Today was one of those rare, tough days when I decided it was time for a rare margarita.

Given that I indulge in a margarita about 8 times in a year, this couldn’t be an average, ordinary margarita. As I sat here contemplating my Laguna Beach options, I decided to drive past SEVEN Mexican restaurants (and all the other restaurants that serve up margaritas) to park in front of Carmelita’s on Broadway, just across from Main Beach.

Now, I’ve reviewed Camelita’s before, and I’ve had two or three people chime in with opinions that aren’t so favorable. Granted, I love readers sharing their opinions, and I never want to shut down you freedom of speech here in this already-opinionated column but . . . . REALLY? Are you sure you’re eating at the same restaurant? Tonight was my fourth visit to Carmelita’s in Laguna Beach, and it was, once again, stellar.

These people at Carmelita’s don’t know I’m reviewing their food.  I showed up alone and asked to sit at the bar. Now, usually single peeps like us are treated nicely but can often be overlooked in favor of larger parties, especially at a bar. Not so at Carmelita’s. A floor manager, the floor captain, a bartender and a devoted busboy checked in on me very regularly, offering their opinions on their favorite food items, and ensuring I had plenty of salsa and black bean salsa for my chips.

This time, they sat me close to the chefs as it was the only remaining bar stool in the place, and the chefs don’t know me either. They were crazy busy on the line, but as they noticed my interest in their production, they warmed up and chatted a bit with me.

After seeing plate after plate delivered to the servers and further kibbitzing with the manager, I decided on the Villa Rica, a pan-seared sea bass with salsa verucizanna, vera cruz rice and spinach. Lightly charred on the outside, the chunk of sea bass that arrived was so flaky and tender it was a melt-in-your-mouth experience. I think both Eva’s Caribbean and 230 Forest serve up a heck of a sea bass, but I’m here to tell you – Carmelita’s might just have swiped the crown. The accompanying white rice mixed with seared corn had a lovely hint of mint, and the spinach tasted almost wood-smoked. The dish, as a whole, was amazing.

Given that I scarfed the entire plate of food down WITH one of their classic skinny margaritas, I had no room for dessert. If I DID have any room remaining, I’d go after the dessert they kept serving up on the line – a Treslechu Cake, which looked to be white chocolate cake with a strawberry/chocolate center and three seared campfire marshmallows on the side.

Next visit, I’m trying the dish I thought looked most amazing plated – their Tampiquerra – three marinated, seared planks of prime steak stacked atop a cheese enchilada in red sauce with handmade guacamole on the side. It was quite a tower to behold.


My thanks to Camelita’s for treating a single gal on a busy night with great food and all-around class.

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