Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Charcoal Grill

Usually, Downtown LA successfully fulfills whatever type of food my hungry tummy desires. Usually.

In terms of Mexican food, on one end of the DTLA spectrum, we have Chano's, which meets all your "super cheap and delicious but terrible for you" needs and, on the other end, we have Rivera, which LA Magazine named one of the "Best New Restaurants." There is a decided dearth, however, of yummy, mid-priced Mexican food, which is why I was excited to try The Charcoal Grill with my friend Josh and one of his friends.

Located on 2nd Street, The Charcoal Grill is an interesting mix of take-out and sit-down dining. For example, you order your food at the register before you sit down and grab your own utensils, but staff checks in while you're eating and clears your plates at the end of the meal.

Charcoal Grill

Our trio started off with an order of guacamole and chips ($6.99). When the platter arrived with these technicolor chips, I sighed. Guess our Mexican experience at The Charcoal Grill was not to be an authentic one. Although the guacamole was made with fresh avocados, it was disappointingly bland and left none of us particularly impressed.

Chips and Guacamole @ Charcoal Grill

Stephanie ordered Bean Sauce Enchiladas served with sour cream, cotija cheese, guacamole and grilled scallions ($9.95), which were weighed down by the heavy bean sauce and were also fairly bland.

Bean Sauce Enchiladas @ Charcoal Grill

Josh opted to make his own burrito with sirloin, refried black beans, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream (although they seem to have left out the sour cream) ($8.65). Although the green sauce wasn't bad, the dish's potential was limited by the generic rice which made up most of the burrito's heft.

Make-Your-Own Burrito @ Charcoal Grill

I ordered a watermelon agua fresca ($2.75), which was crisp and fresh and ended up saving the night for me because...

Agua Fresca @ Charcoal Grill

the Viva Mexico plate with a sirloin taco, chorizo taco and a quesadilla ($9.95) was also a let-down. The strangest part of the dish was the sirloin taco, which tasted strongly like teriyaki. Hoping that I would fare better with simplicity, I took a bite of the quesadilla, which was sadly very greasy and gave me a stomachache when I dug into my leftovers the next day.

Viva Mexico Plate @ Charcoal Grill

Although The Charcoal Grill certainly gives you a lot for your money in quantity, there's not too much to be said for the quality of the food. In fact, I actually prefer La Salsa or Baja Fresh to what I ordered this night (at least the steak tastes like steak). Guess my search for something tasty in between Chano's and Rivera continues!

The Charcoal Grill
108 W. 2nd St. #104
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-8040

The Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon
The Charcoal Grill in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


  1. Mid-priced Mexican is rarely good. I'll stick to Chano's. ;)

  2. In a word - ew.

    Sorry your stomach had to suffer so. :(

  3. My experience was totally different and satisfying. The burrito I ordered was huge and full of meat and flavor. I disagree that the meat tasted like teriyaki.
    I was borned and raised in Mexico, and colored tortillas are as authetic as they can be. in fact theyre the ones used by natives.

  4. Hm. That's too bad it was a disappointment.

  5. @WeezerMonkey: My family has never gotten to eat Chano's because,whenever they've come, they've most been busy moving me in or out of an apartment. Gonna make sure they get it this week!

    @Diana and Jenn: Yeah, I was disappointed. It was worse the second day.

    @Luis: Glad you fared better than we did this night...because my steak DEFINITELY tasted like teriyaki.

  6. It's not hard to find good mexican food that's well-priced. I'm sorry but Chanos is absolute crap. I had to settle for that stuff b/c it was the closest thing to campus, but heck La Taquiza is a hell of a lot better.

    For mid-priced Mexican, you'll need to venture a little bit beyond your usual areas. A good place to start is La Casita Mexicana in Bell. Try Pal Cabron for cemitas/clayudas or Gualaguetza for Oaxacan fare. For something a bit more familiar (as in, Americanized), you couldn't do too bad at La Cabanita in Montrose. Tacos Vista Hermosa next to USC serves very good al pastor tacos. Even Loteria is pretty good.

    If you want to graduate to better more regional mexican, try birria at Flor Del Rio in Boyle Heights or seafood at Mariscos Chente.

    I also wouldn't categorize Rivera as Mexican, it's more pan-latin.

  7. @Matatouille: Noooo, you just have to know what to get from Chano's! For example, I love La Taquiza for their mulitas but much prefer the tacos from Chano's. Thanks also for all of the suggestions! I really enjoy Loteria (enchiladas de pipian FTW), but will try some of those others, too.