Does Cinco de Mayo make visions of margaritas dance in your head? Banish thoughts of putting the salty rims on hold for another year in deference to your parental status—there are plenty of spots to sip that serve up the chips, salsa, quesadillas and burritos that kids will gobble in an atmosphere that is far more family than frat.
Border Grill Santa Monica
An LA institution, the Border Grill serves up more than some of the best modern Mexican around, they make delicious takes on kids meals that keeps them gobbling while you sip. And the kids won’t just stuff themselves with chips and salsa; they’ll dine on roasted fisht, tasty tamales made with green corn, and carne asada tacos so good you’ll be sneaking bites. All that spectacular food keeps kids very happy while you order up maybe all of their margaritas. Because while the blanco is wonderful and the Cadillac divine (yes, you want to splurge on the reposado tequila and with a splash or Grand Marnier), you also want to try the version with pomegranate, the refreshingly spicy one with cucumber and jalapeno and of course the blood orange one with a mole rim. Good thing you’re steps from 3rd Street and a just a bit further from the pier and the beach, because you can sip several and then walk and play before driving anywhere!
1445 4th St.
photo: Michael Napoleon via flickr
Lula Cocina Mexicana
Being beachside has it’s perks—like spending the day on beach then heading back to Main Street to sit in a kid friendly café, ordering a frosty margarita, switch salty sea air for salty chips, and letting the kids order whatever they like from a fantastic kid menu. They can even join you in a virgin margarita! (Or you can have one yourself, if you have to drive home.) Keep in the back of your mind, as you’re gorging on duck sopes or lobster tacos, that the dessert menu is divine (tres leches and the churros are to die for).
Tips: Make reservations. This is one of the few spots on our list where you can do that, and avoid a wait for a table. Parking is plentiful in the metered lot in the back.
2720 Main St.
photo: El Cholo via facebook
Though there are other locations, all serving the same fabulous food (and drink!), we heartily recommend that you hit up the original El Cholo on Western. They boast tons of specialty margaritas and kids meals that you won’t be able to stop snacking on either (if you have room after devouring your green corn tamales or crabmeat enchilada). This landmark Los Angeles restaurant with history lessons about the family that owns it on the walls, is a big and loud spot where your kiddo making noise isn’t a problem, and they’re quick to bring you one of the best margaritas in town and a big bowl of chips and salsa to satisfy hungry little people.
Parking tip: Go for the valet. Street parking is available at meters, but this might not be a neighborhood where you want to walk far with kids.
1121 S Western Ave.
There are also locations in Downtown LA, Santa Monica, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and La Habra.
photo: Salsa & Beer via facebook
Salsa & Beer
We got a tip to try this joint from reader Lee Krasner. And after checking it out (any excuse for a great Margarita!) we weren’t disappointed. Anyplace that starts with chips, bean dip and salsa, all for free, is tops in our book, especially when you come in with hungry kids. That alone satisfies even picky eaters, while you wait for your home style Mexican food and frozen mango margarita or strong classic margarita. Though as you probably guessed, if you feel more like a beer than a margarita, they’ve got plenty of choices in that department, too. Prices are super reasonable and portions huge, making sure you’ll have plenty to take home for tomorrow.
Tips: Like several places on our list, the secret is out and that means it’s busy. And busy can mean crowded and loud. On the plus side, that means kids being kids (read: loud) isn’t a problem. But parking and a wait for a table can be. So come early. There’s a second location in Van Nuys.
11669 Sherman Way
photo: El Coyote via elcoyote.com
If you’ve never been here, this spot is destined to enter your regular rotation. Christmas lights twinkle year round, waitresses wear traditional Mexican dresses, music plays, and memorabilia hangs on the walls from the bye-gone days of the restaurant (it’s been here since the 30’s and has hosted everyone from Princess Grace and Prince Rainier to John Wayne and Drew Barrymore). This is a great spot for a fiesta and will put your whole party in a party mood. They’ve got great kids meals (including an “Americano” option—burger and fries—for those who resolutely refuse even a quesadilla), stiff margaritas, and even ostrich tacos. Sit on the patio and watch Beverly stroll by as you sip the night away.
Parking tips: The lot is valet only on weekends, and if you choose not to use it, read street signs carefully before parking. Leave the car here and cross the street to Milk to top off your evening with stellar ice cream.
7312 Beverly Blvd.
photo: Sol y Luna via facebook
Sol y Luna
Here’s the deal about the Sol y Luna—you need to come early. Which isn’t a problem since you’ve got kids. Everything you do is on the early side. It fills up here later, but you won’t care, by the time the crowds arrive, you’re rolling out, fully satisfied. The drinks are delicious, the tamales heavenly, and the best part for the kids is dinner comes with a show—tableside guacamole preparation is fascinating and gets them to eat their greens and the strolling mariachis keep everyone entertained while you eat (and drink!).
Tip: Yes, we say “come early” at plenty of places, but here we really mean it. Get here early. They don’t take reservations, and nothing’s worse than a long wait for food when the kids have crashing blood sugar.
19601 Ventura Blvd.
photo: Phoebe D. via Yelp
Gracias Madres (This one comes with a back-up plan!)
Gracias Madres might make the best margarita in town, and they’re served on one of the most beautiful patios. There are three kinds of margarita and each comes in regular or sparkling. And while the plain (so not plain) Purista is a delight, you’ve also got to try the Three Miracles, which has juniper infused mexcal with spherical ice of absinthe. Or if you like it sweeter, the La Belleza with strawberry basil balsamic shrub and rose wine is light and lovely.
However, this is not the most kid friendly spot, being a serene vegan joint, which means no running, shrieking, or eating typical tacos. However, the house made chips and salsa, fresh tortillas and bean burgers are all a huge hit with even picky eaters. While we highly recommend it if you’ve got a sleeping baby in a car seat or kids over 5 who know how to act in a nice restaurant, it’s not for everyone. But we do suggest you head over here to check it out and give it a try; that margaritas (and the food) are that great. And if you peek in and think “No way in heck my rambunctious brood can handle this,” we’ve got a back up plan in place. You’re right across the street from Au Fudge, which offers up a MILF (a low cal agave sweetened margarita) alongside au pairs to watch your kids in the charming play space and tree house. So if they gotta run and you gotta sip tequila, clear out of the sophisticated Gracias Madres and toddle across the street. But promise us you’ll return to GM on date night for the best margaritas you’ll ever have.
8905 Melrose Ave.
9010 Melrose Ave.