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Jul 22, 2006 07:54 PM

El Metate in Highland Park - Great new Mexican

After driving/walking by this gleaming new hole in the wall many times in the last several months, I finally got it together to visit El Metate at 5305 N. Figueroa. The restaurant is tiny, 2 or 3 small tables and counter seating opposite the grill. While studying the short menu on the wall, I watch the chef dip several tortillas into chile and throw them onto the grill where after bubbling for a few minutes, he filled them with a handful of queso fresco, onion and cilantro and then served them immediately topped with a bit more crumbled cheese and salsa. I've been unable to find enchiladas in LA made this way, as I had them in Michoacan, not baked with heavy layers of cheese, but light and fresh, spending just moments on the grill.
On my second visit I had a delicious asada torta, with perfectly crunchy asada and the tortta roll toasted on the grill.
Finally, yesterday I had my first rubenada, a "sandwhich" of 2 tortillas grilled with buche and melted cheese. The tortillas were wonderfully crunchy and with the homemade beans and excellent roasted chile salsas, I couldn't have asked for a better meal. The agua frescas are homemeade and are good, if not great.
Overall, I couldn't reccomend el Metate more highly for a reminder of true Mexican street food. I think it's far superior to Chico's, the La Fuentes, or any of the other Mexican places on the Figueroa corridor in Highland Park and is much more similar to Huarches Azteca. Furthermore, the staff is extremely friendly and obviously take a lot of pride in their food.

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  1. Excellent report. I'll have to check it out.
    Did you ask where in Mexico they are from?
    You should check out Tonny's in Pasadena on the unlikely occasion you spend any time up in the Crown of the Arroyo :)

    1. Great review. Do they have air conditioning?

      1. The waitress is from Morelia (Michoacan), explaining the Mich. connection I guess. This is a description of Morelia enchiladas from "The enchiladas Morelia, a treatment from the interior of Mexico, balances crumbly white cheese with an earthy red-chile sauce to excellent effect. A verdant saladlike garnish, including romaine and radish and red onion, gives these enchiladas a refreshing garden effect that is particularly welcome as the heat sets in."
        I don't think that they have air-conditioning, though I didn't notice the heat being particularly bad. Neverthless, you might want to wait until this awful heat breaks.

        1. Thanks for the great tip! Had lunch there today, and with the front door open, the heat wasn't really that bad. The space is tiny, but cute and very clean, a real old timey lunch counter feel.

          My pollo rubenada was crisp and tasty, with a cool salad of shredded lettuce and crumbled cheese on top contrasting nicely with the warm tortillas. They have very flavorable spiced rice and creamy beans and four good salsas in the bar (all on the hot side). My companion had an asada enchillada, which he liked a lot. We're big fans of Tacomienda out Palms way, and would put el Metate in a similar category. You can tell from the first bite that the cooks are serious about quality ingredients and great taste. A very welcome addition to the neighborhood.

          Total for two combos and two pineapple aqua frescas: $13. We'll be back very soon.

          1. Just came back, based on your recommendation. Thanks very kindly. They were a little overwhelmed (1 cook, 1 cashier and that's it) but it was well worth the wait. Of note: Best refried beans I've had in memory; rice was also great.