El Carmen

Mexican Restaurant / Tequila Bar
El Carmen For an upbeat vibe no doubt helped along by one of the best selections of tequila in LA, patrons will want to head to the kitschy El Carmen, a bustling cantina popular with a laid-back clientele of young professionals, artsy... Los Angeles United States 34.072293 -118.3672691
3.85 21
El Carmen - Mexican Restaurant | Tequila Bar in Los Angeles.
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Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review For an upbeat vibe no doubt helped along by one of the best selections of tequila in LA, patrons will want to head to the kitschy El Carmen, a bustling cantina popular with a laid-back clientele of young professionals... ... read full review

  • Hours:

    M–F 5pm–2am, Sa–Su 7pm–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth El Carmen Review

The Scene

For an upbeat vibe no doubt helped along by one of the best selections of tequila in LA, patrons will want to head to the kitschy El Carmen, a bustling cantina popular with a laid-back clientele of young professionals, artsy...

For an upbeat vibe no doubt helped along by one of the best selections of tequila in LA, patrons will want to head to the kitschy El Carmen, a bustling cantina popular with a laid-back clientele of young professionals, artsy types, and neighborhood regulars.

The small one-room space is packed to the gills with campy details like red velvet curtains, mounted bulls’ heads, and black velvet paintings of luchadores (Mexican pro wrestlers) hung on the arched ceiling. But there’s still plenty of room for the approachable crowd to mix and mingle under the skylight and paper chandeliers, which somehow lend an airier feel to the close quarters.

Those lucky enough to snag one of the tables along the mirror-paneled wall can enjoy their margaritas and cheap tacos in the comfort of the low, cushioned banquettes, while the rest of the hip and chatty crowd can elbow their way to the bar, where over four hundred types of tequila illuminated by fish-tank lamps with luchadore figurines inside provide a conversation piece for the cool but easygoing regulars and after-work clients perched on the vintage 70s bar stools.

Fueled by a steady diet of rock classics from the jukebox and a constant happy buzz, El Carmen manages to create a festive Cinco de Mayo atmosphere that attracts a good-looking crowd of fun and flirty singles every night of the week.

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Tip from Emma:

If you’ve never tried a fruit-infused tequila, then this is the place to do it! Go for the pomegranate margarita or – for the full desert experience – some cactus-fruit tequila shots.

  • Crowd

    Outgoing, friendly, hip, and laid-back urbanites, after-work regulars, and tequila-lovers, early 20s to 30s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Jukebox features classic rock tunes from Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to The Clash and David Bowie.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Mexican cuisine. Happy Hour M–F 5–7pm.

  • Prices

    Appetizers $4+, tacos $3.25+, entrées $6+. Beer $5+, margaritas $8.50+, tequila $7–$350, tequila flights $25–$75. Valet $6.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Jeans and hoodies, work attire, designer casual.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Thursdays through Saturdays draw the biggest standing-room-only crowds.

  • Close By

    Doughboys Café (8136 West Third Street) next door is good for late-night snacks, sandwiches, and breakfast. Access also through the bathroom it shares with El Carmen.

