Silver Lake's El Conquistador Now Flying as El CondorBy Lesley Balla
April 9, 2014
Dustin Lancaster, who's behind Bar Covell, L&E Oyster Bar and The Hermasillo, didn't expect to open a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake, let alone take over one that had been beloved by the neighborhood for more than 40 years. But things happen and sometimes a new opportunity lands in one's lap. This week, Lancaster and his crew, including L&E chef and one of last year's 30 Under 30 inductees, Spencer Bezaire, opened El Condor in place of El Conquistador in Sunset Junction.
The latter was known for its colorful decor, sometimes flamboyant staff, a great happy hour and potent margaritas but it closed last year due to new landlords and rent hikes. Lancaster was offered the space and instead of doing a whole new concept, he made El Condor a more streamlined version of El Conquistador. It's still very colorful with strands of Christmas lights hanging above the dining room, the tiled patio, and the upstairs bar. But he's added his touch: new booths in the dining room, altars and funky glittery vinyl wall coverings near the steps. The margaritas are still potent, just better, now without the heavy pre-made sour mix. And even after two days, happy hour is still as popular as ever, even if the prices aren't as cheap ($8 margaritas and sangria, $10 beer and a shot of tequila, $10 pambazos and other sandwiches). Hey, he's got to pay that rent.
Instead of offering pages and pages of things covered in cheese and sauce, Bezaire brought the menu down to basics - tacos, enchiladas, tortas, quesadillas - and added things like ceviche, whole grilled fish, roasted carrots with cotija cheese and pepitas, and hamburguesas (even a veg version). From what we've seen so far, he seems to have a lighter touch and uses better ingredients, so it's Mexican but not the heavy stuff you were used to at El Conquistador. Is it just more gentrification for Silver Lake, already heralded as the hippest neighborhood in America? Definitely. But the crowds filling the place are happy their favorite Mexican joint is open again, even if it's with a new menu, prices and vibe. They don't seem to mind. Right now El Condor is open daily from 4 PM-2 AM. Happy hour runs from 4-6 PM on the patio and bar.
3701 Sunset Blvd.; 323-660-4500