For the past week, I've been making jaunts here and there looking for the sort of quality dive bar that one would typically find in Sinaloa (yes, where all the drugs come from). Roadside dives in Los Mochis are typically outstanding because the drug kingpins eat there and if the food sucks, the restaurant changes hands. That Darwinian delineator is not present in SoCal (to the same extent).
There's a lot of Michoacan style food around here, also coming from an area dominated by a narco economy. It's not up to Sinaloa in my eyes, but its good.
Here is my rating scale:
3 pts- If the cook is a grandma and is making tortillas by hand. If that's the case, everything will be made by hand and the tamales will only be served at holiday time or if one of the people who goes to the restaurant has a child that turned one.
2 pts- If the cook speaks no English.
1 pts- If the cook is fat.
3 pts- If the waitress is from Mexico and speaks no English
3 pts- If the waitress is willing to flirt (for a tip) with an old white man riding an Italian muscle scooter.
-1 pts- If the waitress is white and only speaks English.
-2 pts- If the waitress is fat and slow.
4 pts- A drug kingpin would eat there daily.
3 pts- Food is freshly made from scratch including fresh chips (from freshly made tortillas) and salsa verde.
2 pts- Food is not Americanized
1 pts- Food is properly spiced.
When I drive by the targeted Mexican Dive, there need to be cars present. Beaters preferred. I will still eat there if there are white people eating at the dive, but if my order is taken in English, it's off-putting. Sometimes staff will make a mistake and think that I'm a white guy.
A lot of Mexicans in SoCal were born here and fear to travel south to Mexico. They pretend to be Mexicans but are really pocho boys. Thus their presence at a dive bar doesn't guarantee authenticity. In fact, their standards of excellence usually suck because they don't go down to Sinaloa or Michoacan. Even the local drug dealers who were born here don't spend enough time in the old country eating good ethnic to know good flan from bad flan.
So far, my SoCal survey is disappointingly low scoring.
Roadside Mexican food (as stated above) in Sinaloa is excellent. There is always a grandma or two making tortillas fresh and the BBQ is from an animal that you can see turning on the spit. You don't find that here. The people who take your order are impeccably scrubbed and are absolutely polite. The polite factor is almost always lacking in the USA.
Dive bars in Sinaloa or Michoacan always have waitresses that flirt with you in Spanish (partly because they're also whores and want to increase the tip). They are always pretty.
I used to ride my Harley Davidson down to Ensenada for the day. I haven't done that with the Diavel yet, and am not inclined to do that just because times have changed since the early 90's.