"Right there! You passed it!"
"On the left. See, Pueblo Viejo!"
We had been craning our necks out of the car to find 5722 Melrose, yet the nearby
gargantuan Paramount Studios momentarily distracted us from the search. A neon
sign advertising this gem of a Mexican restaurant on a quiet section of Melrose
finally caught my friend’s attention. The sign hovered above a dark door
next to an "interesting" seafood joint, and we were skeptical. Yet as
the door swung open, joyful lyrics and pulsating drums immediately eased our minds.
"Sit anywhere you want," cooed the handsome waiter. At 8 p.m. on a Thursday
night, Pueblo Viejo entertained a crowd of diners. Soccer beamed from the TV suspended
above the bar, a couple huddled over bowls of soup and a double date fiendishly
ordered another round of margaritas.
Paper placemats featuring themes of a "Mexican Fiesta" adorned the tables,
telling us how to say "goodbye," "please," "you’re
welcome," and "how are you?" in Spanish. Some great food, por favor.
We were hungry.
Pueblo Viejo sets itself apart from the get-go. Although nachos and salsa are
on the menu, the moment you sit down, a bowl of crunchy carrots and jicama with
ranch dressing is placed on the table. It was the first indication that Pueblo
Viejo is not looking to stuff its diners to the brim so that waddling home is
the only mode of transportation. Sure, there are sombreros over the bar and Christmas
lights suspended above the ceiling. There is even karaoke on Thursdays. But Pueblo
Viejo keeps the kitsch to a minimum and concentrates on providing an excellent
meal and a good time.
In a city obsessed with traditional Mexican fare like carne asada and burritos,
the restaurant’s chef is daring enough to offer more eccentric items: an
$8 ceviche of halibut, lime, tomatoes, and cilantro is more adventurous than most
Mexican eateries in LA.
The quesadillas are truly out of this world. The cheese is salty, hot and powerful,
while the tortillas are thin and soft. The chef was at his station, but the quesadillas
had that made-right-before-your-eyes taste. The restaurant’s perfect guacamole
is chunky and has an even lemony zest. Sopa de tortilla is made of spicy chile
broth, tortillas, cheese, and avocado.
All tacos are $5.95 and come with rice and beans. The pescado tacos are stuffed
with lightly grilled halibut, crispy cabbage, and tartar sauce. The rice hints
of soy sauce and is studded with peas. Another side of sautéed zucchini
is tenderly cooked, while the pinto beans are creamy and comforting.
Carne asada, carnitas, and rajas (grilled pasilla chile, onion, cheese and avocado)
are other popular and satisfying selections.
Pueblo Viejo impresses with its fresh ingredients in the specialty dishes. All
plates are $7.95, and piled high with enchiladas de mole, flautas or chile relleno.
Pollo caliente is a daredevil’s dish: red New Mexican chile over chicken,
adorned with a grilled cactus. Chicken so tender, topped with onions simmered
in orange juice is called pollo naranja. Don’t miss it. The seafood dishes
are especially inventive. Grilled shrimp blanketed in spicy smoked chile sauce
describes camaron al chipotle, and pescado de aguacate borders on divine with
halibut and chunky avocado sauce.
Any of the combinations are awesome. Prices range from $10-15, and include a taco
and enchilada, asada and mazatlan, and relleno, taco, and enchilada.
Pueblo Viejo also features over 20 varieties of imported tequila to encourage
the karaoke bravehearts. Thursday is "Tequila Night," and $2 tequila
shots, $3 margaritas and $1 beers are available throughout the evening.
Los Angeles is known for its inexpensive, fast, and sometimes life-altering Mexican
food. You might be loyal to a local taco truck, but take a chance on Pueblo Viejo.
The service is friendly, the food is a cut above the most popular Mexican restaurants
and the festive music will have you swaying in culinary pleasure. And if that
karaoke-goer is truly unbearable, another round of enormous margaritas might even
have you dancing to their "special" tune.
For more information, call (323) 464-0624.
Food: Budget [Pueblo Viejo]
Pueblo Viejo: 5722 Melrose Ave., Hollywood
By Camilla Warner
Article posted on 3/7/2006
This article has been viewed 2875 times.