Drive & Find: Ep 3: La Fiesta Brava (Venice)
We started Drive & Find a few years back because, frankly, we were damn intimidated by the vast Los Angeles culinary scene. It’s a simple concept: two Westside dudes are hungry… they pick an area of town… they take a drive … they find an alluring restaurant … they dine there. This concept has brought us all around LA – from seafood to Thai to total crap – nonetheless our affinity for the unknown remains.
DATE: Thursday, June 18, 2009
RESTAURANT: La Fiesta Brava
423 Rose Avenue
THEIR SLOGAN: not the sort of restaurant with a slogan
OUR SLOGAN: Awesome – because not the sort of restaurant with a “slogan”
DRIVE TIME: 25 minutes
LIKES: The piping hot chips. Fresh salsa. BYOB and the convenient convenience market next door. Odd arrangement of bullfighting paraphernalia. The owner, Samuel (we think that was his name). The eclectic set of patrons. The south of the border feel. The flimsy screen door entrance. The price.
DISLIKES: Health Code “B” on the door. The old Tony Danza lookalike in a Lakers hat who wouldn’t shut up about the Lakers.
THE MENU: Mariscos plus standard Mexican (TexMex fajitas as well).
After the misstep that was Pacific Palisades and Café Vida we at Drive and Find sought to totally, totally redeem ourselves.
And luckily with La Fiesta Brava we totally, totally did.
It wasn’t easy though. After driving up and down Lincoln throughout the Venice region for upwards of twenty minutes we made the executive decision to give the side streets a gander. We eventually found ourselves on the tenebrous Rose just north of Main Street. Despite heavy auto and foot traffic, this area of Rose has a very Hitchcockian feel to it. Luckily, these areas, as we’ve learned over the years, are ripe for successful Drive and Finds.
La Fiesta Brava had us at “hola.” Adjacent to a convenience market, La Fiesta Brava doesn’t possess the location or flash of other area Mexican restaurants and, truthfully, that’s what made it so enticing. Very, very minimal in structure, you walk in through a very flimsy screen door and are immediately greeted with the smell of quality, fresh Mexican, bullfighting posters and an incredibly eclectic clientele. In one corner you have a family of six, the other you have a husband singing show tunes aloud much to his wife’s chagrin, next to him is a guy masterly popping a beer bottle cap with a knife and right down the middle you are greeted with half-smiles from some truly baked surfers.
After a quick stop at the market next door for a sixer of Pacifico we sat down at a communal table in the middle of the restaurant with the high as kites surfer dudes. The first page of the menu is very heavy on the Mariscos. Which is great, but neither of us at D&F were feeling the seafood tonight, so our gaze found itself more on the second page of more traditional Mexican offerings.
While mulling our options we were presented with a piping hot bowl of tortilla chips along with accompanying fresh salsa. We’re talking like Fresh Prince fresh and the chips smelled like movie theatre popcorn they were so hot. Both the salsa and chips were very, very good.
We decided to go with the “El Trio” – a plate of cheese, chicken and carne asada enchiladas. Very tasty. Aesthetically pleasing as well – each of the enchiladas was topped with a different color salsa. Although not the greatest enchiladas we’ve ever had they were pretty damn good. Of note, actually, was the side rice which featured a plethora of chopped vegetables. The Mexican version of what is commonly seen as Asian fried rice was a nice, unexpected touch.
It’s a huge serving, too. In fact, upon completion we were quoted as saying, “That was f***ing filling.” Overall, for eight dollars “El Trio” was certainly worth the price.
The second entrée choice was a straight shot – the carne asada burrito. The owner/ host/waiter/dishwasher/utility cook that is Samuel stressed they’ll customize any order so we decided to put the Spanish rice inside the tortilla and keep the refried beans smothered in cheese, sour cream and green onions a la carte. The carne asada burrito meat was some of the best we’ve had in a long time. The carne asada – usually found chopped up to enhance each bite – in this burrito contained big strips of fresh marinated steak straight off the grill. Totally unexpected and unbelievable. To top it off, literally, roja sauce and cheese covered the burrito providing some extra taste and finger licking.
After we finished our meal Samuel came to our table again to talk with us about his La Fiesta Brava. He noted they’ve been open for 14 years and that he still doesn’t advertise solid hours since everything is made fresh daily and they’ll stay open as long as there’s food left and hungry mouths … the latter which will be ours again very soon.
We do Drive & Finds to hopefully stumble upon places like La Fiesta Brava. Side street. Boring building. Odd wall coverings. Kooky patrons. Genial owner. In almost bro code fashion they even slip you a chicle stick of Juicy Fruit gum on your way out. A nice compliment after a heavy Mexican meal, this little gesture metaphorically represents the overall experience at La Fiesta Brava: friggin refreshing.
TOTAL CHECK (with tip and beer purchased at convenience store): $36.00
THE D&F MARK: 4.0 / 5.0