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A True Test of Faith: Sabor a Mexico Culver City

  • Dommy Mar 28, 2007 03:54 PM
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The time… she has come… The great Latino wave we’ve seen for years in other parts of this great city has come crashing down and has finally set it roots on the Westside. For at the edge of Culver City, a mere mile away from hip spots like Fords Filling Station, Bottle Rock and Wilsons there is now a restaurant with a banner out front proudly announcing that one of it’s specialities is… “TRIPAS!” Yes! With so many words to choose from to populate such a little space, nothing made me feel more at home than seeing a huge sign proudly announce that someone was now daring to serve intestines in the 310…

And so, I found myself last Friday night staring at those tripitas. They were curled like a snake. They were sitting in a pool if that dark rich braising liquid that can only come from that ‘hub cap’ braiser. The taquero saw the dazed look on my face and smiled, in Spanish he told me they were DELICIOUS. I assured him I thought that they were, but all I had had to say was “viligia” and he gave me a knowing nod. We were observing meatless Friday and after reading some great posts about the Mushroom Empanadas here, we had to give it a shot. But I was NOT expecting a whole taco table set up outside nor the other wonderful goodies that awaited me in the actual menu…

Located on National near the coner of Venice, this place is literally 10 feet away from the freeway entrance. Originally it’s an auto shop business. But somehow between the BIG long garage, they carved out two rooms in the front. One is a small dining room, the other is the kitchen with their salsa bar. Coming in from the Tripa haze, I almost walked right into their salsa bar, which is one of the best I’ve seen PERIOD. It had the standards, spicy red, spicy green, a pico de gallo. But it also had an avocado salsa that was fruity, smooth and HOT! As well as a creamy Chipotle which probably would make a old shoe taste good and finally, they dared to put out a rice orange Habanero Salsa… It was truly salsa heaven…

They also have outdoor seating and when the garage is closed a big taco table is set up in front braising and grilling all manner of meats and ‘bits’. Parking during the night is fairly easy, they have a lot next to it 5 feet from the freeway enterance. But during the day it might be used by the body shop. Finally they are open most nights until 9… weekend nights till 10…

And now, to the ordering…. With our restriction, I though we were just going to order the empanadas. But the menu had LOTS of great vegetarian options. We ended up ordering quite more than that…

Queso Fundio con Hongos $4.95: When I had read about their hand made tortillas (Which they also proudly advertise out front), I just had to order this. This by far was the best version I’ve had outside of Mexico city. The cheese was absolutely gooey, but had amazing flavor. Odds are it was a queso Oaxaca or blend that could make it taste so pungent, but be so smooth. It was the perfect thing to do with the warm thick and scorchy tortillas (Which blow Tacomiendo’s hand made ones out of the water!!). They also make a version with Chorizo… for those having Tex-mex cravings…

Huarache Original $4.95: It’s so hard to find good Huaraches in L.A. and this was perhaps the best I’ve had. It was HUGE… truly the size of a large man’s foot. They drenched it completely in a mild but ultra flavorful tomatillo sauce. Atop they sprinkle it with a ton of cojita cheese and what seems like a while BUNCH of chopped cilantro. At first, I thought it was going to be cilantro overkill (I’m not a huge fan of herb), but it worked!! The pungent herb really helped tame the tanginess of the sauce. The chewiness and roasted corn flavor of the huarache with the earthiness of the beans totally made up for the loss of meat flavor! Although they do serve a version with meat… Which I’m sure would be just out of this world….

Veggie Burrito $5.95: Being a burrito fiend, I just had to check this one out. It was HUGE! Would have made any taco truck fan happy. It also was stuffed with a wonderful flavorful mixture of Rice, Squash, Beans, Corn, and Avocado, but then they made the mortal sin of adding LETTUCE! Pa-tewy!!! Ah well, that is what I get for ordering something a little too ‘westside’ myself…

Quesadilla de D.F con Flor de Calabaza y otro con Championes y Epazote $2.75ea: Advertised on the menu as a special type of Quesadilla from Mexico City, these were the ‘empanadas’ we had read about. They both arrived on the same plate but each were about a foot long, dusted with cojita cheese with stripes crema and loads of shredded lettuce on top. They where deep fried, but the crust was wonderfully light, nothing like the leaden empadas of Empanada’s place. The filling was full of that same tangy wonderful cheese and the squash blossom was done perfect. Still with a bit of crispiness. The Mushrooms were plentiful, however being an Epazote fiend, I really didn’t taste it all that much. Nevertheless, dipped in one of their many salsas… It truly cemented the idea that his place was a true FIND.

