Restaurant Review #43: Tia Juana's, West LA (now closed)


And I know that maybe someday's come...

It's been a long, long time since I've had authentic Mexican food. Since whenever the last time was that I went to La Tapatia in Houston. Though I speak Spanish and have lived nearish the Mexican border most of my life, and have even spent some time in Mexico, I have never been a huge fan of Mexican food. But my mom and brother were in town, and my immediate family's eating regimen only allows for Mexican, Italian, Cajun, American, and, very occasionally, Chinese. So when they were in town, I had a genuine Mexican recommend Tia Juana's to me as a good authentic Mexican restaurant. Sounded good. However, he is a mere half-breed, so that may have skewed his opinion somewhat. I am also a half-breed, but no one seems to consider English-German to be mixed. I'm just Anglo or Caucasian. How dull.


I'll see you smile as you call my name

I was happy when I opened the menu. The food is cheap! Not cheap like a true hole in the wall Mexican place, but cheap like "Are you sure we're on the Westside?" I wasn't hungry at all, since my family eats dinner at the ungodly hour of 5pm, so I ordered a salad. I ordered cactus. It was about damn time I tried some.

Unfortunately, it was straight out of a bucket in the refrigerator. It was too cold, nearly icy. It tasted kinda like pickles. I'm sure cactus can be better than this. I got a kick out of getting my unadventurous kin to try some, though.


Start to feel, and it feels the same

The "meatball soup," as the waiter described it to my brother, was my favorite part of the meal. A few of us gringos have heard of albondigas (though admittedly, my brother would not be one of them). Unfortunately, it was not part of my meal. Mind you, I didn't touch the meatballs, but the broth was damn tasty. Not tasty like pho, but good and homey. Is this a sort of Mexican equivalent of chicken noodle soup? Does anyone eat chicken noodle soup anymore? Does anyone like chicken noodle soup, really, especially Campbell's, even when they're five? Don't you love how in America we're supposed to grow attached to a mass-produced soup in a can whose dominant flavors are sodium and tin as the taste of love and comfort, instead of a home-cooked dish?

I also had some of my mom's cheese enchiladas. My mom thought they were pretty good, and she's quite the Mexican/Tex-Mex/enchilada connoiseur. I have forgotten what they tasted like. I'd like to see someone do something interesting with a cheese enchilada. I should mention here that when I was in Mexico, I never saw a cheese enchilada. They all had green sauce, white sauce or mole. I never saw any cheddar cheese, either. Of course, that was only central Mexico, and I was only there for a month, but I have always been mystified by this.


No I won't do it again, I don't want to pretend

Straight up Mexican food doesn't excite me that much. I've eaten it sooooo many times. I've probably eaten more cheese enchiladas than hamburgers in my lifetime. Nor am I a fan of heavy food or large portions--not because I'm yet another anorexic Barbie, but because it just doesn't feel good in my stomach. I also don't care for corn tortillas, which is what they serve here--I prefer flour. With whipped sweet cream butter with a touch of honey. Yup, that's how they served the all-you-can-eat tortillas at Casa Gallardo in St. Louis, the least authentic Mexican restaurant I have ever been to. I looooved those tortillas, the butter, and the two flavors of salsa they came with. I did not love the $15 tab I always left with. College was all about the $8 Thai food.

Maybe someday always comes again...

Overall, Tia Juana's was boring. Next time I or someone I know wants Mexican, I'm going to re-try Marix Tex-Mex in Pacific Palisades.

Tia Juana
11785 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064-1211
(310) 473-9293

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