Nightlife: At Juanita’s in Highland Park, the food and sounds are scrumptious

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By Michelle J. Mills, Staff Writer

The Place: The family-owned Juanita’s Restaurant and Bar moved to Highland Park just over a year ago, but it has around for 24.

The venue buys all its supplies locally and puts on events for various charities, such as homeless youth, breast cancer and the Avenue 50 Studio.

Juanita’s interior is a plain and very open space with a cement floor and red walls. A rectangular wooden bar takes up the most of one wall and the center of the room with stools all the way along it.

The Price: Most nights there isn’t a cover, but if there is, it’s no more than $5. There is a large selection of beer with prices starting at $3. The other offering is wine and wine cocktails (there’s no hard alcohol here), which begin at $5. Happy hour is 3-7 p.m. daily and there are often specials in the evenings, especially on Taco Tuesdays when beer is king.

The Sounds: I had gone to Juanita’s to see Brian Kenney Fresno, a quirky, but talented songwriter who is a master of the Warr guitar. Also on the bill were Breech, Rademacher and Harvey Sid Fisher. When I first saw the room, I thought it was going to be a long night that even earplugs couldn’t salvage. It ended up that the sound was surprisingly good. I could hear each instrument and vocal distinctly and it was comfortable enough that the my earplugs stayed in my purse.

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The Food: The kitchen is always open and the food is very good. The menu has a nice range of dishes with house plates from $7 and ala carte tacos ($1.75) and burritos ($4), plus sides starting at $1.50. A complete menu with prices is available online.

I tried the vegetarian quesadilla ($7). Overflowing the plate and accompanied by a crispy salad, it was more than enough for a meal and great for sharing, like I did with the photographer who was with me that evening.

The Vibe: There was a small, but lively crowd the night I went, which was a Wednesday, so I wasn’t surprised. People don’t hesitate to talk to strangers at the bar, and most of the crowd stayed for the entire show. What charmed me most was that security is happy to escort or watch you to your car, which is soothing for woman heading out of a venue alone at 1 a.m.

Age Group: Because Juanita’s is a restaurant, it is an all-ages venue, but the evening crowd is ideally in their 20s through middle age, depending on the music.

Beware: The only daunting part about going to Juanita’s is the parking, but once you figure it out, you’re golden. Free street parking is available if you can find it, and there are two free lots nearby.

Go:
Juanita’s Restaurant and Bar is at 5930 York Blvd., Los Angeles. Call (323) 254-4200 or visit www.juanitasrestaurantandbar.com. It is open 9 a.m.-midnight Monday-Wednesday and 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Every full moon is Noches Prehispanicas with Aztec dancers, mariachi and flashback DJs. On the second Saturday of the month, Juanita’s participates in NOLA (Northeast L.A. Art Walk) with art exhibits, and it also holds art shows periodically throughout the year on the patio and there is always art on display inside the venue.

My Rating: I give Juanita’s a 4 on our scale because it’s one of the hottest and tastiest places around for an inexpensive, unfussy and fun night out.

michelle.mills@sgvn.com

RATINGS: 5: Really, really hot; 4: Hot; 3: Fun, loose, low pressure; 2: Cool; 1: Just OK

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