Along with two Sidrals (One regular for P. and Green Apple for Me *YUM!!*) the total for this FEAST (yes, t’was a feast!) was $26.36! So this place was a find and a steal… afterwards we were so excited this place is within out ‘biking’ radius. But even if it wasn't it would be worth the trip to make another visit. I am not kidding when I say this place TKO’d Taqueria Sanchez off the top of our favorite Westside Mexican places. Further, with their use of awesome ingredients and wide selection of truly authentic and creative menu choices. Yes, I do dare say it… this place is as L.A. has gotten to an El Super Rica clone (Actually with their spicing and Habanero salsa, I like these guys better).

So Westside Mexican Fans, Run to this place. Folks making a special trip to Surfas… have lunch here. Heck anyone who is ever on the 10 passing National… GET OFF!! We can’t wait to return. Hopefully on a Thursday, but even if it just happens to be another Friday, we know it’ll be all good too…

Sabor A Mexico
(310) 280-0380
8940 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034

--Dommy!

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  1. You have no idea how much your post thrills me! I know you were going veggie, but did you happen to perhaps notice any al pastor?

    5 Replies
    1. re: hrhboo

      Well, I don't think they had a spit. But they could potentially grill it up. Give them a call, the folks who run the joint are all English speakers (SO and I talked up about this place the whole weekend, we feel like it's one of the best examples of 'retro-acculturation' we've seen. :))

      --Dommy!

      1. re: Dommy

        I am SO heading over there the second I get off work. I have long dreamed of visiting a taco table but never find myself on the eastside when they're open. I shall report back with my findings!

        1. re: hrhboo

          No problem... and even if the taco table isn't out for some reason, I'm sure what ever you order inside the kitchen will be great too! :)

          --Dommy!

          1. re: Dommy

            No doubt! Thanks for the great tip.

        2. re: Dommy

          I wouldn't say they're ALL English speakers. Go there early in the morning and you'll be ordering in spanish whether you like it or not.

      2. What I liked about this place was how fresh everything is, when they say made to order they really mean it. Also, one night a week (I believe it's Thursday) is taco night with $1 tacos. Dommy's right, the salsa bar is amazing, the creamy chipotle was especially delicious, and not something I've found elsewhere. When I was there I was asking a bunch of questions about their business, I think the one guy thought I was casin' the joint for a heist, because he wasn't especially friendly (or maybe I was especially annoying that day!) That's not a slam against them, and I totally agree with Dommy that the food is a find and a steal. There are tons of menu choices, and they all look so good, and are so cheap, you'll end up ordering a lot of food!

        1 Reply
        1. re: writergirl

          i'm so happy i read this thread on a thursday

        2. Great post (as usual) Dommy. Will give them a try soon.

          1. Oh Dommy!, you're killin' me again... will give them a go this weekend... just when I was getting in the groove at Gallego's too... I just called and woke up my buddy after reading this to let him know about the tripas... he is gahgah over tripas, and his usual sources in the 310 have dried up... I thank you, and I am sure he thanks you as well...

            1. Ok I am taking my host brother from Berlin here when he gets off the plane on Saturday, great post and killer description. Chorizo casero sounds intriguing...any other specialities to be aware of?

              1. When I hopped on the freeway today it caught my eye... and I mean it.

                I must say this place has the best and coolest use of neon I have seen since 50's era diners. Bright bright red and green highlights all around.

                Gonna stop by real soon.

                1. Sounds extremelly good. We are fans of La Super Rica in Santa Barbara, but for the way you described Sabor a México sounds better than LSR. We'll be there very soon. Last time ate an authentic Huarache was many, many years ago when I was living in México, I can't wait!!!
                  Thanks for a great review!

                  1. I finally got to try this place. I went on a Thursday (last night). They have a great menu with tons of great looking stuff, but the outdoor Taco Table setup is on Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm-midnight, for $1 tacos.

                    Mr Boo and myself stuffed ourselves silly. We had the queso topped with chorizo, absolutely delicious. It came with a few homemade tortillas that were fastastic. I had a huarache. It was tasty but as Dommy! mentioned above, was swimming in tomatillo sauce. I would have preferred less of it since it was all I could taste, even after scraping a lot of it off. I'm just not a "saucy" girl. Boyfriend had an asada burrito. Good flavor but the ratio of meat to rice/beans was way off. There wasn't enough meaty flavor for either of us.

                    The real star at this place is the tacos. Very flavorful meat served on those wonderful tortillas and augmented with a dribble of one of their many great salsas. In fact Mr Boo, a Certified Condiment Connoisseur, pronounced the pico de gallo to be the best he's ever eaten. I can't wait to go back on a Friday or Saturday night for the full Taco Table experience.

