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Mexican L.A. for Serious / Old Line Chowhounds

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One of our Boston based CHers e-mailed me about recs for Authentic Mexican in L.A. I was going to email back... but instead I had the idea for a thread that could live on in posterity.

Now, as some of you might know I am a few years removed from L.A., and I have never deluded myself into thinking that I ever knew everything there was to know about L.A's Mexican gastronomic scene. As such I would greatly appreciate if the heavy weights can join me on this thread... I am thinking of the Dommy & Kare_Raisu of the boards who really know what they are talking about. I only had a few hours sleep last night, so I apologize to the other heavyweights (I think you know who you are) who I am forgetting.

Now at the risk, well actually the certainty, of coming across as an annoying Phallus, I would like to set some parameters as to who is or isn't a heavyweight on said topic.

> If you go around ordering an Asada, Pastor & Carnitas taco from every Mexican restaurant as your gauge... you are NOT a heavyweight.

> If you know that L.A. is inundated by passable, but unremarkable versions of Asada, Pastor & Carnitas... that would be laughed right out of Tijuana's residential neighborhoods then you ARE a heavyweight.

> If you think highly of Pepe's Tacos, Tito's Tacos, El Cholo or any such other slop & glob, defecation on a plate type eatery than you are NOT a heavyweight.

> If you think too highly of the mediocre Foodie paradises like Loteria Grill & La Super Rica than you are NOT a heavyweight. However, if you summarily dismiss them & their style of food as "Not The Real Stuff Esse" than you are NOT a heavyweight either. Both places are largely authentic... quality is just not going to take anyone in Mexico by storm.

> If you look forward to Pozole made from dried corn (can actually tell the difference) and always fight for the Cheeks & Neck Bones than you ARE a heavyweight.

> If you have ordered any 5 of the following in a Mexican restaurant then you ARE a heavyweight:

Goat
Lamb
Whole Fish
Rabbit
Octopus
Huitlacoche
Flor de Calabaza
Nopales
Calabacitas
Romeritos
Huazontles
Chaya
Fava Beans
Chiles Tatemados / Asados

Okay... heavyweight standards identified.... please join my in recommending that best of Mexican L.A. in all its variety. While I may be a hardass Mexican snob... its okay to recommend a little bit of Tex/Cal Mex but only if it is truly outstanding & compelling. Always using Mexico as a baseline... if people in Mexico's interior would stand in line, to wait for it... then it must be outstanding & chow worthy.

I have to run now... but will be chiming in periodically with my personal recommendations.. and hope that others will as well.

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  1. Whew, quite a criteria. I definitely am not a 'heavyweight' but I've sorta given up on L.A. mexican food and will wait to go to mexico to have really good food. I prefer the usual in San Francisco over L.A. I order the usual carnitas, asadas, etc... cause I don't find their other dishes very good. If anyone can recommend a truly truly rich mexican cuisine with no compromise, I'd try it. I like Oaxcan but still limited, want to go to Oaxca to eat really well.

    1. Chichen Itza and Babita would be my recs.

      11 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Thanks...please provide some specific dishes & your usual passion & knowledge!

        1. re: ipsedixit

          .

          -----
          Babita
          1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

          Chichen Itza
          2501 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

          1. re: ipsedixit

            How I love Babita and Chichen Itza... lemme count the ways... Having had amazing fine dining experiences in both DF and Merida, both of these restaurants are as close as you can get in L.A. IMHO. Not a place for the squincles to run around but a place of true buen provecho.

            Babita is THE place to have Chiles en Nogada in town. I've tried them all, Babita has some how mastered that edge of sweet and savory, cream and heat (which is actually the hardest thing to master). They also have a Lamb shank that I thought would be too much, but is cooked to such a degree that it's almost like meat candy.

            Finally, don't forget the soups... I've never been wowed by any of their apps, but their soups are refined yet earthy... as true Mexican Cuisine should be.

            --Dommy!

            1. re: Dommy

              I had a chance to visit Chichen Itza's sit down place recently and wrote a pretty detailed write up here...

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/538745

              In Summary, CI has stepped up the plate with Babita. In fact, I give them more credit. Babita still serves a lot of the familiar... enchiladas, beans and rice on each plate... CI dares you to have a big slab of cheese for dinner. Forget the rice and beans... have a Jicama salad instead!! They try... I KNOW they do... everything from fishing sour oranges from a neighbors tree just to have the RIGHT flavor... They took risks (Mexicans cook Venison? Turkey Tacos? Squid Ink Sauce?!) and I'm so glad its paying off for them!

              --Dommy!

              1. re: Dommy

                "Babita still serves a lot of the familiar... enchiladas, beans and rice on each plate... CI dares you to have a big slab of cheese for dinner. Forget the rice and beans... have a Jicama salad instead!!"

                Rice & Beans... that is the major problem with Babita... it violates the whole balance of Mexican cuisine... very few dishes in Mexico are traditionally served with Rice & Beans... you might get both in a meal but not on the same course... or is just D.F. that is that way?

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  No! Rice and Beans are NOT a given in every mexican meal... When you are LUCKY enough to have a dinner with meat or of a seasonal vegetable then you DON'T want to fill up with Rice and Beans which what you'd probably make up the CORE of all the other meals of your year.

                  I think because Babita does not have a side dish menu (CI does) and as I mentioned, they aren't brave enough to counter customer's complaints about "Where's the rice and beans" (Something I've heard more than ONCE at CI! :P) Plus, his crew spends a LOT of time frying those little tortilla bowls up... I think he also just might be attached to them... LOL!!

                  1. re: Dommy

                    "Plus, his crew spends a LOT of time frying those little tortilla bowls up... I think he also just might be attached to them... LOL!!"

                    Oh yeah.... those. Nothing smacks more of crappy tourist trap restaurants in Mexico than the refried bean bowls made of fried tortillas! Gawd... I think we might have all cut Babita way too much slack given the dearth of Mexican at the higher end.

                    Can you imagine Rice & Beans in little "corn bowls" at Izote, Aguila o Sol... or even the king of haute kitch Hacienda de los Morales?

