el paso cantina

El Paso Cantina
2404 W. Sepulveda Blvd, Torrance, CA, USA

I harbor a pretty deep nostalgia for '80s-style GringoMex™ sit-down restaurants, and I'm amazed how many still exist in Southern California. Problem is, whenever I find them, they're frozen in time, but that time is usually somewhere around 1997, long past their '80s heyday, yet not long enough ago to seem "kinda cool."

I guess the cruel passage of time is inevitable, but it's still a little sad, like when you see what Tempestt Bledsoe looks like today:

And next week on "Eulogy For The Eighties," a special look at how necks worked back then:

'80s necks! Retro to the max!

Oh right, El Paso Cantina

el paso cantina

In every respect this place is extraordinarily, depressingly perfunctory, almost as though the last time the owner set foot in another restaurant, it was a 1986 Chi-Chi's. It's like a girl with such low self-esteem she takes it as a compliment when you say she looks like Mimi Rogers.

The service is SUPER friendly, but a little sad, like this is the best place the employees can imagine working in, and everyone's just gonna keep the margarita's flowin' 'til the ship finally goes down one day.

el paso cantina

I got a lunch combo with a crispy ground-beef taco and rice and beans, and a Pepsi to drink. The taco was weirdly un-unified, like the beef, shell, lettuce, and cheese were completely unrelated components. I'm not sure how this even happens. The chips and salsa were forgettable; the rice and beans as canned as the laughter that accompanied most of what Tempestt Bledsoe said from 1984 through 1992.

At some point, perhaps sensing how underwhelmed I was, the server brought out their "hot" salsa, with a bit of a warning … of course, it was a mild Pace Picante-ish type deal. It was like coming home to the wife you're divorcing, and she's bought an optimistic new nighty from K-Mart. This was the first time I've ever had a restaurant start to feel clingy.

$11.97 with tip. Maybe this is a great place to come for happy hour "margs" after work at any of Torrance's many soul-crushing corporate and retail jobs … for me it was basically just a waste of a meal. I had to leave before any of the staff begged me to stay and promised to "be better." I don't know if codependence is a cuisine, but if it is, El Paso Cantina deserves a James Beard Award.

Review by Pauline Kale, March 2011