive and certainly well-suited to the cadre of starlets and black-clad screenwriters who frequent the place. While El Carmen may be known for its almost comically long list of tequila offerings (more than 300), some revelers have returned for the shrimp and sole ceviche with lime and cucumber or the sweet corn tamales smothered in black beans. Tacos are surprisingly decent, as are nachos topped with fresh guacamole. Those looking for dessert can choose between apple fritters and churros. But make no mistake --- the menu is clearly meant to accompany the drinks, and not vice versa.
Discover LA's best new restaurants
New & Hip Restaurants in LA

Check out these new and trendy LA restaurants, from DTLA to Santa Monica and beyond.


GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Awards honor America's best chefs, as well as promising newcomers and a top restaurateur.