What's my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles? I'm so glad you asked.
Cha Cha Cha is a Caribbean restaurant on Virgil Avenue in Silver Lake (or is it Echo Park? East Hollywood??), just down the street from Sqirl. It's a full-service restaurant with a casual (but very fun) vibe, a small outdoor patio and lots of indoor seating, and THE BEST SANGRIA YOU WILL EVER HAVE.
It just nails all the things I appreciate about a restaurant. It's dark enough to not be Panera, but bright enough that I don't feel like falling asleep. It's festive and bustling without being overpoweringly loud. I rarely have to make reservations, and I don't need to freak out over whether what I'm wearing is appropriate. It's one of those places you can roll up to in your "eating dress" (as I like to call my shapeless tie-dye cotton maxi dress), but you also won't feel out of place getting dinner here in a cocktail dress before heading off on a fancy date night.
ALSO DID I MENTION THE SANGRIA. (Apparently it has brandy in it, and also probably witchcraft.)
HAPPY HOUR MENU
- Jerk Chicken Pizza $8
- Guava & Goat Cheese Quesadilla $4.50
- Chips & Salsa $3
- Jerk Pork $5
- Calamari $6.50
- Plaintains $2.50
- Sopes de Pollo $4.50
- Miller Lite $3
- Corona $3
- Sangria by the glass $3
- Pitcher of Sangria $15
- Mojito $3.50
- Blackberry Mojito $3.50
- Margarita $3.50
- House Wine Red/White $4
But really, maybe the biggest draw of this place is the Happy Hour, which runs Sunday-Thursday 4pm-9pm (YOU READ THAT RIGHT) and Friday-Saturday 3pm-6pm.
Seriously--during the week, it's basically always Happy Hour. And the Happy Hour menu isn't just olive tapenade and bread. It's the tapas version of their best dishes (except for the paella, I'll get to that).
SIDENOTE: I am really sorry about the terrible food photography. I am trying so hard to learn how to do this. It is very difficult when you're used to an iPhone and Instagram and suddenly you're whipping out a DSLR at dinner but you still haven't quite nailed down the difference between the f-stop and the ISO...
Anyway. What's important here is that the food is excellent. The guava and goat cheese quesadilla will change your life. Right now you might be thinking "I'm not terribly fond of either guava OR goat cheese," but please don't argue with me. Just try it. It tastes like nothing you've ever had before.
The jerk chicken and jerk pork at Cha Cha Cha is pretty famous, which is why it's so awesome they make BOTH items available for Happy Hour. Sure, if you're starving you're gonna wanna spring for the jerk pork plate (as my brother did), but you could honestly be quite satisfied with a dinner comprised of only Happy Hour items.
In my personal opinion, the jerk pork is delicious, but the crown jewel of the Cha Cha Cha menu is the "Valenciana" paella, which they describe as "a saffron mélange of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and fish." Yup. That sounds about right. It is just spicy enough to sorta clear out your sinuses, but not so spicy that you can't taste the delicate flavors of the seafood. I'm basically drooling just thinking about it. I'm really sorry I didn't get a photo of it--I didn't order it this night because it's fairly expensive ($19.50 for one but it is a HUGE portion) and I was trying to be cheap. Also didn't get a photo of the jerk pork, but if you head over to Yelp there are over 400 photos of their food.
Apparently they also have something called "jungle brunch" including bottomless mimosas, but I haven't been to that. I bet it's awesome.
The only pain in the ass is parking. If you're willing to walk you'll probably find street parking in the neighborhood above the restaurant, but if you try Virgil make sure you check the signs. I usually valet ($5) because at night it can be a little sketchy.
Nearby (not walking distance necessarily but a two-minute drive) is Sacred Fools Theater if you're looking to get your theater-arts on, the Faculty (great neighborhood beer/wine bar), and Scoops for dessert (open till 10pm every day except Sunday, when they are closed all day).
So if you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path restaurant on the Eastside with great food, excellent sangria, and my favorite atmosphere, don't miss Cha Cha Cha!