Long Beach Lunch: Los Compadres
Only a few Mexican mini chains reign supreme in Hispanic-loaded Long Beach and they all have their own personalities. The Taqueria La Mexicanas are mostly walk-up (and always tiny) spots to get handheld street foor on paper plates. Casa Sanchezes vary by location (as we discovered when we finally found the best--#4), but all serve upgraded taqueria food like meat plates and massive quesadillas in semi-habitable dining rooms.
But the most mejor Mexi chain in the city has only two of its typical sit-down locations, at which it serves up classy mariscos, enchiladas for every palate and juicy carne asada with some of the only hecho a mano tortillas in the hood.
The two Los Compadres restaurants--one on 12th and Pine and another on East Anaheim St--have become favorites for hardened traditionalists and unassuming gringos alike, not because their prices are low or there is one in every neighborhood (like other frijole hovels), but because they cover all the coastal Mexican classics and they cover them all well.
Here, quality costs a pretty penny (even during happy hour when food specials are still $6). It's worth all of it. Hearty, street-style tacos with a fistful of meat on a melt-in-your-mouth house tortilla, for example will run you $3 each. And a substantial bowl of 7 Mares soup starts at $15.
Sarah Bennett Carne asada and carnitas tacos con tortillas hecho a mano
The best part of the meal, however, comes first and it's free. A bowl of fresh restaurant-style salsa and a basket of warm and oily chips gets plopped on the table along with some menus and it's impossible not to gnarl through a round of each before deciding on a main course.
With five pages of options replete with photos so hi-res you can see the cheese melting on the sides of beans, choosing what to eat during your first Los Compadres experience may be tough. There are moles and sopes and quail molcajetes, filletes ten ways and oysters in the half shell.
Specialties include enchiladas michoacanas (four different meat enchiladas with a side of roasted chicken), camarones costa azul (shrimp wrapped in bacon) and ceviches that come in a softball sized mound with a side of watery green sauce that is a puckering lime coverall, not the sweet tomatillo salsa as it appears.
Sarah Bennett Fish ceviche tostada
From spicy to citrus and sweet to savory, all flavor ranges found up and down the western coast of Mexico are represented at Los Compadres. To try it all, bring some of your own compadres for lunch and order across the rainbow or do what the rest of Long Beach does and order something different every time you involuntarily find yourself drawn back through its heavy wooden doors.
Los Compadres, 1444 Pine Ave. and 3229 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, loscompadreslbc.com