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Sep 20, 2007 12:18 AM

La Feria de Big Buy Foods-Boyle Heights

This past spring while wandering through Boyle Heights and East L.A. as I often do browsing the rich food scene for something new, I came across a scene straight out of Mexico.A street food scene not just like the kinds that erect themselves all over Mexico in and outside "Ferias"(fairs)and the many "glorietas"(public squares) celebrating the heroes of Mexico.We have street food in L.A., but it usually consists of cloying tacos and uninspired bacon-wrapped hotdogs.No matter what city you find yourself throughout Mexico, the nights bring forth a panoply of lucious street foods:Mazatlan, D.F., Guadalajara,Monterey, Tijuana, Tepatitlan,Hermosillo,Culiacan,Uruapan,Zacatecas,Loreto,Aguascalientes,Tepic,Valladolid,Playa del Carmen,Chihuahua,Veracruz,Cuernavaca,Oaxaca,Puebla,Guanajuato,Torreon,San Cristobal de Las Casas,Campeche.........

Mexicans start the day with desayuno, a light breakfast with fruit, bread, and perhaps some chilaquiles thrown in.It's menudo, pozole, and birria for the "borrachos"(drunks)."Para la cruda"(for the hangover).

"La comida fuerte"(the strong meal) happens around 2PM, when Mexicans really go to town.We're talking mass quantities of delicious foods.I remember my cousin asked me why I wasn't eating more one glorious day in Aguascalientes.I retorted,"I'm saving room for dinner, I have to get some more of this "comida" in before the day is through." He laughed generously,"Bill, this is it,la comida fuerte,you'd better get some more carne!"

"La cena"(supper) is a light meal in the evenings.Perhaps some tacos from the corner stand, where "la abuelita" has been making the same delicious carne asada tacos for the past 40 years.Maybe a bowl of sensuous pozole at 3:00AM after dancing up a storm to the racous rythyms of Banda Recodo.

Mexico has many incredble regional cuisines, but at night along the "malecones"(seawalls), "plazas", and "parques"(parks) it's tacos de pastor,sopes,huaraches, hot dogs wrapped in bacon, tortas, birria, tacos al vapor, tacos dorados, carne asada(best in Sonora state), pozole, nopales, pollo asado,pambazos,chiles gueros,etc.I remember arriving late one night to Campeche asking around for a "campechana", the seafood cocktail with everything named after the seafood rich port city in the Campeche state.The street food cooks snickered,"Son puras carnes ahora!".(It's purely meats right now)His mildly condescending tone suggested that I should know better.That's right, certain foods like the campechanas start at the crack of dawn and head some in the afternoon.The the grill and comfort food "puestos"(stands) come out and rule the nights with their smoky, mouthwatering scent wafting through the streets of Mexico.

When I arrived at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Breed where the Big Buy Foods market lies in Boyle Heights all my longings had been fulfilled. Nina's catering with their sopes, huaraches, gorditas, quesadillas preparadas, tostadas, flautas, and pambazos.Fillings cooked to perfection such as hongos(mushrooms), papa con chorizo(potato with chorizo), tinga, carne asada,flor de calabaza(squash blossoms),cuitlacoche(corn fungus),and pollo.This stand has the best salsa on the street including a salsa de semillas consisting of pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds,chile de arbol, and a little bit of peanut oil.Que rico!! With some free nopales and pickled red onions with habaneros on the side, Nina's can't be outdone. Just north of Nina's white "brush" painted truck located next to the Big Buy Foods parking lot is a trailer selling tacos al vapor(steamed tacos).The friendly cook there offers up her delicious tacos de lengua, cabeza, carne asada, and al pastor.To the south closest to Big Buy Foods is a taco vendor serving up the classics and some excellent cochinita pibil(roasted pork in achiote).Haven't tried him yet, darn pambazos, always expanding in my stomach!

Across the street in front of a blue parking lot sign is another stand doing tacos al vapor with lengua and cabeza.This is a classic stand offering two great meats and two salsas deftly flavored with some onions and cilantro to finish.Next to her, heading south on Breed, is the delicious pozole stand, with the red and white varieties.They also serve up a formidable tostada of cueritos(pig skin).Pure heaven!!The chef assembles her pozole, the stock with hominy and chicken, then the meats-"que quieres de carne, mijo"(what meats do you want, son), oh, a little of everything please.Carnitas, cueritos,patas,etc.If you ordered white she executes the handoff,if you ordered the red she adds the red sauce flavored by mild and delectable California Chiles. Now, it's your turn! A little cabbage, lime, diced onion, crumbled chile de arbol, radishes, salsa and you are ready to go.This pozole rocks! Next a simple taco stand, an out of place pupusa vendor, some candies and botanas(snacks) along with the ubiquitous pirate DVD guys.The competing sopes and more stand to Nina's on the other side of the street flanked by a mariscos truck that packs up earlier than the rest(remember my campechana tale?), and a flauta and tacos dorados(deep-fried tacos) maker on the side.

Some nights another truck, cart, or makeshift stand shows up, but the places I've mentioned here are regulars.Last night I met up with two kindred souls to show them my little secret.The clientele is obstensibly local.This place was completely off the radar, until now.I'm including Abby's awesome revue here, and her great photos.Abby pulled off some quick shots that had the pozole chef looking bewildered searching for the source of the brilliant flash."Que es esso?"(What is that?)

Abby revue and picks.

It was a fun and intimate tasting with Abby of the Pleasure Palate, my friend Lisa, and myself, also Pleasure Palate members.

So, come on out to this "feria" in Boyle Heights, Thurdays through Sunday starting at 7PM and finishing up around 10 or so.You'll be glad you did, and get out there while we still have some good weather.Provecho!!

Big Buy Foods street fair
located on Breed at Cesar Chavez in Boyle Heights, just two blocks east of La Parrilla.
7PM -10PM???
Thursday through Sunday

P.S. Weekends are best to get all the action!! I like sundays

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  1. Here is a review from the LA Times Calendar section last weekend about the Breed St. Scene.

    1. Arggh!Wish I could edit this unfocused post.It was my first review,so.....
      I stopped by tonight too full to eat, I could only stare greedily.Some have inquired lately so I'm happy to say that it was busier than ever tonight, and had some new stands.The best ones are still kickin' too.I decided on a crepa de cajeta, a street crepe filled with cream cheese and covered in caramel from a newcomer who also does street hotcakes.There were a few non-Latinos, likely readers of Exilekiss' wonderful review of Breedt St.Oh, and there were tamales tonight.Get out there,man.
      Here is my revised report with an update if you're curious.

      1. OK, had a group out tonight and this place just continues to amaze. Bring the regional cuisine up another notch, there is now a barbacoa de borrego stand representing the famous pit roasted mutton from the state of Hidalgo. I saw photos of their authentic preparation from slaughter to the pit in their backyard lined with maguey where it's slowly cooked underground. The consume is made in the same pot with garbanzos cooked in the broth. This stand also has pancita(lamb stomach), but they were out tonight. Could be the best in the city. I need to hit a few more places, but this was pretty damn tasty.

        There were more stands, one doing enchiladas, a taco stand doing buche in a comal de acero, and the crepes!!!

        We were entertained by Mariachis Los Tequileros, too.They were a lot of fun and interacted with the crowd.Breed St. was truly beautiful tonight and really made me feel as if I was in Mexico, more than it ever has.

        Crepes on Breed
        The new Barbacoa de borrego stand
        Fun with mariachis Los Tequileros

        12 Replies
        1. re: streetgourmetla

          Nice.... any Cajeta & Pecans in them Crepes... or is she just a wannabe =)

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            She's from D.F, and gave a lesson in the different types of crepes from Mexico and Spain. She talked about the ones wrapped into little sacks, like the crepas de huitlacoche at La Diferencia in Tijuana.

            She fills hers with cream cheese, and tops them with cajeta, goiaba, fresa, etc. I didn't notice pecans, but will ask.Her whole family cooks and she knows her stuff. She also makes los ricos hotcakes, paisa.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Point taken... she knows what she is doing. Good to see something else hitting L.A.... I have never seen any Mex restaurant there serving the ubiquitous Hautkays con Cajeta that are common in any sizeable town in the Highlands of Jalisco, Guanajuato... they probably even have them in Aguascalientes.

          2. re: streetgourmetla

            Hi streetgourmetla,

            Excellent! :) Now they have a Barbacoa de Borrego stand as well?! I'm so going back soon. (^_^) Thanks for the info.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              sgla, en, just wondering if there are spots with quesadillas estilo df on offer here? also was interested if you know if there's still a woman who makes them from a cart at la placita off olvera after mass? it's been rather long since i've gotten to go, and am hoping to head down soon.

              are there some neighborhoods with concentrations of folks that hail from jalisco? i was hoping to poke around for places for carne en su hugo and other fun stuff. thank you in advance yall.

              1. re: ken ivorous

                Nina's on Breed St. has superb quesadillas preparadas, grilled or fried.

                There is definitely a Jalisco presence in Hunt. Park, Southgate and the environs and their respective eateries, but in general, Tapatios are all over LA.

                I'm waiting to check out a place real soon that has carne en su jugo as well as other Tapatio cuisine.I'll let you know.

                Don't have any info. on quesadillas at La Placita.

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Still OT, but Enriques has carne en su jugo: .
                  Here is the menu:
                  For many years they have advertised themselves as 'Jalisco style'.

                2. re: ken ivorous

                  Ken... while Jalisco immigration to L.A. has been extensive... very little of it has actually come from Guadalajara (you will find some people say they are from GDL but press it a little and they will admit they are from some rancho or small town near GDL but not actually from the city). This fact explains why Carne en su Jugo (a much less popular dish outside of the GDL Metro area) is notoriously absent from Jaliscan restaurants.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    You mean, there's no Karnes Garibaldi in San Juan de Los Lagos,EN? I've found this the case too, the GDL response, then, it's an obscure pueblo.That would make a lot of sense economically speaking. The place I'm heading to for carne en su jugo, the family is from Guadalajara. Let's see if they can break KG's record!

                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      Yeah... it usually goes like this...

                      Where are you from?


                      Really, what barrio?

                      Well really Ocotlan

                      Oh... whereabouts in Ocotlan

                      Well really its a little Ranch on the outskirts of Ocotlan

                    2. re: Eat_Nopal

                      hmmm interesting. regarding the quesadillas, it was maybe 3 years ago that i had them. she had her cart outside la placita on the street, by other folks selling hotdogs and snacks after mass.

                      regarding non-gdl jalisciense diaspora, would one correctly guess then, that chicago's community has a greater proportion of people from guadalajara, since there seems to be greater frequency of carne en su jugo?

                      1. re: ken ivorous

                        "regarding non-gdl jalisciense diaspora, would one correctly guess then, that chicago's community has a greater proportion of people from guadalajara, since there seems to be greater frequency of carne en su jugo?"

                        Yes, I think that would be a fair hypothesis. Why that would be.... I don't know. But as Street implied... if you live in GDL (or any of Mexico's largest cities) your economic needs are probably never going to be severe enough to propel you to hop the border.

