Cheap Eats 2008: La Sirenita

Why go: It won’t satisfy the cravings of a native Los Angeleño or a homesick Texan, but this scruffy roadhouse gets closer to the authentic regional Mexican ideal than any restaurant in the area, from the house-made corn tortillas and chili-flecked guacamole to the zesty soups and stews.

What to get: Chilaquiles, a hangover-curing casserole that alternates corn tortillas with spoonfuls of red or green sauce—order it with a fried egg on top; chorizo, salty beef, and tongue tacos in two-ply corn tortillas with radish and a wedge of lime; a surprisingly light rendition of chile relleno; chicken mole, its sweet, complex sauce transforming the sometimes stringy meat; the pork-and-hominy stew called posole, festooned with cilantro and avocado.

Best for: A rollicking night out in a jukebox-loud atmosphere that calls to mind a dive along the Mexican border.

Insider tip: Skip dessert and head down the street to the tiny outpost of La Flor de Puebla, a Mexican bakery that produces, among other treats, wondrously light sugar doughnuts filled with cream.

Open daily except Tuesday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

See all Cheap Eats 2008 restaurants 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.