                    1. re: Dommy

                      "I think because Babita does not have a side dish menu (CI does) and as I mentioned, they aren't brave enough to counter customer's complaints about "Where's the rice and beans" (Something I've heard more than ONCE at CI! :P)"

                      Yup this goes right back to StreetgourmetLA's "complications" and the reason why I am a hard ass on these boards. Get this... my wife did an internship at a hospital a few years back... and one of the Mexican employees there kept trying to talk her into taking me to Tito's because that was "Real Mexican"... he was not amused when I let the axe fall. In fact, he accussed of not being a Real Mexican... thank fully I learned how to insult people in Nahuatl... finally came in handy.

                    2. re: Eat_Nopal

                      The worst affront has to be refritos with seafood.Madre de Dios! Which brings me to your Valley report.There are Mexican restaurants I will go to in the Valley, like Maricos Colima, and even recommend them to friends, but I would not include them on a list of the finest examples of Mexican cuisine here in LA.

                      The Valley is better for Thai,Peruvian, Argentine, El Salvadorean,Armenian, Persian, and many others, but the offerings for authentic Mexican are poor.

                      There are great places for pollos rostizados, mariscos, and antojitos, but all fall short.The seafood places will put beans next to shrimp, the quality of seafood will be average, and the menus will be overloaded with fluff.If you frequent these places and know what to order you will be OK and can have a good time, but that's it.The rest of the places are not serious restaurants with beans and rice everywhere.We also don't have many places for birria, cemitas, or other foods that are more common in East Los.There are also decent taco places here in the Valley, none of which interest me in the slightest.

                      So,there you go,rotisserie chicken, tacos, and campechanas, which are not serious gastronomy.

                      Well, I love the choices I have here in the Valley for multi-cultural dining, but I have to leave for authentic Mexican.East LA, Huntinton Park, etc., or my beloved Baja which is just 2 hours away, w/o traffic.

                  2. re: Dommy

                    "They also have a Lamb shank that I thought would be too much, but is cooked to such a degree that it's almost like meat candy."

                    I believe you are referring to the Lamb Mixiote... my favorite of the regular menu items... but those really speak to my Anahuac Valley soul. There is one dish that surpasses it.... the Rabbit Mixiote (off menu).

                    Also, its not a Mexican meal without a soup, right?

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Yup!! I'm not a fan of lamb... but its dishes like this that make me question my own tastes sometimes... LOL!!

                      --Dommy!

                2. Numero uno on my humble list is La Flor de Yucatan Bakery where you can buy primo Yucatan chow on the weekends. 99% take out but I usually scarf down Cochinita Pibil Tacos, Tamales (fine/strained masa wrapped in a banana leaf), Salbutes, Hojaldra, best 3-Leches Cake period and more while chatting with the owner Mark. Oh yea, I forgot to mention the fresh Green Habanero Salsa - a taste of heaven that has a burn from hell!

                  http://www.laflordeyucatan.net/

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: sel

                    I agree with you 100% sel. If there is any restaurant that made me change the way I think or feel about regional Mexican cuisine in LA, Flor de Yucatan is it.

                    The food here is -in a way- hinge less, it doesn't have to buy into the idea of a restaurants expected arsenal and doesn't taste like the result of tired systematic cooking of the same dish multitudes of times.

                    But even beyond that [its uniqueness in la] you have this feeling that the level of food here could survive in the Yucatan, alongside engulfing competition. It is by no means a cop out Yucatan 'lite/'

                    I owe a lot to this restaurant for its role in tindering the fire of passion for Mexican cuisine in me.

                    1. re: sel

                      ..

                      -----
                      La Flor De Yucatan
                      1800 S. Hoover Street, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                      1. re: sel

                        They also have the best Yucatecan Kibis in town!!! Once upon a time I thought I was the only Yucatecan Girl out there... but Flor de Yucatan was a always like a second home not only for their pastries and cooked items, but also because they carried grocery items from Yucatan... including my beloved Charritos

                        http://www.qpmcreative.com/img/portaf...

                        --Dommy!

                        1. re: Dommy

                          They also have the best Yucatecan Kibis in town!!!

                          Does anybody else have them? Also, you would be shocked but in the early 80's there was no less than a dozen, very well known & liked Yucatecan restaurants in town. They rose in popularity with Michael's "California Cuisine" (as you can imagine things like Poc Chuc & Tikin Xic were popular as "ethnic versions" of the light, minimalist cuisine that came in to vogue at that time).

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            CI has them... that is all I'll say about that... ;)

                            I've also had them at lots of Lebanese places. There is only one that made it truly exceptional lebanese style (Open Sesame in Long Beanch) the rest pale to Flor...

                            --Dommy!

                      2. I don't know if I'm a heavyweight. You can judge that for yourself.

                        However -- I will say that the mole blanco at La Huasteca is worth the trip, as is anything in pipian rojo. Quesadilla de rajas (yes, I know that's a snack, shush) at La Cabanita in Montrose, and (surprisingly) their enmoladas are excellent, particularly since they're not a Oaxacan restaurant.

                        Babita has excellent food -- is it alta cocina the way they have it in Mexico City? No. But noplace in LA does, sadly. I love their panuchos (I know Dommy! disagrees) and the beef cheeks are in the top 10% of beef cheeks I've ever eaten (and I love -- LOVE -- beef cheeks).

                        I'm just going to come right out and say it -- though La Serenata de Garibaldi (Boyle Heights branch only, please) is derided by some, I can't get enough of the huachinango con huitlacoche (say THAT ten times fast). And though I don't dine there often, both times they had an octopus rice dish ("like risotto", said the waiter) that sounded tempting, except, you know, I needed my huitlacoche.

                        Whole fish is not hard to find -- what is hard to find is whole fish that is not mojarra. I mean, come on, how many damn fish get taken out of the oceans and all we ever find is mojarra frita with sauces that range from awful to just OK.