                3. went here tonight, and the scene was pretty amazing. We arrived around 7:40, and strolled among vendors looking at everything.l The posole looked fantastic, and I thought we'd order it last to take home. I went to another vendor and ordered a chorizo taco for starters. My husband ordered 2 sopes from Ninas, and they took a while, so I got us some aguas frescas while we waited. Guys were pulling folding chairs out of vans and placing them in circles in the parking lot, convenient for diners. There were toy vendors, too, and vans with big beach towels with Mickey Mouse pictures. Nina had just called the number before ours when suddenly the mood changed - like a wave rushing through the crowd. Vendors started packing up - it was amazing how quickly they packed everything away, even the giant pots of posole, and the deep fryers and griddles. They rushed everything into trucks and within minutes the vans had pulled out of the parking lot and were gone and the place was deserted. I talked to one guy and he said that someone had started a rumor that the Dept. of Sanitation was videotaping the gathering. "Come back in a half hour," he said, "everyone will be back."

                  We didn't even get the sopes we paid for. We drove south to Breed and First, because previous descriptions of this street fair had said there was another outpost. There were two taco trucks at the muffler shop, so we pulled in and each got a quesadilla - delicious, and filling. Mine was flor de calabaza.

                  When we finished, we decided to drive back by the other gathering place to see if they were still gone - and amazingly, they were all back, setting up again and doing business. The Barbacoa guy wasn't there, nor the Mariscos truck, but everyone else was. We waited while the posole lady set up, and then bought a tub of posole rojo to take home. We also got some tamales.

                  The guy I'd talked to was back, and he recognized me and said, "See? i told you they'd be back."

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: gsw

                    The trucks on First and Breed are excellent, too.Yikes!! No barbacoa guy?

                    I wish that these morons would just let these people be. It's the best Mexican street food in LA, really a treasure.Glad you had some wonderful eats.Never dull on Breed St.

                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      I've been a couple times, and admittedly now mainly go to Nina's, but I would love recs for good tacos there. I've tried the tacos at the place right next to Nina's (with the spit), but thought they were average-ish. I was going to check out those two trucks south on Breed (& 1st), but ended up going to a taco table further east on Chavez, which was solid, but left me a tad disappointed.

                      1. re: mdpilam

                        On the sidewalk, other side of the wall from Nina's is a woman that has tacos de guisado. Try her cueritos, cochinita, arroz con huevo, and cecina.She's great.When the barbacoa de borrego stand is there next to the churros stand by Nina's, there's none better. Best tacos bets.

                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                          She's on the sidewalk side of the wall? When I read about her at your blog i wondered if she was the lady further in the City parking lot, she had tacos de camarones and other things. With all the scramble to pack up, we didn't get the chance to explore - we'll be back, though.

                          1. re: gsw

                            I believe SGLA is saying that the Taco lady is on the sidewalk side; Nina is on the parking lot side of the wall, and has a long table with various salsas and whatnot with a grill and fryer at the end near the entrance to the lot.

                            1. re: mdpilam

                              That's the one! She' older with short, dark, hair.Very shy, from Vera Cruz.

                    2. re: gsw

                      i was there the same night and kick myself in the butt for waiting around for the rest of my friends to arrive prior to noshing. all i got were two tacos from two separate stands. i was in line waiting for my huarache when all the vendors made the mad scramble....however, the vencdor found me alter and refunded the money i paid for the huarache.

                      glad to hear they set back up later in the evening....however, i was starving and headed out to the SGV for xlb.

                      1. re: wilafur

                        Hey, I wonder which person you were!!! We were probably there at the same time. We didn't look for a refund, figuring that it was a contribution to the effort. But when we came back, we got a To Go order of posole, which we ate Sunday night. It was AWESOME.

                    3. The latest at Breed St. There is a cemitas stand right behind Nina's. Also, a stand that does birria de res, and enchiladas con mole.

                      The Jarocha had tacos de alambre tonight, amazing good, and bistec con papas. The cecina was nice too.

                      Finally tried the pancita at the barabcoa stand.Not bad, but their regular lamb tacos are better.

                      The crowd was huge, each time there are more people and new stands.Also, there were more non-food vendors.Stuffed animals anyone?