While the location and surrounding area may be deceiving, don’t be fooled. La Barca Mexican restaurant in downtown truly has the best Mexican in town … or at least the best margaritas! Just open the large concealed door, and you’ll see what thousands of people are talking about. Winner of Citysearch’s best burrito in 2007, this is the place to go for genuine Mexican cuisine.

Almost always packed and busy from 5 p.m. on every night, there’s usually a wait to get a table at this popular family restaurant. Often frequented by neighborhood locals and USC students, La Barca has been a south of the border staple for decades.

Very well decorated with abundant artwork and wooden boats on the mantel, this brightly painted restaurant makes you feel right at home in South Central Los Angeles. The area itself may be small, but the quaint, crowded nature allows you to get to know the people around you and breathe in the lively atmosphere.

Tucked away amidst clothing stores on Vermont Avenue, this charming place offers a world of authentic Mexican culture. Excellent and cheap tacos, quesadillas and burritos are all on the menu and a vintage jukebox resides in the back playing your favorite tunes as you enjoy your meal.

The fundamental chips and salsa are quickly served to start you off as you wait for your friendly waiter to take your order. I recommend the Queso Fundido to start with if you’re a cheese fan. This delicious blend of melted cheeses and sausage served with your choice of corn or flour tortillas will prepare your stomach for the delectable meal ahead of you.

The majority of entrees are well under $15 dollars, which makes this restaurant not only a great time with delicious food but also an inexpensive dining experience that’s definitely affordable for students. Quesadillas on campus can cost up to $8 and don’t usually include chips, while at La Barca you can get a large quesadilla for only $4.50 and chip baskets are endless.

If you’re really, really hungry … and I mean starved, try the colossal burrito, which I promise you’ll take at least half home. Most of the meals are served with rice, beans, sour cream and guacamole so the abundant baskets of chips come in handy for later dipping treats.

Conveniently open at 11 a.m. on the weekends, on USC game day you can always find students and alumni grabbing a bite and drinks before the game or drinking away their hangovers after the game. Tuesdays are also a very popular night because happy hour ($2.99 margaritas) goes all night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. rather than only until 8 p.m. on all other nights.

Beware though, these margaritas are infamously strong, whether frozen or on the rocks. A popular drink at La Barca is the Super Colada that’s not on the menu, but like animal-style fries at In-N-Out, is a quintessential part of your dining experience if you’re 21 and not driving.

Truly a great find in walking distance to USC’s North University Park Campus, La Barca is a spot in Los Angeles you really shouldn’t miss. With portions far beyond large, there’s a guarantee you’ll not go home hungry or unhappy.

La Barca has its own parking lot behind the restaurant that’s free for all dining patrons. They do not take reservations, but calling ahead for big parties is welcomed and encouraged.

For more information, call (323) 735-6567.