                        Also, again, I know that you are not looking for tacos, and you are emphatically not looking for chain tacos -- but the one thing worth the trip to Taco Mesa (yes, I know, hush!!) is the taco alambre -- it's just outstanding. Two of those and whatever agua piques your fancy from the offerings of the day, and you've got lunch.

                        I wish we had a place like Dos Caminos in LA -- while it's not traditional Mexican, it's got that funky take on Mexican that's common in the larger cities (for some reason, it reminds me of a place I've forgotten the name of in Guadalajara).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Thanks DU.... does Dos Caminos remind you of Santo Coyote perhaps? I personally did not think its particularly good... I find all the Manhattan quasi upscale Mexican places generally lacking substantially in execution & ingredients (Rosa Mexican, Ixta, Dos Caminos etc.,).

                          Good contributions and thanks for the specifics.

                          Regarding Mojarra... it annoys the hell out of me... because they aren't even "Real" Mojarras... same old frozen Nile Tilapias... I guess eateries serve them up because they are cheap & easy to source.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            ...

                            -----
                            La Huasteca
                            3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

                            La Serenata De Garibaldi
                            1842 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              It gets me SOOOO mad when I think that there aren't more restaurants like La Huasteca!! It's wonderfully approachable, well priced and truly Mexican. Their fish dishes are wonderful! One of my FAVORITE Huitlacoche dishes in town is here... Plus a full bar with a REAL margarita...

                              --Dommy!

                          2. Tito's Tacos & Tacomiendo are the reason I started posting on Chowhound. I had just moved to Mar Vista... after a couple of weeks of reconnaissance I noticed the long lines at Tito's. So I braved the wait for their Taco Bell brand of mystery meat insult to Mexican gastronomy... needless to say it was a huge disappointment. I then started "flaming" Tito's on the City Guide type sites... however, the lines only got longer... so I tried a different tact... why not promote the "real" places in Mar Vista?

                            I intended to plug Tacomiendo - which I discovered even before moving to that neighborhood. Driving around... all I needed was to see the name <a clever wordplay> to know there was something good there - in those websites... however, there was no listing! The only reference I could google was someone bad mouthing the tacos on some cryptic message board with a "Craig's List level look & feel" called Chowhound.

                            As far as I am aware.. Tacomiendo is not exactly a board favorite. A perfect example of why one should ignore the noise from the lightweights (how many times have I seen some poor misguided soul discount Tacomiendo because the Carne Asada burrito wasn't as good as X.... Oaxacans don't know how to make burritos... so tell me something new dumb donkey!).

                            One of the challenges we have that constrain the development of Mexican cuisine in L.A. is that most Americans (including Xth generation Mexican-Americans) tend to stereotype & pigeon hole it.. to a very narrow interpretation... it has to be colorful, bold & cheap. Anything that doesn't fit that box is dismissed... really for no good reason other than the lightweights can't see beyond the blinders.

                            Tacomiendo is generally solid all around but the real reason to go here are the following:

                            House Salad

                            > It bugs me to no end that North of the Border Mexican's salad tradition is so lame. People in Mexico eat salads... they eat many salads. Often they are rustic & simple as sliced tomatoes, avocados & salt.... other times they are baroque & elaborate such as the Guanajuato style Fiambres with Sliced Tongue, Pickled Chicken, Pork Head Cheese, Various Fruits, Tomatoes, Avocados, Charred Chiles etc., in an herbal vinaigrette. Usually, they don't follow the U.S. box of Lettuce / Greens, Dressing or Vinagrette, Fancy Additions. But in any case... they are present almost every day in the Comida and very important to Mexican cuisine.

                            Tacomiendo's House Salad is typical of Valle de Oaxaca with shredded Romaine (although in Mexico the orejona lettuces are more like a cross between Butter & Romaine lettuces), Sliced Cucumbers, Shredded Carrots & a "dressing" made from fresh cucumber juice, lime juice & basil (no oil or vinegar). Its not complex, its not bold, it is subtle, it is refreshing, it is remarkably full flavored, it is very Mexican.

                            > Chile Relleno (Side Order). No they aren't always made from scratch to order, and no the Chile isn't always perfect (sometimes the batter is too thick)... but my gawd.. that Tomato-Epazote caldillo its served with complementing the perfectly roasted & peeled Poblano, and that Queso Fresco etc.,. As a regular they would provide me heads up about which day they were making a fresh batch so I would get mine prepared from scratch to order... and it was glorious... a serious candidate for best Mexican dish in the city. Not, make sure to let them know what you are doing... ask for a Side Order, no Chips, extra sauce.

                            > Escabeche... unfortunately they only offer Jalapenos, Carrots, Onions & Garlic at Tacomiendo because their pickled veggies are absolutely outstanding. I always eat a cup or so while waiting for the meal. There was a time I would eat so often there (it was walking distance from my apartment) that my hands were visibly orange from all the Beta Carotene I was consuming.

                            > Carnitas... the Carnitas here are no where in the same league as Cinco Puntos or Carnitas Uruapan (during its heydey) but I recommend them because they are a rare example of Oaxacan style Carnitas with their faint Cloves & Cinammon aroma. And they are good. Incidently, the greatest example of Oaxacan carnitas in L.A. was at the Venice obscure fine dining gem 5 Dudley (RIP)... the Sous Chef was from Oaxaca and they would do a 10 oz pork leg "filet" Carnitas served with guacamole as a recurring daily special (and off menu dish for those in the know)... that was just oustanding.. definitely a serious candidate for best red meat dish in the city (this was back around 2003 / 2004).

                            > Apple Lemonade (I forget the official name). The westside is light on fruiteria / jugeria places... Tacomiendo was one of the first... and they do a very credible job... the Fresh squeezed Lemonade with whole Apples is outstanding, as is the juice with Beets, Orange, Ginger etc., (RST wrote a great report of Chicago's offerings on this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/53302...

