Just open a month, Cerveteca Downtown LA is bustling on a Friday night like a trendy and happening spot that’s been around for years. Other than a few newbie servers still learning the ropes, the place seems settled in like the artsy-techie neighborhood’s mainstay it is destined to become, serving up delicious Mexican comfort food blended with modern style, straight from the generations-old recipe box of the Hermosillo family owners.
Operations Manager Yvonne Garcia says the restaurant is a family affair. She works the floor along with her brother, who is one of her fellow business partners, along with her two strikingly handsome grown-up twin sons. Her mother, known as Chef Mama, is busy getting prepped dishes out of the kitchen, with the help of a cousin.
The eatery’s signature family inspired dishes include the La Puente Backyard Original, a fat and tall burger dressed with a thick cut of pork-belly bacon — just like Mama used to make on the grill; Pescado a la Veracruzana, a red snapper heaped with castelvetrano olives, capers, tomato and garlic with arrozajillo; and the restaurant’s already famous Hangover Spicy Soup, a mouth-enlivening concoction of shrimp, clams, fish, chayote squash and carrot.
Other specialties on the menu include appetite-whetting starters called Chicano Cheese Pots, a trio of like a trio of stringy cheesy dips with mixed with corn and spices, served with guac; and sides like grilled plantains with a mild sour cream; and healthy options like Quinoa ‘n Kale, tossed with roasted corn and spiced cashews.
Like the surrounding ‘hood and the city center in which it resides, Cerveteca is a melting pot of LA cultures and tastes. Its inspirations include Mexican and Asian fusion and Greek and Peruvian influences. The restaurant also pays homage to its predecessor, R23, a Japanese restaurant that occupied the 923 East 3rd Street site for nearly two decades, by repurposing the sushi bar with a marble-top raw bar offering a changing menu of ceviche, oysters, and other raw fare. The desert menu includes Mama’s homemade bread pudding, flan and the Cerveteca sundae.
The eatery’s hardwood floors and brick-walled interior remain intact, but the entranceway off of the alley has been altered to bring the outdoors into the dining space, which seats nearly 100.
Cerveteca Downtown LA is part of the Hermosillo restaurant family, joining its sister restaurant Cerveteca in Venice, which also features some of the elements from the new restaurant, such as the charcuterie and cheese, crafted beers and wines carefully selected by wine director and partner Norma Alvarado, but also with distinctions, such as the fully stocked raw bar with a wide variety of ceviche, and a daily happy hour from 3-7pm with the unbeatable deal of $1 oysters.
“Personally, I think there’s wonderful and similar creative and cultural energy between Venice and Downtown’s Arts District,” said Hermosillo. “The richness and artistic qualities of the two neighborhoods are connected, so being in both locations make perfect sense for Cerveteca.”