Slumming in Los Angeles; Mexican Meals for the Poor in Pocket, However Wealthy in Style

by Jaelyn Conley

Half I: Mexican Meals: Muy Barato

Once I moved to Los Angeles in 1992, I had a roommate named Lynn. Lynn was a person who would drink two beers, matriculate to a number of traces of cocaine, after which culminate the night with a dangerous bike trip throughout Hollywood to El GRAN BURRITO on Virgil Avenue. There he would order and eat a burrito, taco, and horchata. He by no means invited me to take a seat behind him on the bike, and I foolishly uncared for to ask. I did ask Lynn’s good friend Celso, the primary Hispanic man I met in L.A., the place to search out the best Mexican restaurant. He frowned and stated: “What am I, a meals critic? Go to El Gran Burrito, knucklehead.” I’d simply as properly have requested my inebriated Irish roommate with the female title, nevertheless it appeared wiser to inquire about Mexican tradition from a Mexican individual. In any case, I listened to Celso and boarded my roommate’s bike. For $4, I ate the “Lynn Particular”: a burrito carnitas, a carne asada taco, and a big Styrofoam cup of horchata. My 5 12 months experiment with vegetarianism was conclusively resolved. My pursuit of nice Mexican meals in Los Angeles had commenced. El Gran Burrito was discovery #1.

o The Burrito.

The perfect burrito is the al pastor, crammed with marinated pork, and complimented by rice, beans, cilantro, and onions. EL TAURINO on Hoover Road serves an al pastor burrito that’s “primo” to the Greek gyros and the Armenian shawarma. Just like the gyros and shawarma, El Taurino’s marinated al pastor is sliced from a crispy chunk of meat on a rotisserie, after which rolled into an enormous tortilla with the aforementioned elements. Like every nice burrito, the beans are complete, not refried. The slender items of meat crunch and soften as you masticate. The al pastor at EL TAQUITO MEXICANO, positioned above the 210 freeway in Pasadena, depends much less on texture than marinade. The meat is saturated in a dense sauce that resembles the fantastic rendang dish of Indonesia. The flavour is smoky and juicy, with style and texture augmented by grilled onions.

YUCA’S, a tiny hut positioned in a Los Feliz liquor retailer parking zone, exemplifies the regional cochinito pibil burrito of the Yucatan area of Mexico. By definition, cochinito pibil is a younger, pit roasted pig. Whereas verifying the age of a pig subsequent to pit roasting is regrettably past my know-how, I’ve many instances contemplated the age situation because the tender meat slowly dissolved in my mouth. If younger is nice, than Yuca’s cochinito pibil is a puerile beast. Talking of younger meat, I introduced my two sons to Yuca’s after a morning of pressured sprints up a Silverlake staircase, and had the honour of watching them shed tears over a burrito. Asada devotees heretofore, the tomato influenced pork juice that dribbled from their possessed lips modified their methods. Now each time we go away the home for an outing, no matter the place we go, the youngsters say, “Nice, we will go get a pibil burrito at Yuca’s!” However we will Oxnard, I remind them. “Is not that near Los Feliz?” Shut sufficient.

o The Huarache.

On this planet of apparel, a huarache is a sandal. Within the culinary world, it’s a flat, crisp, chewy, sandal-shaped slab of masa. At EL HUARACHE AZTECA in Highland Park, a huarache is topped with meat, cilantro, and crumbled bits of white cheese (cotija, me thinks). I often request al pastor or chicharrones on mine, however all types of flesh suffice. Chicharrones, deep fried pork pores and skin with unhealthy doses of fats and meat connected (type of like a chunky rendition of bacon), are usually bought ala carte in panaderias. On the huarache, the chicharrones are stewed in a spicy crimson sauce, in order that their texture is extra paying homage to tendon. Tendon reminds many individuals of Jell-o, simply chewier. It is an acquired style; you would possibly go for pork, beef, or chicken. The white cheese that melts into the meat is wealthy and considerably dry, much like a parmesan or feta. The distinction of crunchy and chewy, juicy and dry, create a sensation deliciously distinctive in Mexican delicacies.

o The Tamale.

There are virtually as many tamale distributors on this metropolis as there are burrito vehicles. Some individuals swear by Liliana’s in East L.A., whereas loyalists in El Sereno love The Tamale Man. It is all great things, however I are likely to spend my tamale cash at East L.A.’s LA MASCOTA BAKERY. They make three important tamales (rojo chile, verde chile, and queso), and one which I simply do not get (dulce), so I simply do not get it. The rojo is crammed with pork in a crimson salsa, and the verde is chicken in a inexperienced salsa. The contents are essential to the prevalence of 1 tamale over one other. The rojo at La Mascota consists of a number of tender pork chunks that one goals about discovering in a carnitas burrito. The cheese within the queso tamale is comfortable, wealthy, and permeated with inexperienced chile. I would not be capable of show it in a culinary courtroom, however I am fairly rattling positive it’s panela cheese. The masa that encases the contents is dense and flaky; it feels mild, but it firmly holds its load (mmm!) with out crumbling aside.

o The Gordita.

