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Nothing Better Than A Taco From Paco

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Downtown Culver City may be flourishing with new, tasty delights but the CC has a few delicious, bustling restaurants that have been around for ages. The prime example being Paco’s Tacos (4141 Centinela Dr), which just may be the best Mexican food, not just in the city, but in the entire U.S.A. I almost hate to mention it because the ever popular Paco’s is always crowded, particularly on weekends; sometimes I’ve had to wait an hour, or more, just to get a table. But I do it because, without my Paco’s fix, I just might die .

Let’s start with the fact that you can watch little old Mexican ladies make the tortillas by hand—and when you taste them they practically melt in your mouth. Their tortillas are soft, light, and oh so warm—just like perhaps a cloud from heaven would taste. They use their homemade corn tortillas to also make their delish chips, which come served to you in a silver bucket.

Take your chip and dip it in their picante salsa—which varies in heat depending on the day-- proving they are making it from scratch. Here’s a tip: if you ask they will bring you spicy pickled carrots and onions, free of charge, and boy are they crunchy, sour and spicy all at once. They are a treat I do not often find at many Mexican establishments.

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The ambiance screams classic LA Mexican restaurant. Murals with scenes of rural Mexico paint the walls. Holiday themed streamers are strung across the ceiling. And two big, colorful fish tanks take focus at the center of the restaurant. It definitely has charm and character. In fact, the restaurant has so much character that a scene from Jerry Maguire was filmed there! Actually, I remember going there one night, and was extremely disappointed to find that they were closed because the movie was filming there that night. But that’s another story…

The menu has all the typical Mexican fare: enchiladas—cheese or chicken, tacos, chile rellenos, burritos—which are so huge you might explode trying to finish one--, tamales and chimichangas. They also have fabulous Carne Asada and Carnitas-- or so I hear from friends, I actually don’t eat much meat. You may be surprised to find a wide selection of seafood on the menu, and you may wonder “hmmm is it worth a try?” You bet, it is! I may not like meat, but I do love seafood and Paco’s has a really delectable selection. Paco’s serves jumbo shrimps, always fresh and firm.

Try the shrimp salad (also huge, you could easily share this--and they don't skimp on shrimp) or the Mexican shrimp cocktail. My personal favorite, though, is the Camerones Mojo de Ajo (garlic shrimp). Oh, I'm salivating just thinking about those six plump shrimps smothered in garlic and butter! Delish! Really though, any entrée--be it seafood, steak or tacos--is delicious at good ol' Paco's and they are all served with rice and beans. What you don't like rice and beans? You're doing the low carb thing? Well guess what, Paco's will substitute a salad for your rice and beans. So, there.

Okay, so now you know about the food, but what about the drinks? Paco's serves a variety of fruit-flavored margaritas, as well as the traditional kind, but they are really famous for their Cadillac Margarita. What's a Cadillac? A traditional margarita served on the rocks with a side shot of Grand Marnier. If that sounds too strong for you, they've also got Mexican beers, and of course soft drinks. For desert, there's also flan and coffee. My one complaint is that they don't have Mexican hot chocolate, but I guess a girl can't have it all. Still, Paco's is my favorite Mexican restaurant and I wouldn't want them to change a thing. They are the true gem of Culver City.

P.S.- Paco's was also mentioned on the LAist back in 2004 as one of LA's best places to get comfort foods.

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Paco's Tacos. 4141 Centinela Ave Culver City 90066. (310) 391-9616 - No reservations.

photo by Arabella via FlickR