By Donn Swaby


Le Velvet Margarita Cantina

Ready for the “ultra” experience in Mexican cuisine? If you’re someone who likes to enjoy the look and feel of an eatery as well as the quality of what’s on the plate then prepare yourself for the ultimate velvety visual fiesta at Le Velvet Margarita Cantina. This place is positively drenched in authentic Mexican and Chicano décor with every square inch offering something to feast your eyes on; stained and blown glass, mirrored walls, sombreros, marionettes, and velvet, velvet, velvet!

Over two years ago, owner/DJ/entrepreneur Carlos Adley, who also owns the building the VMC resides in, had a simple yet grand vision; to “bring restaurant culture to Los Angeles” and create the “ first world renowned Mexican restaurant.” “There wasn’t a high end Mexican restaurant represented with the best of everything, “ says Adley, a.k.a. “Big Daddy“, a man with the massive body of an L.A. Raiders linebacker and the warm, friendly manner of a giant teddy bear come to life. With a top ten spot in Zagat’s, rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and solidly booked “mariachi band” weekends thanks to overwhelmingly positive word of mouth , Adley’s is not off to a bad start after being open for only eleven months. Simply put, the VMC is nothing short of a visual masterpiece, a work of art that is the product of Adley’s own imagination and sweat.

“I first designed it on paper, drawing out everything I wanted,” says Adley while giving me the grand tour of his unique establishment. “Then I had everything made by artists in Mexico.” After that, Adley worked with a handful of builders to put all of the artwork together to make the VMC. “It took two years because I wanted everything to be exactly the way I saw it in my head.”

The result? A bar featuring flames carved from metal adorning the liquor shelves, marionettes bouncing and swaying in rectangular cubby holes in a back wall, giant spheres made of silver and black ribbons, streamers, and cones twirling above from black steel beams, velvet portraits of the skeletons of famous Mexican figures like Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara, and even Elvis a la Dios de Meurtos (Day of the Dead), two silver framed screens directly above the bar showing the films of Mexican stars like Cantin Flas, Mexico’s Jerry Lewis, and a stained glass of a flaming sacred heart crowned with thorns. The main dining room features the most beautiful blue plush diamond tuck velvet walls seen anywhere, numerous black and silver sombreros lining the ceiling above the front and back doors (with matching velvet wallpaper!), more gorgeous velvet portraits, these with skin intact (including Adley’s grandmother Lupita,), and huge, comfy booths and tables with sturdy wooden chairs decorated with even more velvet, blown glass suns, and moons. As if that weren’t enough, the VIP room boasts cream colored leather seats, and a Mayan calendar graces the wall of the outside back patio. Even the bathrooms have been touched with an artistic flair; handmade glass tiles with holographic images from playing cards adorn the center of the floor.

So what of the food, you ask? Well the VMC menu consists of nothing but the best that Adley’s family, haling from Cinaloa, Culiacan, has to offer, an “all star” roster of recipes passed down from many generations. You can start off the night with Grandma Lupe’s Turkey Vegetable Aldingas (spiced turkey meatballs in a hearty vegetable soup), then try Tia Tisha’s Chicken Enchilada with green tomato sauce, followed by the Chocolate Temple Mayan Mousse Cake.

Adley is proud to own a family run restaurant (the executive chef is Leticia, the daughter of Lupita and Adley’s mother) where even he jumps in to assist wherever he is needed, whether it‘s security, bussing tables, cleaning the bathrooms, whatever. Indeed, from the original art to the authentic family recipe to the first class personal service, this is no corporate run business where the accent is on making a lot of money until the buzz dies down to an inevitable closing a few years later. Adley plans on having the VMC around for decades. But don’t wait too long to experience the VMC. Believe me, you won’t be sorry when you do.

Le Velvet Margarita Cantina is located at 1612 North Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, California 90028. Serving lunch from 11:30 A.M. and Dinner from 5:00 P.M. to closing

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© Melt Magazine 2005