                            )

                            I have had a number of great dishes from the Daily Specials as well... Oxtail & Vegetable Soup, Enmoladas, Lenten Dishes like Romeritos or Dried Shrimp Fritters etc.,

                            To Be Continued Tomorrow

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Thank you for your informative post. I'd given up on eating good south of border foods in L.A. after moving here from NoCal thinking I'd get incredible mexican and south american food. I was extemely disappointed after trying few places but now I will try yours and others' recommendations.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                x

                                -----
                                Tacomiendo
                                11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  I am a certified white-boy lightweight, perhaps a featherweight, but even with my limited appreciation of Mexican-for-Mexicans I knew something wonderful was going on at Tacomiendo -- from the first bite...and the first bite was that Escabeche. I like the Caldo Pescada as well.

                                  Keep this thread going and PLEASE feel free to comment on my current Map Of the Mexican Stars Homes -- Erik M.'s recent rundown of Cemitas, Mariscos and others.
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/529261

                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                    "I knew something wonderful was going on at Tacomiendo -- from the first bite...and the first bite was that Escabeche."

                                    You have good taste my friend. Wow Erik's thread is impressive... I would be honored if he could chime in. Also, how do I see your Mapa de las Estrellas?

                                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    ITA about those carnitas!! The thing I really love about Tacomiendo is that they truly cook from SCRATCH. People think that if they go to a mexican restaurant/taco truck that they will get 'fresh' cooking... WRONG... you'd be surprised at how many use Boil In Bag Rice, Dehydrated Beans and Canned Tomatoes. I once went to a taco truck that had their carnitas in the fridge and just reheated them on the griddle (I had already ordered when I saw her do this!!!)

                                    Anyway, I also have to add a shout out for their fresh frijoles de olla they have in a soup kettle in the dining room. Creamy and full of onion and herbal favors. If I was evil... I would just ask for a bowl of rice and them POUR those beans over them and that would be my meal... But I'm nice and will probably also order a couple of flautas too... :)

                                    --Dommy!

                                    1. re: Dommy

                                      As I promulgate the side order of Chile Relleno.... I must mention that I always serve my self some Frijoles de la Olla after I have eaten the Chile so that I have something to sop up the sauce, with my tortillas.

                                  3. The bulk of L.A's Oaxacan population is in the South Central area... needless & understandably - its not a well explored area... I remember as a young teen when the Alameda Swap Meet briefly became the center of Mexican L.A. gastronomic universe... the produce vendors, the Sinaloan seafood, the Jalisco style beer marinated, mesquite grilled meats, all the dessert vendors with amazing Fresas con Crema etc.,

                                    However, it just took one gang shooting on premises to convince our family it just wasn't worth it. I have seen some threads here discussing it... what 15 years after its early heyday? So what is the deal... has South Central pacified enough for chowconnaissance?

                                    In any case... I have no doubt the very best Oaxacan cuisine in the city must be found in some crumbling strip mall in South Central... while Monte Alban might not be the city's epitome... we can also be sure that while the restaurant concept is slightly rough around the edges, the food is usually exceptional for the price point. There are many debates as to which West L.A. Oaxacan is best... I know its not Guelaguetza... Monte Alban edges it in almost every comparable dish, and is substantially less expensive, service is a bit better... and the menu is better organized.

                                    What is outsanding at Monte Alban?

                                    > Molotes (kind of like an empanada made from masa, they are stuffed with a chorizo-potato hash then garnished with Black Bean - Avocado Leaf paste, Aged Cheese & a Chiltomate sauce)

                                    > Nopalitos... one of the best versions in the city. They seem to be able to source fresh Nopales most of the year, and when they use the jar version... they seem to be able to source a superior product than we typically get on the supermarket shelves.

                                    > Taco de Barbacoa... a Crepe size taco (homemade, rustic corn tortilla) stuffed with fall apart tender Goat in the typical Oaxacan barbacoa marinade (dried chiles, cloves, garlic, thyme, Mex oregano, Avocado leaves etc.,)... complex, supple, juicy, tender.... its everything most Goat Curries would like to strive for.

                                    > Pollo en Mole Negro.... its a very good artisinal sauce, they do a good job of poaching the chicken to tenderness, and more rustic handmade tortillas to sop up the sauce (vastly obliterates Guelaguetza's funky garlic rice).

                                    > All the Moles here actually very good... just avoid the Enchiladas / Enmoladas... I have shared tables with people who got mediocre versions.

                                    > Chilacayote Agua Fresca is my preferred dessert there (the Plantains are also decent... but nothing unusual)

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      I am slightly bemused by your edict of who you want to post and agree with A & W should we not follow the food not the chowhound...?
                                      Glad to see some ignoring your edict. Which I will do as well! Much more interesting when every one is invited to the party, no?

                                      I am curious as to whether there is a part of South Central where the bulk of Oaxacan's reside?I know that newly arrived immigrants from Mexico are found in this area, it seems to be more of a wide array of mostly central and northerners still, the area is huge though...
                                      Work takes me to the central and eastern side of the area that is know supposed to be called "South LA". I have not noticed a big Oaxacan population in the area I work in..

                                      From what I have garnered there are not really that many strip malls in this area, and the glut of food found there continues to be "fast food". I have been to a handful of Mexican places and none have stood out. I will keep looking though...
                                      Amapola on Compton in Florence continues to be pretty solid, and my go to place when in that area. I always have my eyes open for food besides the usually greasy old school joints and fast food. I recently noticed a rundown looking Oaxacan place near Trade Tech that I have been meaning to try. I believe it is on Venice or was it Washington? (Not south enough to be considered South Central maybe...).
                                      Have also been meaning to check out the Alameda Swap Meet...
                                      South Central as a whole continues to be a very economically depressed area with major gang problems, not as scary as many would think, but alas not very safe either...

                                      I have a question for you and others. I have noticed in the area above USC and east (south Koreatown), vendors selling what looks like to my eye yucca flowers ( (?) could be wrong..). If they are yucca flowers are there any resturants in LA that serves them?

                                      1. re: LaLa Eat

                                        I had an uncle that lived in South Central...so at one time I was very familiar with the pockets of Mexicans & their regional affiliations. South Central has large populations of Pueblans as well as Oaxacans... as far as I understand it the Pueblans can be found West of Huntington Park... nudged up against the USC / Coliseum... and Staples Center. There is another pocket near the Forum / Hollywood Park.