                    I must mention that the people who work here are lovely. It looks and feels like a real family operation and I loved being there. Thanks for the heads up Dommy!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hrhboo

                      Glad you both enjoyed it! :) And thanks for the heads up on their regular burritos... I will tread with caution... :)

                      --Dommy!

                      1. re: Dommy

                        To their credit, the rice and beans in the burrito were very good, we just prefer ultra-meaty burritoes like those at La Playita.

                        But those Sabor a Mexico tacos...some of the best tacos ever!

                      2. re: hrhboo

                        Thanks for the great write up - I can almost taste it!! Did you notice if they had any Al Pastor? Anyone tried it if they did??

                        1. re: WildSwede

                          I certainly did try it. They don't have a spit but it is grilled over an open flame. It had a marvellous spicy char and stained the tortillas with deep orange juice. For me, it had the perfect texture combination, quite lean with just enough crispy fatty bits to keep me happy.

                          1. re: hrhboo

                            Beeoootiful!! Thanks!! ;-)

                      3. Thanks for the report. I've passed this often at non-meal hours, and thought it looked intriguing, if only for the locale (as in a tiny place near the freeway ramp better have good food.) I'll make the effort to stop in.

                        1. What a great discovery - I drive by all the time but didn't want to risk making that
                          scary left turn against traffic at 5:00 pm. I made a lunch run instead on Thursday ... thoroughly enjoyed the queso fundido con hongos ... very reminiscent of freshly prepared asadero cheese i enjoyed growing up in the southwest ... I also ordered a carne asada taco ... it was good in terms of freshness but the real flavor comes from all the
                          different salsas offered ... i tried the creamy chipolte sauce ... it was perfection.
                          The pickled jalapeno peppers were awesome also ... very flavorful, garlicky, and infused with a hint of flavor from bay leaf ... bits of carrots and cauliflower were a nice touch.

                          Reminded me of my abuela's table .... I'll definitely be back ... next time for some soup.

                          1. thank you so much for the heads up!
                            the veggie burrito was great (reminded me of the much-missed, long departed Adobe restaurant in westchester).
                            the nopalitios guisados (taco with nopales) was wonderful.
                            the salsa bar, though, was exceptional.
                            i never would have stopped for this place if you hadn't taken the time to point it out.
                            a really good find!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I went yesterday too! Thanks for the tip, Dommy. Those quesadillas are mighty tasty, and not nearly as heavy as you would think, being deep-fried and all.

                              http://eatingla.blogspot.com/2007/04/...

                            2. Sounds Mexillent, Dommy!
                              We are so lucky to have your Mexpertise here.
                              Can't wait to go.

                              1. Excellent suggestion... we were able to make a great Lenten Friday night meal at a Mexican restaurant, which is not altogether common. The huarache was great -- I really liked the tomatillo sauce, so the quantity of sauce was no problem for me. The quesadilla was excellent -- much lighter than I would have expected from a deep fryer.

                                Next time, we'll try the taco cart out front. On Friday night around 8PM, business was pretty slow at the taco cart, but the food looked really good.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: glutton

                                  We were able to make it today, it was great. Thanks so much Dommy for a great recommendation. I am going to write my review soon, and I will post some photos.

                                  1. re: lvgoodfood

                                    Yay! Looking forward to it! Like I mentioned, I wasn't expecting much on my first visit so I left the camera at home... D'oh!!

                                    --Dommy!

                                2. I live literally around the corner, but had yet to go until last week (when I was walking back from a body shop). I now live and breathe this place. It's knocked out my prior favorite of Taco Miendo, perhaps on the strength of the salsa bar alone.

                                  1. I'm hoping to find myself at Sabor A Mexico with ChowLads late this afternoon. Any made in house beverages (maybe a good Horchata) and hey what about desserts, we need our 3-Leches or Flan or.......?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: sel

                                      The made in-house jamaica was pretty good, although not quite as good as Loteria's. They also had horchata and one other one. I was kicking myself for not picking up a flan because it looked good, there was tres leches too -- the desserts are pre-packed in the cold case.

                                      1. re: Chowpatty

                                        Thanks so much for the quick reply AND the good news! We're outta here and off to Sabor A Mexico!

                                    2. Thanks for the review Dommy - we'll be heading over to Surfas in a few weeks for the first time and it sounds like just the ticket for dinner afterwards!

