Update: This restaurant is closed.
El Pedregal is a new Mexican restaurant in Van Nuys that has the shiny look of a La Salsa from the outside but a more authentic and independent feel on the inside, not to mention better prices. The menu is handwritten in neon markers on black boards and lists everything from tortas, tacos, taquitos, and enchiladas to mariscos, pescado, caldos and pozole. They also serve breakfast, which consists mostly of egg dishes.
It's still basically a fast food restaurant, complete with Spanish-speaking television, but some dishes, like a whole fish, defy that categorization. The service is very friendly, and when our to-go order was slow in coming, they brought us free chips and salsa. A little apology can go a long way. And since El Pedregal is in the Valley, they also have a glorious free parking lot.
Unfortunately, the chips and salsa were the best part of the meal. The fresh, crunchy chips and tangy tomatillo salsa were addictive, but the main courses fell flat. The burrito wasn't made according to the way we ordered it, which was a bummer to discover after we got home. It was also skimpy on the meat.
The pulled pork in my torta was dry and stuck together in large hunks that made eating the sandwich very messy and difficult, and the roll that it came on was the quality of a hotdog bun.
Chicken enchiladas with mole
The mole negro was disappointingly flat in flavor, as if it were missing around 20 of the 40 or so ingredients that mole normally contains. The refried beans lacked salt.
Since it is a very new place, I'd consider giving it a second chance. The chips and salsa, as well as the delicious tamarind and jamaica drinks and excellent service, are at least a start. Ordering mole at a restaurant that doesn't specialize in it is somewhat of a stretch. I do think they should be able to get burritos and carnitas right, though.
14308 Victory Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA