A True Test of Faith: Sabor a Mexico Culver City
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
8940 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
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. :))
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!
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...
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?