                                      1. Just like I mentioned, a hidden gem! glad you guys had a chance to experience the wonderful food there. I couldn't beleive it myself, but all the right hard to find rare Mexico City treats are there. Glad you liked the Quesadillas Dommy, I truly enjoyed them and have returned with friends who also no authentic mexican cusine and enjoy the place, by the way excellent review couldn't agree more, try the tortas next time, a la plancha how they should be, delicious!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: tasteNLA

                                          Thanks for your post about it. I was the one who saw the post and though that Dommy! and I should go. I can't wait to go back and try some of their non-veggie dishes.

                                          Take care

                                          - P.

                                          1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                            A few others and I ate here on a recent friday night around 7:30. Unfortunately, the taco table was running behind schedule so we ordered off the regular menu. I had come for tacos so I ordered a couple al pastor and an asada taco. The tacos were fine but nothing exceptional and noteworthy. The corn tortilla overpowered the meat, IMHO. I tried a couple bites of the grilled chicken burrito. It was also good, but nothing close to a flavour explosion. Then I tried a bite of the huarache with bisteca and i was sold. By this time, about 40 minutes after we got there, the taco table was up and running complete with the al pastor turning on a spit. I went inside and ordered a sope with asada (I didn't want to try to finish a huarache) and an outdoor al pastor taco. The outdoor tacos are $1 compared to $2 inside. The outdoor ones are not made with handmade tortillas.
                                            I ladled a nice amount of the green tomatillo salsa parked outside on the taco table (it wasn't inside before) onto my sope and hit it with some Tapatio. It was delicious. Then I moved on to the al pastor taco, augmented with more of the same green salsa, tapatio, onions and cilantro. It was awesome. So much better than the two indoor al pastor tacos. The meat was hotter and juicer and bled all over the tortillas. This was a taco.
                                            Now I can't wait to go back for both the taco table and the other items inside that are not tacos or burritos.
                                            There is a liquor store down the street if you want beer with your food.
                                            Thanks Dommy and others for the recommendation.

                                            1. re: Wolfgang

                                              We still have to go back and try their outdoor taco table. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

                                              1. re: Wolfgang

                                                Is it only a night thing?

                                                We dropped by there on Sunday night and find it closed at 5PM, so figure maybe next time to play it safe we should drop by for lunch and then hit Surfas.

                                          2. Ok, FINALLY made it. Saturday about 7pm, straight up. After driving around for a while (all I could remember is that it was on National!) I finally found it. Drove up and parked in the lot to the right of the entrance. There was a worker (who ended up being the guy working the taco bar) back there so I confirmed I was allowed to park there. I walked in and there were two people waiting for their orders. After studying the menu, I settled on the original huarache and two tacos from the table - Al Pastor and Chorizo. Also ordered a tamarindo. Paid and proceeded to the salsa bar - very nice, as noted. Selected a few and proceeded to my table with my drink. Dropped order off at the taco table and waited. I think I was the first person at the taco table (eating in-house) since I had to peel off the plastic wrap off the cilantro, onions, etc. They offer salted slices of cucumbers out there which were AMAZING!! I kept going back to get more! Got my chorizo taco and told the guy that he could just put my other taco on the same plate (but seems that he forgot about my al pastor taco so I had to wait about 10 minutes until I was able to make him understand that I had ordered 2 tacos) so my chorizo taco was freezing by that point. It kind of irritated me since he had the order right in front of his face. Also, my Huarache had already come out so that was cold as well by the time I got back to my table.
                                            Either way, the chorizo was PHENOMENAL!! WOW, SO good! The Al Pastor was flavorful and fantastic also. On the huarache, I could definitely have done without all the tomatillo sauce - way overkill. I loved the nopales, though and devoured them quickly. Actually, my favorite huaraches came from a lady who was standing with her small grill next to the parking lot north of the church near Olvera Street about 3.5 years ago. Those were amazing! I will have to go back one of these weekends and see if she is still there. She would fill hers with whatever you wanted.
                                            After I finished those items, I went back in and ordered one more Al Pastor and one more Chorizi taco. I told them that the chorizo was wonderful and asked if they made it themselves and the lady told me that they make everything. When I got my second set of tacos (minus tortillas - he looked at me a little crazy for that request, but honored it) the Al Pastor was much more charred and had better flavor than the first one. I left that place very full! ;-)
                                            A lot of people came and went while I was there. Looked like a lot of people get items to go. I will definitely be back. So good!! Thank you for the recs!!

                                            1. Are they open for lunch on weekends?

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Diana

                                                I am pretty sure they are. :) P. works nearby and has had lunch there *jealous*

                                                --Dommy!

