2014 Food & Drink Awards nominees: Best new Mexican restaurant

From vegan flautas to pig ear nachos, LA's newest Mexican restaurants are all about creativity. Vote for your favorite!
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In a city where you can find quality tacos under $10 in almost every neighborhood, it begs the question: What else you got? Our picks for the best new Mexican restaurant take Mexican cuisine to another level, whether you're stopping by for brunch or quenching your thirst with a creative spin on a margarita. Spread the love by voting for your top pick.

See the other contenders for the Food & Drink Awards and cast your ballot for the best new Mexican restaurant of the year.

*Voting ends April 21 and the winners will be announced on May 12.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Mexican

PettyCash Taquería

icon-location-pin Beverly

Before entering PettyCash Taquería, you may note "RIP Playa" tagged right outside the door; this would be a nod to the Beverly Boulevard space's previous occupant, John Sedler’s Playa. Save for that reminder, though, you may fail to recognize its old self: Gone are the dim lighting and the intimate tables. Instead, the bright, open space is filled with graffiti dancing on the walls, communal tables and, as is fashionable for painfully cool places these days, very loud music. This is PettyCash—Mexican street food as reinterpreted by Los Angeles chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State).

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Mexican

Gracias Madre

icon-location-pin West Hollywood

Gracias Madre not only comes with a straightfoward menu—executed by chef Chandra Gilbert—but with quality Mexican cuisine. To begin, it should be said that the restaurant is beautiful. A cross between Mexican chic and Palm Springs casual, Gracias Madre is decorated with festive cushions and tiles, a gorgeous courtyard and, inside, high ceilings and a comfortable bar. Wherever you choose to sit, order the guacamole—it, too, is fantastic; some of the best we've ever had.

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Dinner

Tinga Santa Monica

icon-location-pin Santa Monica

When the "artisan taquería" Tinga opened in a tiny space on La Brea in 2010, it was an interesting distraction from the street tacos reigning supreme at that moment: Tinga’s tacos were unabashedly more refined, upscale and cheesier than almost anything off the most popular trucks, with the prices to match. Three years later, Tinga's expression of the taco has not only persisted, but it also has just expanded westward. Tinga's Santa Monica outpost is a sprawling, multi-room funhouse: There's a bar everywhere you turn (three in total), all of which flank a beautiful courtyard that makes for great patio dining.

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Photograph: Courtesy Mercado
Restaurants, Mexican

Mercado - Los Angeles

icon-location-pin West Third Street

With its newest location on 3rd Street, Mercado is bringing an inventive mix of food, atmosphere and tradition to the Beverly Grove neighborhood. The second restaurant for partners Jesse Gomez and chef Jose Acevedo, this location offers a covered patio space and an open air bar—perfect for relaxing with a margarita and taquitos, or indulging in their popular brunch (helloooo Chipotle Bloody Marys). Take in the colorful artwork, the relaxed atmosphere and, yes, the tequila, and it's like your own private Mexico.

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