                                        The Oaxacans are supposed to be in "No Mans Land"... South & West of the Coliseum. I think every major thoroughfare I am familiar with in South Central is laden with Strip Malls... granted most are anchored by Popeye's, KFC, McDs, BK etc., but if you look in the interior you will see the ethnic restaurants including Chinese, Korean & Soul Food in addition to Mexican & Central American (including Belizean).

                                        One way to figure where the Oaxacans reside is to peruse the La Opinion version (Sunday I believe) that reports on all the amateur soccer league scores. Look out for names alluding to Oaxaca or the Zapotec language... and check out the parks where the games are played... I guarantee you will find some roving Memela or Chapulines vendor etc.,. then explore the local neighborhood.

                                        I am no longer in L.A.... and got my sights on Oahu my future new home... so you are on your own... good luck... may you evade the random nature of violence (btw I agree that South Central is usually peaceful & calm... the problem is that when you have such a large group of people with nothing to lose, closely concentrated... someone can snap at any moment and you will not even know why.... I grew up in East L.A.... I know what I am talking about... East L.A. minus some of the Projects is very safe for "outsiders"... South Central is no joke... I used to stay over at my uncle's house some weekends... and we all slept very close to the floor, and all the exterior walls were lined with thick, solid wood furniture... the number of drive-bys on their street was unbelievable... and of course there were even a couple of occassions when some guy jumped the fence into their yard while the Chopper lit up the house.

                                      2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Thanks, EN, for the menu recs for Monte Alban. We went there today trying authentic Oaxacan for the first time. Monte Alban is a true WLA treasure.

                                        We were very warmly greeted and served, as I explained we (wife and I) were have Oaxacan for the first time. We started with the nopalito salad which I devoured with the excellent crispy chips dipped in salsa and then eaten full of nopalito. I loved it.

                                        Then we each had a molote. $1.25, are you kidding me? Great

                                        Wife had the pollo with mole negro, but it was served with rice. The chicken and mole were magic. I think I would have liked having it with tortillas.

                                        I chose the taco de barbacoa. Tender and flavorful.

                                        We were enticed into having nicuatole for dessert. I was glad we did.

                                        These dishes and flavors were new to us, but we felt like we found a new friend.
                                        I really enjoyed trying the mole negro. I had heard that it was an acquired taste, but I think we acquired it pretty quickly.

                                        Other posts have pointed us to El Texate, and since it's walking distance from us, it's worth a try.

                                        1. re: Ogawak

                                          Hello Ogawak.Brother Nopal has moved on from these boards, but keeps in the lurk.Yes, you should absolutely check out El Texate.Since it's walking distance I suspect it could end up being a regular stop for you.Check it out and post here on Sr. Nopal's magnificent thread.

                                      3. xx

                                        -----
                                        Monte Alban
                                        11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Monte Alban is proving that that regional Mexican can be appreciated by everyone. I was shocked when I walked in when I saw more surfers than senores, but everyone was enjoying the moles and enfrijoladas (The best in town!). P. loves his Birria and even he was surprised at how wonderful their version was...

                                          --Dommy!

                                        2. Frida is another restaurant summarily dismissed on this boards... on again just another example of a recurring theme in L.A's Mexican scene... if the dishes are more than $10, if the decor doesn't follow the cheesy kitsch pattern established by El Cholo Spanish Cafe 1920's Hollywood eatery, or it if isn't consumed standing up etc., its not real Mexican.

                                          I have my criticism's of Frida... for one it gave up on all Alta Cocina pretensions a few years ago when it stopped trying to source Mexican wines (incidentally the wine list is almost like something out of Cheesecake Factory now) & provide Tasting Menus... I am also disappointed at their faded, Sanborns-esque, Talavery style dishes which really need to be replaced... oh yeah, and their servers are all struggling "actresses" that have no clue about Mexican cuisine. But, the fact that Frida has survived in a very difficult Beverly Hills market where the locals are "very careful with money", and are wary of Modern / Exotic cuisines... is a testament to the quality of their food. I have never had a bad dish there... wait I take it back I did have a disappointing fish dish at their Chula Vista offshoot.

                                          Frida is certainly not Babita... but I do think its Chow worthy. Here is what I recommend:

                                          > Shrimp Pozole... its rare to find north of Puerto Vallarta & Frida's version is solid (the broth is prepared ahead of time & refrigerated.. its heated in a saucepan.. fresh shrimp dropped in at the last minute etc.,)... solid rendition.

                                          > Poblano Rajas Side Dish... solid

                                          > Nopales Side Dish... solid, if subtle slightly refined rendition

                                          And of course all the Steak dishes are excellent. Look at for the Filet with Huitlacoche & Goat Cheese (it should be in season again).

                                          And for dessert... I always get the Crepas en Cajeta... a solid rendition of a dessert that is rarely found North of Tijuana.


                                          Of course.... bring your own wines.

                                          -----
                                          Frida
                                          236 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            Thank you! I think Frida's is the best representation of De Effe cuisine. It is upscale and authentic. The BH location is the better of the two sit down locations IMHO. The other being the Americana. The tacos de Rib eye are great as are the tacos de campechano, chorizo and steak. The seafood soup is a winner as is the pozole. I love Frida's!!!

                                            1. re: trojans

                                              Great.... let me come back and plug Frida's steak dishes a bit, because I did not give them enough words.

                                              From that first time I had a bacon wrapped Chateubriand with guacamole at an old school restaurant near the Tijuana Jai Alai... to the first time I had a Filet in Huitlacoche sauce in Mexico City... and to the Ribeye in Chipotle sauce the following day... I realized that Mexico's preps & composees bring Steak gastronomy to a whole new level... and it is largely ignored NOB.