                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                  Thanks! We'll maybe go after we do the Revlon Run/Walk!

                                                2. re: Diana

                                                  They are open on weekends, we have been there on a Saturday and on a Sunday. I know that they close early on Sundays, I think 5:00 pm.

                                                  1. re: lvgoodfood

                                                    Thanks for the report, Dommy. Went today for lunch. Everything was so fresh and so delicious. A real find.

                                                    1. re: lvgoodfood

                                                      How late they open till on Saturday?

                                                      1. re: frugalgourmet

                                                        Nine I belive...

                                                        --Dommy!

                                                  2. Thank you, Dommy!! OMG that was so good. I had those "Mexico City Style" quesadillas--squash blossoms and mushrooms, light and flavorful, just as you described. Also had a chicken sope, the chiken smokey from the grill, the tortillas not too thick and so fresh.
                                                    And you are right on about that salsa bar, it is the best! I tried 6 of the salsas, each one so fresh tasting, none of that watered down flavor, and some were inventive.
                                                    Can't wait to go back.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: slacker

                                                      Yes! The tortillas are the PERFECT thickness... I can't stand thick tortillas like at Panchos or even worse that new Whole Foods in El Segundo... Ugh... those poor gringos... Those aren't even like the ones in Mexico!! The tortillas made there are almost PAPER thin!! Grr... Anyway...</rant> So glad you enjoyed it Slacker! :)

                                                      --Dommy!

                                                    2. Ever since I saw Dommy's original post I've wanted to check out Sabor A Mexico. So we finally made it this weekend.

                                                      I really liked the squash blossom quesadillas - I was kind of half expecting something heavy, having heard that it's deep fried and all, but it was really light and not at all greasy. Hubbie had the huarache with beef and it was good. I kept stealing the nopales off his plates - they were really good. I got a tinga pollo plate, which is OK. Predominately covered with a spicy tomato sauce. Wish there're more chunks of chicken.

                                                      Not sure why but the refried pinto beans were a bit bland, even though everything else is highly flavored. I guess we should try the black beans next time.

                                                      Service was good. Couldn't see the indoor seating others mentioned.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: notmartha

                                                        The indoor seating area had a fire some months back and is now closed. I'm glad you had a good meal. Love those quesadillas de D.F. The food's still good at SaM although the erratic service issues continue to puzzle us on our occasional visits (slow we can deal with, but it's hard when one person's food comes out 20 minutes after the others') and the outdoor seating is not exactly comfortable.

                                                        1. re: PayOrPlay

                                                          Thanks for the info. The indoor stools are even less comfortable. We had to retreat indoors when it started to rain. Have to try again when the weather's better.

                                                          Not a fine dining establishment but the food made up for it. No problem with service or waiting time as there's not many people going there in the rain!

                                                          1. re: notmartha

                                                            Hello Los Angelenos,

                                                            I'm writing on 2/19/08 trying to figure out why I could not find this fabled place! I went to the address on National Blvd. and found a car repair shop. When I tried the phone the number was changed and I got no answer on the new number the next day. I looked for the neon sign and everything.

                                                            Needless to say I'm disappointed because I was only in town a short time and was looking forward to trying Sabor! What gives? Is it gone, or am I just an east-coast screwup? Or did I get the wrong info from Yahoo maps?

                                                            I did manage to find Jin Patisserie... verdict is still out...

                                                            1. re: jazzdude

                                                              You are not an east-coast screwup! It closed recently and moving to temp digs...
                                                              http://la.eater.com/archives/2008/02/...

                                                              1. re: jazzdude

                                                                So sorry, but yes they are now CLOSED.
                                                                I don't think they are open at their new 'temporary' location yet.
                                                                Sabor a México was actually a good place to eat and find truly authentic Mexican food, perhaps next time you are in town their new location will be open.

                                                                1. re: jazzdude

                                                                  Welcome to Chowhound!
                                                                  Blessed be the Search function, which will direct you to this more recent topic http://www.chowhound.com/topics/485675
                                                                  tracking the (hopeful) relocation of SAB.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Sabor a Mexico
                                                                  2622 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018

                                                                  1. re: DiveFan

                                                                    Thanks, all, for the feedback. A case of bad timing, I guess! I'll try again on another visit. I posted a comment about Jin Patisserie on another thread (about cakes).

                                                          2. Are they already open at their new or temporary location? Any info will be appreciated.
                                                            Craving for SAM Quesadillas and Huaraches!!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: lvgoodfood

                                                              I head from a friend who called that it will be another 2 weeks.

                                                              1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                                                Thanks, I will have to wait.

                                                                ; )