El Carmen User Reviews

Average rating:
LOVE THE HAPPY HOUR!
Lexie D. May 16, 2013
I love El Carmen for their happy hour! It's one of the best in town with $4 dollar quesdillas, $5 nachos and $5 margaritas that are strong enough to get you feeling nice and tipsy... You cant go wrong! The dark environment makes it perfect for a date night if you're feeling a little worn and don't want to be seen in florescent. The wait staff is beyond helpful, and friendly! If you want a chill night with some tequila and decent mexican food go here.
Libations with Lucha Libre
Jennifer S. L. Apr 19, 2013
Happy hour, heck, any hour, at El Carmen is a freakin' fiesta in the best way. The narrow, row style space boasts a long bar on one end with booth seating on the opposite side. The vibe is festive, with plantation fans, strings of colorful, decorative lights, wrestling figurines and luche libre masks enlivening the space. Their happy hour can't be beat, with margaritas, guacamole and salsa, all for $5, and other mexican fare such as sweet corn tamales, tacos and ceviche from $6-8.
Spicy, Authentic, and Fun
Clay C. Apr 6, 2013
Mexican restaurants, whether boasting good food or not, can have the unfortunate habit of feeling a bit lacking in authenticity, in energy, and in scope of menu. You can find the similar meals and drinks almost anywhere, and the family-friendly vibe is almost always present. So if you want to find a Mexican establishment that feels so real and alive that it's like living in the host country, then step into LA's vibrant El Carmen. The decor alone turns this establishment into an underground bungalow, with figurines of Mexican wrestlers and bull horns adorning the walls instead of windows, and festive lights wrapped joyously around the center room. The orange lamps and the dark walls create a rustic shade of blood orange while the heavy, tan ceiling arches above. Yet the decor is not only what is so refreshing about El Carmen. Holding nothing back, the restaurant/bar boasts an outrageously expansive tequila menu, along with margaritas ranging from Cactus to Cucumber Mint. Potato tacos, churros, and other dishes are served still steaming, and with this, the free jalapenos, and the open bottles of tequila, the air is permanently full of spice. The Happy Hour specials are great, the clientele is young and anxious, and the overall ambiance feels like a twenty four hour underground Mexican festival, making El Carmen an ideal place to pregame alone or with friends. Try the Spicy Margarita, which runs rampant with jalapenos, and be ready to shed a couple tears as you drink it.
Fun, unexpected find
Emily Keating S. Apr 5, 2013
In LA, there's not a lot of "stumbling" on great places. For the most part, you know the places you love and stick to them (or use your iPhone to find new ones on the go). But my friend and I were thrilled to find this place through good old-fashioned spontaneity. It's somewhat hidden and makes you feel like you're entering some exclusive place when you get past the front door. Perks are the amazing margaritas and the feeling that you're out where the cool people are. Very fun atmosphere, feels like a party even if you're just there for an early dinner. Best part is, it's walkable to tons of great boutiques.
Go for the happy hour and decor
Dropik K. Oct 5, 2012
The walls are filled with Mexican wrestlers and the drinks are strong. I can kick back here quite awhile and enjoy the happy hour margaritas (M-F, 5 - 7). I'm usually on a budget so spending $10 a margarita is not something I like to do. You can come early, hit the good prices and beat the crowds. I've been here on weekend nights and it is way too packed. You will never sit down and push and shove your way to the bar. Not fun.
Love me some drinks and peeps
Nance R. Oct 5, 2012
El Carmen! Love this place. It’s a small, unique place with such a great vibe and atmosphere. A great place for drinks and atmosphere. I feel like you can come here and relax; you can come before heading out to difference scene and/or come for a drink or two after work. Many local chefs around the area come here, and it’s such a fun place to mingle, meet new people and socialize. My sister loves this place too! She’s more of a trendy person, I’m very laid back and usually do not like to go to trendy places, but I feel this place fits my world: homey and comfortable with LA life.
All About the Blended Margaritas
TeamRickiMariam M. Oct 3, 2012
Where else can you get an overflowing, blended blood orange margarita?? (Brain freeze and hit of a hangover to follow, but well worth it.) Also a great late night spot for drinks and nibbles.
Best Margaritas
Michael K. Oct 1, 2012
Tacos are utilitarian and overpriced. The place is small. If you're standing, it's going to be an extremely uncomfortable dance of moving out of the way all night long. But if you get a table or a seat at the bar, you're in outstanding shape because the space itself is outstanding. You wish your garage/man cave was this cool and well-designed. And the margaritas are the best in town. The. Best. And also extremely potent. Living within walking distance or arranging sober transportation home is highly recommended. A must, in fact.
Tequila Bitches!
Adam S. Oct 1, 2012
Long my go to midweek sip in West Hollywood. I love everything from the Mexi wrestling art to the tunnel like interior to the flautas (hey, I'm usually drunk!) to the epic tequila bar. In fact, this is where I lost my juvenile aversion to tequila based on some long gone Tijuana blow out that went all wrong and definitely involved Jose F**king Cuervo. No motor oil here, just a menu of some of the finest lowland and highland tequila available anywhere. The crowd is generally hip and fun almost any night. Way too packed to enjoy on Fridays and Saturdays though.
Great Margs in a Quirky Spot
Sophia M. Sep 7, 2012