                                              While it is absolutely true that most Mexicans will die without ever having a bloody, thick steak... we can't ignore that fine beef has been produced & consumed on Mexican soil for almost 500 years, that U.S. beef tradition & Angus stocks were inherited from Mexico / Spain (prior to Texas the staple meat in the U.S. was pork)... and that steakhouses have been an important part of the cuisines of Northern Mexico particularly in Baja, Coahuila, Sonora & Chihuahua for at least 100 years.

                                              Frida is one of the few places in L.A. that brings us this Haute Tradition Mexicaine with no less than 3 steak presentations on the menu on any given season.

                                            2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              I am probably going to be boo'ed off the board, but Frida has my favorite carnitas in town PERIOD. I was PAINED when I discovered this because their taco plate is over $10!!! But still... it almost melts in your MOUTH and has so much FLAVOR... Ughhhhhhhhhhh... I want to hate it... I really REALLY do... but I can't...

                                              They also make a MEAN Mezcal Margarita... Hmmm... Mezcal...

                                              --Dommy!

                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                Hi Dommy!

                                                You make the Frida Carnitas sound so good! :) So from your description, are their Carnitas Deep-Fried, or Boiled? (On a side note, are both ways "authentic"? Growing up in L.A., I've had Carnitas at so many Taquerias and traditional Mexican restaurants, and strangely the Carnitas are always either deep-fried, crispy, slightly dry, or meltingly tender / boiled / stewed(?).)

                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                  There are three Carnitas styles... 2 are traditional, 1 is bastardized / crappy...

                                                  Method A... The "Jalisco Style" these are simmered low & slow in salted, larded, water

                                                  Method B... The "Michoacan Style" these are "simmered" in lard... similar to Confit (temperature is raised towards the end to bring about some exterior browning)

                                                  Method C... Cal-Max Bastardization... you simmer low & slow... put it away in the fridge / freezer for the next week... griddle up over fat until crispy & somewhat palatable.

                                                  Most people in Mexico agree that the Uruapan / Michoacan style is superior.

                                                  The California method is just a commercial bastardization... and most Angelenos have no clue about the good stuff.

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    Yeah, I like the Jalisco style... although discribing it as Confit is genius... ;)

                                                    Frida is more of type A. Soft, flavorful and with just the slightest crisp edge.

                                                    --Dommy!

                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                      Thanks Eat Nopal and Dommy! :)

                                                      Definitely good to know and a nice explanation why I seem to find "Carnitas" in so many different forms.

                                              2. What an incredibly enjoyable thread. Makes me want to become a heavy weight.

                                                1. Picking back up in the West L.A. vicinity... El Sazon Oaxaqueno is a little Oaxacan cafe / bakery storefront in a strip mall... it does many of the Valle de Oaxaca usual suspects (Enfrijoladas, Tlayudas, Memelas, Tacos) okay... its more of an everyday, low price point quick place... and not nearly as exciting as Monte Alban et al....

                                                  However, its open from breakfast... and well it has some excellent breakfast. The Salsa de Chorizo is revelatory... Oaxacan style chorizo (distinctive Cinammon aroma, complex "dark" spicing) COOKED IN ITS CASING.. unlike many other Chorizo breakfast dishes... the Oaxcan chorizo is braised in a herbal, slightly sweet tomato sauce then served with some garlicky refrieds & tortillas. As I regular there... I would bring them some stuff from the SM Airport farmers market (such as Squash Blossoms. Round Calabacitas, or Nopales)... and they would prepare those for me instead of the Refrieds (mmm... fried Squash Blossoms stuffed with Oaxacan Cheese).

                                                  Also, the other great thing about breakfast there is that their outside bakers bring them baskets of piping hot pan dulce throughout the early & mid morning... you can get first dibs on whatever smells best... I usually like the custard stuffed horns.

                                                  -----
                                                  El Sazon Oaxaqueno
                                                  12131 Washington Pl Ste A, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                  1. On to the much maligned Pacifico's. I dislike it as much as the next guy... no wait I am sure I dislike it even more than the rest of you... I dislike the menu, the decor, the service, the prices, the ambiance. Its like it was ripped out of Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan's tourist trap districts... but with lower quality & higher prices. I hate that this eatery averages > $50 per diner (Appetizers, Main, 3-4 Beers)... its set up that way... and service is highly dependent on how much you spend.

                                                    But credit where credit is due... for the better part of the millenium, Pacifico's has offered the best Huachinango (Whole Red Snapper) in the city. Turnover is fabulous, they source the freshest, highest quality Snappers... they have the preps down consistently perfect etc.,

                                                    Its been 3 years since the last time I dined there... so I will defer to updates on the Huachinango.

                                                    -----
                                                    Pacifico's
                                                    9341 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA

                                                    1. I'm proud to say I'm NOT a heavyweight, given these rather off-putting criteria, so take my recs with a grain of salt. I like the taco combos at Tacomiendo and the tacos enchiladas with mole at Monte Alban. BTW, what happened to rating the food, not the chowhound?

                                                      1. Time to Move East

                                                        It has been a fascinating experience observing Mexican migration to L.A. over the last couple decades. While I don't have empirical research to back it up... I have made some interesting social observations that have great bearing on how we should approach the Eastside's gastronomic offering.

                                                        The lower rent neighborhoods east of Downtown seem to follow an intensified Boom-Bust cycle that greatly affects the chow offering. I have observed that migrants arrive from Mexico in waves (on top of a baseline, continous trickle).. and these waves usually boil down to a combination of 3 major factors:

                                                        > Economic Debacle in Mexico (such as the 1982 and 1994 financial crisis)
                                                        > Accelerated Economic & Job Expansion in the U.S. (such as the 1993 to 1999 boom)
                                                        > Natural Disasters / Climate Change in Mexico

                                                        As these three elements conspire to boost migration we see the Eastside start to boom:

                                                        > "For Rent" Signs dissappear, foot traffic increases... and mobile vendors start setting up
                                                        > Markets start carrying greater stocks & variety of ingredients... and the offering starts adjusting to the regional provinance of the lastest migration wave.
                                                        > A certain percentage of the migrants are either young Orphans or a family's Black Sheep who don't have a family to support... they spend most of their income trying to impress girls... the bars, night clubs, dance halls, car dealers, clothers all start doing brisk business.

