8138 W 3rd St, LA, CA
El Carmen is an old-school Mexican restaurant/bar on 3rd Street in Mid City West. Their happy hour is from 5-7pm weekdays and features a choice of a margarita ($5) or tecate ($3) to drink, and a selection of mexican food from $2-6. They offer the happy hour menu at the bar or at their tables.
El Carmen is somehow both a dive bar and an authentic Mexican restaurant. It has the bouncer outside and the dim lighting and loud crowd inside, but also intimate tables and a limited dinner menu. It has very cool light fixtures hanging from a curved ceiling in the small space, with lucha wrestler portraits and other decor around. Arriving on a Friday evening, it was clearly the place to be, with young people packing the bar and just as many standing around it. Tables were all blocked off for reservations. People seemed to be as much there to socialize as to enjoy the libations.
The popularity came at a price--a 30 minute wait time for two seats at the bar. Waiting that long for any happy hour would be usually out of the question, but it was likely at the most busy possible time you could come during their happy hour.
There is a forgivable lack of variety in their happy hour drink options: a margarita ($5) or a tecate ($3). If you wanted anything else, you probably shouldn't be here. Their margaritas are good--fresh and made with El Jimador tequila, but you get about twice as much ice in the wide glass as you do beverage, so you'd really need at least 2 or 3 to start feeling good. The margarita alone is not reason enough to stop by if the scene doesn't entice you.
El Carmen offers the traditional Mexican fare. Chips and salsa had to be requested after other food arrived and was generally forgettable, with cold, fresh from the fridge salsa. The quesadilla was definitely above "bar-food" quality, but had no options to add meat. The nachos were passable, though there was a lack of cheese compared to beans, sour cream and other accouterments. Overall, the food was reasonably priced and certainly better than some other Mexican establishments that are even more "restaurant-y," like Kay 'n Dave's.
|Nachos and Quesadilla|
- Cool interior with red lighting and lucha surroundings.
- Socializing and maybe seeing a celebrity.
- Cheap Mexican offerings that taste pretty good.
Potential or Actual Kitschy Name for their Happy Hour: Hora de Fiesta
Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 5-7pm
Address: 8138 W 3rd St, LA, CA
Drinks: $5 Margarita, $3 Tecate
Food: $2-6 Mexican foodhttp://elcarmenla.com/
Parking: Is rough. There are metered spots on 3rd that are probably your best bet, but lots are taken up by valets, so you will be hunting for a while.
Pros: Very hip scene and cool interior. Everything is very cheap and good tasting.
Cons: Extremely crowded. Parking is tough. Drink portion lacking.