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I Love Washington Blvd... It is quite a sight to witness the natives of the marina mixing with the Venetians in that long line outside the C&O pasta joint desperate for huge portions of so-so food. A far better choice is Mercedes Grille across the street, which offers fine Cuban and Caribbean cuisine in a cheerful outdoor setting at reasonable prices.

Owner Mersedeh Ahrablou spent 12 years waitressing around town after graduating from Santa Monica High, and we should all be grateful that she managed to scrape up the money to open this very cheerful outpost by the beach. The food is less fattening than the typical pasta blowout or Mexican cuisine and reminds me of Victor’s on Columbus in New York, where I would go for the Ropa Vieja or Old Clothes, an old Havana classic, which Mercedes serves.

When asked what a nice Turkish girl is doing serving Caribbean food, she said she chose it because it can be prepared healthily. The best choice for lunch is the low-calorie Caribbean salad with or without jerk chicken. Vegans Bainbridge Scott and Zuade Kaufman, who led me on my tour of Washington, assured me that the Caribbean salad met the requirements of their holier-than-thou diet. Although I am alarmed at the number of people who think that lettuce leaves are incapable of feeling pain. My veggie buddies sat silently at Hinano bar while I munched on what is quite properly promoted by this 38-year-old establishment as a great burger –at least when Lee serves them up. An ever-honest woman, Lee conceded that the pickles that day were not up to the standard set by the $4 burger –overripe with the individual seeds exposed. Now that’s a vulgarity. What a good thing that Lee decided back in 1951 to get on a Greyhound bus in Dallas and that she landed this job soon after.

-Robert Scheer, "Our Times"