Talking Cal-Mex Cuisine and Mitla Cafe, the Inland Empire's Oldest Mexican Restaurant, on Good Food

mitlacafe.JPG
One of Mitla's many gooey treasures...

Last week, I did a two-fer for KCRW-FM 89.9's Good Food with Evan Kleiman: I visited Mitla Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire (since 1937!). What was funniest about visiting with Good Food producer Harriet Ells is our reaction to Mitla's food: while I treated it as a discovery akin to finally finding a Nicaraguan restaurant in OC, Harriet was nonplussed. "This is the Mexican food I grew up with back East," she said.

"And this food is completely foreign to this Mexican!" I snapped back.

The food, of course is Cal-Mex, our region's own distinct tradition in the realm of Mexican cuisine, and one that's disappearing in this age of regional Mexican offerings. I talked a bit more about it with Evan in the broadcast, which you'll find after the jump!

tktk


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10 comments
Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I'm with Harriet... this is the neon-orange nonsense I ate in places like Chi-Chi's. Every once in a very rare while I crave it, but not very often—that picture brings back memories that make me shudder.

That's not to say it shouldn't exist or people shouldn't eat there; I just don't want to.

Lee Rivas
Lee Rivas

Manuel's "El Tepeyac." Accept no substitutes.

Joy Hicks
Joy Hicks

I grew up in California. Lived there 59 years until I moved to Texas. Here in Texas all they have is Tex-Mex restaurants and nothing and I do say nothing compares to all the wonderful Mexican restaurants in California. I miss the mexican food taste so much. Here in Texas they have mexican dishes I never even heard of. (Nasty) If I want good traditional mexican food, I make it.The food in these Tex-Mex restaurants is so bland, hardly any bite to it like the California mexican food. Mitla's and so many other mexican restaurants in California is the best.JOY HICKS, TEXAS, but will always be a Californian in my heart.

Eric Ridenour
Eric Ridenour

It's all up to personal taste. It really gets old always hearing people say that everyone should have the same tastes as me, and should like everything exactly like I do.

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Nycee99
Nycee99

...and if you've ever tasted better Mexican food. You won't be impressed with anything called Cal-Mex.

Max Morales
Max Morales

Then you didn't eat out much when you were a kid! I'll bet if you visited every Mexican restaurant in Southern California even today, the food would be much more like Mitla's than like the regional Mexican places we all love. I eat at the old-fashioned places almost every week with my family down in the desert. The food is usually excellent, and the customers -- Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, mostly -- enjoy it enormously.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Oh, you'd be surprised. Ask most Mexican immigrants and their children about food such as Mitla, and they'd say it's not even Mexican...

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