                                                        Then the latest economic expansion in the U.S. will start trickling down to the lower rent communities... and the most ambitious of our compatriots will start moving up the economic ladder:

                                                        > The bus boy learned enough English to become a waiter
                                                        > The guy washing dishes... excelled as a line cook and is now being trained for Sous Chef
                                                        > The contruction worker married a Real Estate agent and they are now flipping houses
                                                        > The most serious & organized warehouse worker now manages distribution
                                                        > The jovial Mariachi singer is killing it selling Almost New cars (being traded in ever so frequently by the spendy "gringo" middle class)
                                                        > The line cook with an Accounting degree from University of Baja California at San Felipe finds an opening for Staff Accountant at a Mexican owned restaurant chain

                                                        etc., etc., etc.,

                                                        As we see this rise in influence... the East Side is clearly booming... quality restaurants pop up, new mega supermarkets are built etc., however as the boom continues a % of people have saved up enough money for a downpayment, credit has become easy enough to obtain, people are making more & more money... and then they start moving further East to the inexpensive sub-urbs in San Bernardino country etc., as the trend accelerates & the inevitable trickling down of the broad U.S. recession catches up... the Eastside busts...

                                                        > The street vendors are increasingly lonely
                                                        > Storefronts shut down
                                                        > Interesting regional specialties go back to Mexico

                                                        etc., etc., etc.,

                                                        All that prelude is to say... East L.A & other East Side communities are challenging to report on because restaurant turnover seems greater than in West & Sub-urban L.A. With that said... there are some venerable institutions that have weathered the cycles... but quality is rarely consistent (La Parilla, La Serenate de Garibaldi, Ciro's etc., all come to mind).

                                                        Perhaps the most impressive culinary establishment on the east side is the D.F. (Mexico City) Seafood Truck anchored at Sycamore Grove Park in the Highland Park neighborhood. I first ate there around 1994... beyond the pleasure of conversing with a fellow Chilango with the melodic blue collar accent, and the vast dictionary of inuendos, double speak & generally brilliant use of language that makes Shakespeare look like a dim wit... I quickly got hooked on the $5 campechanas... with their large, perfectly textured shrimp, tender chunks of Octopus & (don't laugh) the satisfying Surimi "Crab" in a luscious tomato sauce with thickened with olive oil, brightened with lime juice & secret seasoning (that he wasn't about to give up... but I am sure involved Maggi, Worcestire & Dried Shrimp)..... there was consistently a 45 minute line for one of the city's greatest seafood dishes (at all spectrums of the economy).

                                                        As of 2006... the truck was still there... prices were understandably higher... but quality was still there... some please provide an update.

                                                        FYI... there are two trucks at this location... but the one with the longer lines.. is the one I am talkign about... no other distinguising marks necessary.

                                                        -----
                                                        Sycamore Grove Park
                                                        4900 North Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          The two trucks that are there whenever I drive by offer food in the style of two different regions - signage on one says "Estilo DF" and the other says "Estilo Sinaloa." On several occasions I've seen a third one advertising yet another region's food, but I don't remember which one.

                                                          Being a perennial lightweight myself (though I have eaten a lot of innards and goat), I have yet to stop and check any of these out...

                                                        2. I will second Babita, Flor de Yucatan,La Huasteca, El Sazon Oaxaqueno, Chichen Itza, and Monte Alban.

                                                          Chichen Itza's Pan de Cazon and Pulpo en su Tinta.

                                                          Flor de Yucatan for my relleno negro fix.

                                                          Huasteca's menu is all over the place, regionally speaking, which usually doesn't work, but that being said I think they do a good job.I love that they have a Caldo Tlalpeno which is ubiquitous in Mexico, but rare here in LA.

                                                          La Casita in Bell is fantastic, alta cocina with a cenaduria vibe.Jaime and Ramiro stick to what they know, Puebla and Jalisco.Their moles are fine and they have classics that I crave such as huevos divorciados, several outstanding chiles rellenos, regional enchiladas, and the Plato Azteca which I've enjoyed at places like El Sacromonte.They do a great job unpretentiously, and while their menu isn't exotic, they do deliver dishes you would find very easily in restaurants in Puebla, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, and D.F.They've done their homework.

                                                          Guelaguetza for their moles and antojitos, they are solid all around.Chapulines a la Mexicana, and the Nopal Zapoteco along with the mescal cocktails, chingones.

                                                          Nina's sopes on Breed St. just north of Cesar Chavez, Fridays through Sundays after 7PM.Nina has a man throwing done shapes of the sope family like nobody's business,Sopes, huaraches, quesadillas preparadas, and gorditas with flor de calabaza, huitlacoche, tinga, chorizo con papa, and others.My personal favorite, the pambazo(non-sope family) with chorizo can papa, the traditional way.They also follow the street tradition of making many original and exquisite salsas do dress their fine food, like the salsa de cemitas.

                                                          Baja Tacos Ensenada and El Taco Nazo will suffice when I can't get down to Ensenada for the real deal, for tacos de pescado estilo Ensenada.

                                                          After being in Mexico so much these past 7 years, I'm more often surprized by what's not on our menus in LA's finest Mexican restaurants, even among the Alta Cocina variety.Anyways, these are places to take friends here in LA to get a glimpse of the treasures that await them in Mexico.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                            Typo! I meant to write salsa de semillas from Nina's puesto.

                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                              Great stuff Street! Please let us know about the San Fernando Valley area as well... I am not ignoring it on purpose... I am just ignorant on SFV Mexican.

                                                              1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                Ah pinches huevones!

                                                                -----
                                                                Tacos Baja Ensenada
                                                                5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

                                                                La Casita Mexicana
                                                                4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201

                                                                Guelaguetza
                                                                3014 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                                                El Taco Nazo
                                                                9516 Garvey Ave, South El Monte, CA 91733

                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                  When I was a little girl, spring break was when my Madrina would teke me down to Rosarito. We'd stay in a hotel with concrete beds, spend all day in the surf and ate Fish Tacos on the pier.... Tacos Baja Ensenada to me the closest thing to that experience that I've tried... The Crema, the Cabbage, the fresh crispy fish. And it doesn't end there... I LOVEEEEE their buttery white rice. Mixed with their fresh beans and a chopped up roasted chile guerro (one of the best condiments in town!) it's a meal enough for me...

