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The Glutton

December 06, 2007

Like the unicorn, the true happy-hour deal -- the kind where the drinks aren't watered down and the food isn't shrunk to microscopic proportions -- remains a noble and elusive beast.

Despite its well-deserved reputation as the gold standard of California-Latin cuisine, downtown L.A.'s Ciudad [(213) 486-5171] seems bent on putting happy-hour patrons in their place. You can sit on the patio only if you order dinner, which of course defeats the frugality of happy hour. Plus, the happy-hour menu consists of tacos, tacos and tacos. That's it. Not even chips and salsa. As for the $4 happy-hour mojitos, they're often weak enough for a nursing baby.

The Glutton much prefers happy hour on the other side of downtown. Adjacent to Weiland Brewery [(213) 680-2881] -- another favorite because of its garlic fries and two happy hours -- sits Cuba Central [(213) 687-3193], a low-key Cuban restaurant where $16.79 will buy you three mojitos and a platter of snacks including ham croquetas, a tamale, a small empanada, chorizo, papas rellenas and banana chips with mango salsa.

The only downside is they're often out of mojo de ajo, a fact that made my Cuban companion wide-eyed with horror. After all, a Cuban restaurant without garlic dipping sauce is as unnatural as a journalist without a cocktail.

-- theguide@latimes.com

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