There are many nights that I find myself walking through El Carmen's seedy-looking exterior into their funky fiesta. The outside isn't anything impressive, but as soon as you get in you'll be surprised by their decorating choice- which is a little reminiscent of Tijuana. Most note-worthy are the glorified portraits of Lucha Libres look down on the young, hip crowd from the ceiling and those who haven't had too much tequila yet will also notice the Lucha Libre masks in the rafters. Even though El Carmen is pretty small and the bar can get a little cramped, I always get great service and I'm never disappointed by their margaritas. And I'm not talking about your average, run-of-the-mill, lemon/lime/tequila combination, I'm talking about everything from fruity infusions, like pomegranate, to the more bizzarre and spicy jalapeno. You'll go for the drinks, but you'll stay (and find yourself going back) for the great music, crowd, and overall infectious vibe. Ole!
An Eclectic & Intriguing Tequila Spot
Marcella T. Sep 7, 2012
I came to El Carmen for the first time on a date a few weeks ago and I cannot wait to go back. From the outside you would never guess that this hipster, music-blaring tequila bar awaited you. To be quite honest, the street was so quiet and abandoned when I went that I nearly kept driving and skipped out on the date altogether. Once inside, however, I was relieved to see that there were throngs of young Angelenos leaning over the teensy bar and, admittedly, amused by the cheesy pink lighting, cluttered wallpaper, and creepy-as-all-hell Lucha Libres gazing down at me from above. The bar is dark, crowded, and loud -- so if you'd like to cozy up to someone and share an intimate conversation over jalapeño-infused margaritas or sip on some pineapple tequila, this is your place. Definitely not ideal to hang with a group. I wish I could have tried the food (I've heard the tacos are some of LA's best), but my date was a dud so I headed home pretty early. I'll definitely come by soon with a girlfriend to explore the extensive tequila menu and grab a bite.
Tequilas might just get you killed!
Sandy S. Sep 6, 2012
I totally and absolutely love this place! it might be extremely small with just a few tables that serve you food and always jam-packed with people but I wouldn't want this place to be any different from what it is now. Sure I might have to wait for over half an hour before I can be seated or get the attention of the waitress but hey where else on earth can I have access to over 500 different types of tequila! The menu is limited but the food is great and reasonably priced. Being a vegetarian this place is perfect as their freshly prepared enchiladas and nachos are a must have. The only negatives of this place is that you are going to have a tough time finding parking around the area unless you want to shell out some money for valet parking and that you better hope you are not hungry when you get there as it might take you a while to get a table. All in all its a great LA spot and I definitely recommend it and I also recommend having their jalapeno tequila which was definitely unique and worth it.
The Best Tequilas in the Most Colorful Corners
Jason N. Aug 29, 2012
El Carmen is what every neighborhood needs: a foreign place where you go to feel familiar. The tequilas marinate on the bar in glass vats of chopped cacti that are about as tightly packed, and tequila-drenched, as the people ordering. That's the charm though...you don't go to El Carmen to be alone; you go to be surrounded by beautiful people on one side and a wall of gleaming tequila bottles on the other. Every time I've visited, it has indeed been a deeper immersion into the chemistry of margaritas. Besides being made dizzy by the glow-in-the-dark ambiance and chatty crowd, I have been schooled in exactly what it takes to crush, bang, and shake the freshest ingredients into the most conversation-inspiring drinks. That's why you'll never mind going alone.
So Small
Sara G. Aug 15, 2012
I want to love El Carmen, but it's so freaking small and I'm never comfortable. The group I've gone with has been exactly that: a group. Because of that, it's just been awkward and hard to make everyone happy. However, the drinks are potent I think the trick is to get your group enjoying the drinks and the seating discomfort will quickly fade. Great place to go if you're single - it's impossible not to intimately get to know your neighbor. Plus, tequila is always fun.
Mixed views
Sam A. Aug 2, 2012
I'm torn on El Carmen. Generally, I think the food is pretty solid but the seating is brutal. You are completely cramped and there is virtually no room to move. If you want to sit on top of the couple next to you, this works. If not, there are tons of other restaurants and bars on this strip of Third Street so you can easily find something else. However, I do like the food and the infused tequila is great.
Cheap and Good
Paul F. Aug 2, 2012
Probably my favorite Mexican restaurant/tequila bar in the city. Granted they've raised their prices in recent years, but you can still get a full meal, with chips and guac, and some Negra Modello for under $20. Try their infused tequila that they have marinating on their bar. Also, if you reserve a table (highly recommended on weekend nights) ask for the one in the corner closest to the front door. Best seat in the house and you won't feel as cramped.
Good memories...
Chad F. Aug 2, 2012
I have spent many of nights drinking and trying to yell over the loud music and other people yelling in El Carmen. And somehow every time I go to Doughboys for dinner (red velvet cake…), I end up heading next door to El Carmen for a drink, or three. This used to be THE place for every Hollywood assistant to eat and drink for cheap and mingle with the “normal people”. Heads up: This place really knows how to make a strong drink. Lots of good memories here.
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