What cannot you do with masa, the Mexican marvel dough? At ANA MARIA’S, a meals stall at Grand Central Market, they mildew the masa into flat, grilled desserts that they cut up and stuff with a lot stuff, it is like consuming a taxi cab with an countless provide of clowns… however even tastier! This can be a gordita. It is principally meat, beans, cilantro, salsa, and a crema that tastes just like the tzatziki with which the Greeks douse their gyros. The best meat right here is the carnitas, that are oily, stringy, and plentiful, like a pulled pork sandwich. Between the meat, beans, and fried masa, a $2.50 gordita can assuage and punish an empty abdomen for hours. Being as dense as a gordita myself, I typically order two.

o The Sizzling Seafood.

There are a lot of persistently stable mariscos eating places in Los Angeles serving variations of fried and grilled fish, and I’ve but to resolve upon one as being transcendent. SENOR FISH has a really good scallop burrito, and seafood quesadillas which can be remarkably extreme. Senor is inferior to its fame, nor as cheap because it was once, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a rattling good meal. VIA MAR, in Highland Park, is a cheap, unusual mariscos stand that serves one extraordinary merchandise. Their langostino burrito is crammed with buttery, sautéed crawfish, inexperienced peppers, and rice. The langostino meat is the closest factor to the style of lobster. The succulent items detonate in buttery bursts of indulgent gratification. For worth and consistency, the SIETE MARES chain of mariscos eating places could very properly be the best in Los Angeles. Most branches include a taco stand and a sit down restaurant. Go to the taco stand for fish and shrimp tacos, burritos, and ceviche tostadas. The restaurant is an efficient place to sweat over an enormous bowl of siete mares soup, or a plate of fried or grilled fish with rice and beans.

o The Chilly Seafood.

Ray’s is the legendary pizza joint in New York Metropolis that was voted “Best Pizza” a number of a long time in the past. Quickly afterward, dozens of Ray’s Pizzas popped up all through Manhattan, leaving the neophyte not sure as to the situation of the unique Ray’s (Unique Ray’s additionally being a incessantly repeated pizzeria title). I feel the unique is on eleventh Road & sixth Avenue, however I am unable to show it. It is type of just like the “Tommy’s” & “Tomy’s” state of affairs in Los Angeles, or the Mexican seafood vehicles that line Figueroa Boulevard alongside Sycamore Grove Park in Highland Park. Solely one in every of them is known, however fortunately every truck has a unique title. You need the one labeled LA MAR AZUL.

La Mar Azul serves seafood cocktails (cocteles de mariscos) and a number of other variations of ceviche on tostadas. The cocteles are recent, cheap, and beneficiant of portion. The ceviche (uncooked, citrus marinated seafood) tostadas are chic. You possibly can order abalone, pulpo (octopus), camarones (shrimp), jaiba (imitation crab), or mixta (mixture of all of the above). The meat is heaped upon a mattress of wealthy creamy, cilantro laden sauce (bitter cream? mayo?) that mixed with the cool seafood is ineffably tasty. The crisp, salty, basis of the tostada successfully helps the substance. One tostada will carry your stomach to a standing ovation, and two will shut the present at a tab of not more than $5.00. Your tummy will reminisce for days to come back, however with out the painful reminders of a gluttonous love affair similar to skilled over the gordita. This can be a wholesome relationship.

o The Taco.

What would you like with a taco? Get a burrito, foolish. It is larger, and it is bought beans. If the burrito would not fairly fill your tank, otherwise you’re an anti-beanist, then buy a taco for supplemental succor. Any of the aforementioned burrito joints could make a tasty and environment friendly taco.


Quickly after I found El Gran Burrito, it moved west to Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont. I adopted. They expanded the eating room and added extra rooms, however the place nonetheless appears the identical. Its progressive development from small dump to massive dump brings to thoughts the modifications in Steve Martin’s childhood dwelling in “The Jerk”. Success modified the scale of El Gran, nevertheless it did not alter the substance. It is nonetheless a cheap dump serving nice meals to patrons questioning in off the road. It wasn’t till a 12 months or two in the past that they lastly raised the costs of their burritos (from $2.50 to three.00 or 3.50), that are nonetheless gran in high quality and amount. Very similar to my kids cry over Yuca’s pibil, I nonetheless blubber over my El Gran carnitas burrito. Let or not it’s recognized that I, being of satiated physique and thoughts, request they cater my funeral. Wah!


o Ana Maria’s/ Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway

o El Gran Burrito/ 4716 Santa Monica/ 323-665-8720

o El Huarache Azteca/ 5225 York/ 323-478-9572

o El Taquito Mexicano/ 467 N Truthful Oaks/ 626-577-3918

o El Taurino/ 1104 S Hoover/ 323-738-9197

o La Mar Azul/ Sycamore Grove Park, Figueroa Road between Ave. 45 & 49

o La Mascota Bakery/ 2715 Whittier/ 323-263-5513

o Senor Fish/ Alhambra, E Rock, L Tokyo, S Pasadena

o Siete Mares/ Silver Lake, Lincoln Heights, Whittier, and so forth…

o Through Mar/ 5111 Figueroa Boulevard/ 323-255-4929

o Yuca’s/ 2056 N Hillhurst/ 323-662-1214

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