Celebrate Mexican Independence Day with these local Mexican eateries
Ask your average Santa Monica College student about their favorite Mexican holiday, and they'll most likely respond with Cinco de Mayo. But while Cinco de Mayo may be the most widely embraced hispanic holiday here in the states, in Mexican culture it is far less important than Mexican Independence Day, September 16. This commemorates the Mexican revolutionaries' call to arms against the Spanish colonial government, and the beginning of their war for independence. All over Mexico, it is celebrated with parades, special television programs, and speeches by public officials, but it is largely overlooked in the USA.
So while you may not be lining up outside of bars to celebrate September 16th, here are a few places where SMC students can at least get a good Mexican meal in honor of the historic day.
Campos Famous Burritos
Perhaps the most convenient restaurant for SMC students is Campos Famous Burritos, located just one block east of the main campus at 2008 Pico Blvd. This family owned business has been a Santa Monica staple for 43 years, so you could say Campos and SMC students have a long, tasty history together.
Manager Juan Alcala, who has worked at this location for the past 17 years, estimates that during the week, about one third of their customers attend Santa Monica College. "Maybe more," he says. "A lot of the students live in the area and are regluars." This does appear to be the case as a fresh group walks in, casually chatting about their classes, teachers, and the food they would soon be enjoying.
Santa Monica College students are a huge part of their customer base, and in the past they have had special offers for students. Alcala explains, "Last year they had student deals, but they just recently changed the menu prices so nothing now."
And perhaps unsurprising is the fact that they have no special plans for September 16th. "Sometimes they will do a little something, but not this year."
Gilbert's El Indio
Just a few blocks east of Campos is Gilbert's El Indio. Another Santa Monica local hangout, Gilbert's has been in business since Gilbert and Carmen Rodriguez opened it 40 years ago.
At the bar, Ricardo Rodriguez, one of Gilbert and Carmen's nine children, tells about their involvement in the community. "On Fridays we sponsor Santa Monica High School, all the sports teams. All nine of the children went to Santa Monica High School, and four of us are SMC alumni."
Looking around the reastaurant at the decorations covering the walls and bar, it is easy to see why students from SMC, UCLA, and West LA College flock to Gilbert's El Indio, especially for their Taco Tuesday deal, which includes $1 tacos and $3 beers.
And since September 16th falls on a Tuesday this year, Gilbert's is a perfect place to take in some traditional Mexican food and Santa Monica culture, although Ricardo Rodriguez admits they have no special plans to mark the holiday.
"Not really. no one really celebrates it here," says Gilbert. "They confuse it with Cinco de Mayo."
Although not as popular among SMC students as Campos or Gilbert's, Cabo Cantina on the Third Street Promenade has a couple offers guaranteed to appeal to students, admittedly only to those over 21.
They also do a Taco Tuesday special, with $5 getting you unlimited chicken or steak tacos. And their happy hour (2 for 1 drinks every day from 4-8pm) is "what mostly everybody comes for," according to Robert, a bouncer at Cabo for the last 6 months.
A little more upscale than the others on this list, La Sandia at the Santa Monica Place is nonetheless a great student hangout. What brings students and other customers swarming in is their happy hour deals, said Marilyn Foley, who has worked at La Sandia for two years. "Discount drinks: margaritas, mojitos, sangria, and then you have a bunch of discounted foods," says Foley.
Tacos Por Favor
Another hidden gem is Tacos Por Favor, a quiet looking "hole in the wall" on Olympic and 14th with surprisingly good food. And boasting a variety of burritos and combination plates under $10, Tacos Por Favor is the perfect place for an SMC student to satisfy their Mexican food cravings.
So while Mexican Independence Day may not be prompting any restaurants to hold special holiday events, there are still plenty of places where Mexican food and culture is affordable and accessible to SMC students.