This is a story about really good Mexican food but it’s also about lawyers, parking and music. Intrigued? So was I. Why else would I be in the Valley on a sweltering September evening?
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Ventura Boulevard, you’re familiar with the former Spazio location. Ring a bell? The joint with the rotunda on the second and top floor of a Spanish-style building in the heart of Sherman Oaks. Oh, you didn’t know it closed? Well, it did. And last month, it was replaced by Añejo Cantina & Grill, which features traditional Mexican cuisine with handcrafted cocktails that will make you forget about the heat wave.
So, what of lawyers, parking and music? It so happens that the 11,000-square-foot space has been a convergence for local attorneys for the last seven years, I’m told. I bumped into a few one evening, years back, at the bar. Yeah, a lawyer walked into a bar — no joke. Anyway, they meet here like the second Wednesday of the month. Maybe they come because the place can accommodate 150 guests; maybe they come for the spicy yet refreshing Añejo Margarita — so good it should be illegal. Then again, it’s got the law on its side.
Regarding parking, there are some 70-something spaces for customers. So that money you’d normally be handing the valet can now be put on another drink in you. And considering the $3 Happy Hour Gold Margarita deal they offer seven days a week, maybe we’re talking about a few more drinks in you. In which case, of course, you should probably be Ubering anyway, you lush (although if you should require a lawyer…).
Which brings me to music, live music. Fridays and Saturdays, the bar/lounge is the place to hear Mariachi and Flamenco. In fact, the ball room — yeah, there’s a ball room — plays host to Salsa dancing, so be ready to burn off the Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp. And yes, that’s for real — like five huge-ass shrimp wrapped in a strip of crispy bacon. Honest.
And now that your appetite is stimulated, let me also mention the Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño. Of course, not everything is wrapped in meat; most, in fact, are wrapped in warm tortillas. From fish tacos to flautas to enchiladas — if you’re old enough to read this, you already know the gist of the menu. It’s Mexican food the way you remember. Everything, of course, is made on site the day you arrive, and the ingredients are real. When your guacamole is prepared tableside, you’ll watch the server mix the avocado with red onion, cilantro, tomato, a little salt and pepper, and a little lime juice. No tricks up their sleeves.
However, if you are looking for something with a bit more of a surprise — there’s a cucumber margarita here that is shockingly good, and like the Añejo Margarita, it’s set ablaze as it is presented. If you can’t resist a third one, try not to burn your eyebrows off. Salud!
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.