As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This adage most definitely applies to San Fernando Valley landmark, Casa Vega. The restaurant has been serving a large variety of traditional California-style Mexican food since owner Rafael “Ray” Vega opened its doors in 1956.
The eatery attracts a number of regulars, who come both for the food and the delightfully tacky decor. What other restaurant can have Christmas lights on year round, large gaudy portraits on the walls and be considered cool? In fact, the management doesn’t dare change the decor as its patrons find it quite sentimental.
While the décor is certainly a draw, the food is what keeps people coming back. Oftentimes when a restaurant has a large menu, it means nothing is particularly spectacular. Not the case here. Of the numerous dishes I sampled, all were equally good and balanced. Casa Vega serves up all the traditional dishes you would want at a Mexican restaurant, including “grande” burritos, enchiladas (the garlic-lemon lobster enchilada with a tangy-spicy salsa verde is not to be missed), tacos, salads and my personal favorite, the chicken mole. So often I’ve had a mole that’s either too chocolaty, too gritty or overly spicy. The one I had at Casa Vega was just the right balance of sweet, savory and spicy –and the chicken was cooked perfectly!
Of course, no Mexican meal is complete without a margarita. Most are served in 12-ounce pint glasses, instead of the typical frou-frou margarita glass. I had to sample a few –I mean, it’s my job. Two of the standouts were the Skinny Margarita, a simple combination of only fresh lime, sparkling water and agave nectar for a little sweetness. Now, as a “guy” I doubt I’d order that based on the name alone, but after tasting this light and refreshing cocktail, it’s a must-have. Plus, without much in the way of sugar, it’s less likely to produce a headache in the morning. But my personal favorite was the Blood Orange Margarita: Patron Silver, sparkling blood orange juice, agave nectar and lime. So tasty!
Something else I found quite appealing about Casa Vega was the fact that their kitchen stays open nightly until 1 a.m.! Yes, my friends, 1 a.m., which is a rarity in Southern California. Pair that with a late night happy hour from 10:30 p.m. until close, and you’ve got yourself a winner in my book.
With a restaurant as successful and busy as Casa Vega is, I guess my one complaint is the fact that they don’t take reservations or offer call-ahead seating. But then again, if the place ain’t busy, then it probably ain’t worth going to!
Casa Vega is open 7 days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. (kitchen open until 1:00am) and is located at 13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423, (818) 788-4868. Entrees range from $9.50 to $20.50. To find out more, visit www.casavega.com or www.facebook.com/Casa-Vega-Restaurant.