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Oct 10, 2006 05:05 AM

Dinner at Vallarta

You know, I'm a huge fan of ethnic food, ethnic markets -- a child of the 80's and all its "WE MUST STAMP OUT PREJUDICE" multicultural awareness campaigns.

But I'm also a total food snob. Grocery stores, for example, almost always have really terrible prepared food, and they're always just a little bit older than I want them to be.

I was in my local market this evening (that'd be the Vallarta on Victory and Ethel in... uh... well, we CALL it Valley Glen, but I think it's east of the wash so it would be North Hollywood), shopping for various things.

The intoxicating smell of carnitas called to me, and I headed over to the hot foods counter. A pound of carnitas with two large cups of salsa, two dozen fresh corn tortillas made to order (or near enough -- they were actively making tortillas and grabbed two dozen off the just-made pile for me), a bucket of rice, a bucket of beans, limes, carrots and jalapenos in escabeche cost me $10.

Then I decided it was time for dessert, and was planning on heading up to Bhan Kanom Thai for black rice with coconut, when I saw someone -- at 9 PM, mind you -- putting out fresh slices of tres leches cake.

"What the hell," I thought, "so I'll waste a few dollars if it's terrible."

It was fantastic. Light, springy, spongey, floating in a pool of one of the leches, covered with another of the leches, filled with the third leche, with fresh (!) strawberries on top.

And the best part? A ridiculously huge slice -- 6 oz. by weight, easily enough for two -- was $1.50, tax included.

Oh, and they have agua de mamey on the aguas frescas bar, along with banana, strawberry, watermelon, jamaica and horchata.

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  1. Das Ubergeek - I enjoyed reading about your dinner adventure. These are the kinds of experiences that you can't plan; you just sorta' bump into them! Memorable, huh!

    I, also, love ethnic markets. I find a kind of energy there that just doesn't happen in my local Vons or Ralphs. Thanks for sharing your Vallarta dinner.

    1. I was drawn to your posting because not many people have heard of or mention Vallarta. coincidentally, my only experience with that place was a piece of their tres leches cake which someone brought to work. even as a left over, it was incredible (and my past experience with tres leches has been not so hot...)

      and so I was very pleased to see that you share my enthusiastic reaction! that cake is ABSOLUTELY worth every mile it takes to get to Vallarta.

      5 Replies
      1. re: amandine

        It is really good -- and I'm told that the chongos and the arroz con leche are really good too. Fortunately it's only three blocks away from me, so it's the closest market.

        Latino markets in LA are actually really good about not stepping on each other's turf -- so you won't find Vallarta in Northgate territory, or Northgate in Superior territory. The only interloper is El Super, and their tres leches is horrendous.

        Perhaps Dommy! can chime in on the tres leches at Northgate or Superior -- that's really not my area of expertise.

        1. re: amandine

          You are right about their tres leches cake... WONDERFUL! I also love the one from Northgate. Surprisingly, the best one I've had recently was from a Salvadoran Bakery near where we used to live on Centinela inbetween Culver and Jefferson.

          I have not been too impressed with the Tres Leches at Gigante, I've never tried it at Superior... but the great news is that Vallarta is seemingly expanding at a better clip than the other chains. I LOVE their ELA store... And my cousin just got one in Victorville... LOL!! Here's their website:


          1. re: Dommy

            Would you please let me have the name (and nearest cross street maybe?) of this Salvadorean Bakery on Centinela? There's been so much talk lately of Tres Leches Cake and I've never had any. This one sounds like right on the way home from work. Thanks!

            1. re: sweetTooth

              It's called El Quetal Bakery, it's in a tiny strip mall, so parking is kinda tight in there (There is residental parking of course)

              4804 1/2 S Centinela Ave,
              Los Angeles, CA


        2. I love the Vallarta in my neighborhood, I do take out quite a bit as it's on my way home from work. The Agua de Frescas are very good at the location on Victory and Woodley. My fave is the watermelon or agua de frutas which is a combination of many fresh fruit juices served ice cold and delicious. They also have excellent chile relleno's, really good rice and excellent caldo de pollo and albondigas soup. Everything is freshly made, delicious and very inexpensive. In the bakery I'm fond of their pastries, very good.

          1. Vallarta is a good supermarket and has such great bargains on produce (four medium size avocados for a $1!). I usually get their bag of limes and stuff for guacamole but never tried their hot foods, although I've always meant to. Thanks for posting! will have to try next time.

            1. Had a similar experience @ Liborio Market on 3rd & Bonnie Brae. The same warm feeling, the same great prices on the meats, avocados, the tortillas, limes...And, the fresh tortillas, the homemade tamales, the carnitas, the mmm, tres leches...there's even a Wells Fargo ATM in the place so if you're short, which would be hard considering the prices. Hispanic markets, the unsung heroes of the hungry.