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Mexicali? Or Porn Valley?!?

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It was one of those lovely Sunday mornings down in the Valley: sunny and clear, not yet hot enough to send San Fernando-ists scurrying indoors towards the comfort of central air conditioning. We were looking for a casual and parent-friendly place along Ventura Boulevard to enjoy some lunch and a cold beer with our nearest and dearest. Mexicali Cocina Cantina seemed to fit the bill: reasonably priced, easy parking, and a wide array of Cali-Mexican dishes from which to choose.

So we ordered. The menu states that the fish tacos come with your choice of lobster, cod, or shrimp, but the waiter gave us a nasty retort when we tried to get the lobster variation. Okay, then, cod it is. Their other specialties include the "Untraditional" Chili Rellano, blue crab enchiladas, ahi tuna burritos, and an intimidating selection of tequilas. (We were dying to try the Marga-tini, but alas, 11:30am on a Sunday was not the time.) We placed our orders and got a round of beers and waters. Then we waited. And waited. Looked around. Talked some. Drank our beers. Watched people parade up and down Ventura Boulevard. Watched the waiters swish around. Waited. "What the heck?" we asked. There were only three other tables seated, so it wasn't like the waiters were busy. But they all seemed to be flocking around one table in particular, which was filled to the brim with women. Wait just a second....

"Do you see those women over there? They're wearing more makeup than anyone I've ever seen in my life...and those boobs? Are they serious? Oh, HOLD UP...I think those are professionals. Welcome to the Valley!" Family-friendly indeed.

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Yup. Our waiter was so distracted by the porn stars sitting two tables over that he couldn't be bothered to hurry our order along, let alone fill our water glasses with ice, after we had asked two times. We ended up asking the bartender for ice. He was nice. The other waiters? Not so much. Despite all the talk over on Yelp about the "hotness" of the staff, all we saw were a bunch of Ryan-Seacrest-lookin wannabes who seemed to possess the intellectual capacity of, well...an aspiring actor-slash-waiter from the Valley. Upon further reflection, we are not surprised.

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We did get our food eventually, but it sure wasn't worth the wait. The chili rellano was pretty decent, with a cornmeal breading and four-cheese stuffing. The fish tacos were disappointing - the red cabbage on top was tough and overpowering, while the cod itself had little taste. These faults could have been remedied with a liberal application of crema, but alas - we had to choke our tacos down with only the merest dribble of zesty sauce.

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The beer was good, though. The chips and salsa weren't bad. The porn stars were funny to watch. We're not picky about our dishware, but Mexicali seems to have acquired the most random collection of plates ever - see, for instance, the "Happy New Year 2000!!!" plate which supported our chili rellano. WTF? Overall, though, our favorite thing about Mexicali has to be the great old photos of the Valley up on the wall - we're talking pre-Mulholland-era San Fernando. They're incredible pieces of L.A. history - and yes, the porn industry is an incredible piece of Los Angeles culture, but just not during lunch.

Mexicali Cocina Cantina
12161 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA
91604-2515
Phone: (818) 985-1744

Photos by cmeathrell via flickr.