                                                                  http://members.aol.com/pmgon/Chowhoun...

                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                    Guelaguetza has earned a special title of being the HOUSE Mole Paste of Maison du Dommy y P. This comes from a girl who was RAISED on Dona Maria (Supplier of our water glasses!), their complex mole Negro is not only great to stew with, but also with Enchiladas and Chilaquilles. Every winter pot luck, people come to my office (80% Well Traveled Latino) asking me if I'm going to make my Chilaquilles... Yes... yes...

                                                                    At the restaurant, it's just a good with their chicken. I've had several BAD BAD BAD chicken mole plates... Chewy Chicken with greasy mole just SLIDES off of.... It's not an easy dish to not only make, but execute!! Well, Guelaguetza KNOWS Chicken and Mole...

                                                                    --Dommy!

                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                      I have a MUCH overdue report on Taco Nazo to do (We went there on a particularly steamy day earlier in the year)... But just lemme just say... I like TBE's fish tacos better... but the one thing that makes me want to RUN back to ETN is their Tacos Dorados de Papa. Dios Mio!! I have no idea how they do it.... inside is the most fluffy, flavorful potatos EVER! I grew up with LOTS of potato tacos and burritos... but I will dare to say these beat out my Abuelitas hands down...

                                                                      http://flickr.com/photos/dommichu/270...

                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                        I really wanted to LOVE La Casita, I've met the chefs, I know they source and encourage growth of local mexican ingredients. However, I found most of their menu really boring... especially compared to Chichen Itza, Babita and even La Huasteca. It was ESPECIALLY grating since I read about so many great dishes that they have put together for 'special' dinners... I know they have the potential to bring their menu to the next level... but again... they fall into the 'fear'... I will say their Pipian is perhaps the best in town... Rustic, but still very creamy and flavorful. A lot of people don't appreciate this dish (Because so many do it wrong! :P) but their version really highlights why it's so special and shouldn't take a second place to any any Mole...

                                                                        --Dommy!

                                                                      2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                        I second both Chichen Itza near MacArthur Park and La Casita in Bell. I have been going to Chichen Itza for years and I only just discovered La Casita.

                                                                        Chichen Itza is a Yucatan focused menu with seafood and roasted meats - including a nice version of cochinita pibil, while La Casita is more interior Mexican, moles and pipians with some fun different rellenos.

                                                                      3. Juice, Fruit, Agua Fresca & Hand Churned Ice Cream shacks are absolutely ubiquitous throughout Mexico and a vital part of Mexican culture. However, in California they are less ubiquitous (perhaps the cost of imported produce, the higher labor costs, the lower relative economic position of Mexican migrants makes it a luxury). In any case, they are much more abundant East of Downtown than they are West of Downtown.

                                                                        The very best I have experienced in town is at the corner of Broadway & Workman Avenues in Lincoln Heights (not to say there aren't equals or even better but this is definitely an elite place)... my gawd I think they must have figured out how to build those Star Trek transporters because the quality of tropical fruit they source is impressive. Their portions are a little large for my taste... but that is part of economics of such a place... what to get:

                                                                        > Fruit Salad typically has Mango, Watermelon, Pineapple, Coconut, Papaya, Oranges garnished with Limes, Salt, Chile Powder (and of course fillers like Melon etc.,)

                                                                        > Ice Cream & Sorbets... in a variety of flavors including Pecan, Mamey, Rompope they are almost all great and they let you taste.

                                                                        > The Flan Napolitano is some of the best in the city.. by the slice or by the entire Flan

                                                                        > The Strawberries & Crema are outstanding... they start with a thick, complex, slightly sour Crema...sweetened it slightly with some sugar and top it on perfectly red & juice strawberries.

                                                                        > They offer 20+ types of mixed juices almost all great.. I like the Beet, Orange, Carrot, Celery types.

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                          I remembered the name:

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Natural Fruit Los Reyes
                                                                          2707 1 2 N, Broadway Los Angeles, CA

                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            Erik M's epic post covering marisco, pollo al carbon, etc. was here:
                                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/529261

                                                                            have we read most of the material to the right of the "greater" signs before?

                                                                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            The best licuado de chamoy y mango I ever had was, happily, right near me in Anaheim. The first time I had one the woman stared at me and finally managed to stammer out that I was the first gabacho ever to order one of those, and did I know what chamoy was, etc.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Natural
                                                                            1177 S State College Blvd Ste 2, Anaheim, CA 92806

                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                              Nice.... please speak up about the Orange County area a little more... I know Anaheim / Santa Ana has to have some fabulous eats.

                                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                Honestly, I have not explored Santa Ana. I have no excuse for this since I work at the confluence of Santa Ana, Orange and Garden Grove, but I have not explored any of their wonders.

                                                                                I'm tired of antojitos and that seems to be what Anaheim has -- I do love -- LOVE -- the al pastor tacos (real ones from a trompo) at El Farolito Jr. on East at the 91, but I'm sick of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas and the ubiquitous just-kind-of-OK chile verde et al.

                                                                                As I find things I'll post... there must be SOME goodness, but I haven't found anything that truly tickled my fancy yet.

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                  Thanks please tell us more about those Al Pastor tacos. The reason I came out swinging hard against L.A. tacos was to prevent the usual over hype of good, but nothing more, versions from Carnitas Michoacan, Taqueria Sanchez... and God forbid all the dumb posts about King Taco, El Atacor et al.

                                                                                  The best Al Pastor I've ever had was on Central Avenue somewhere between Adams & Florence... on a corner there was a giant Trompo radiating around a Charcoal source... pineapple on top... lady hand patting tortillas etc., Comparable to good versions in D.F.... if any body has information on this suspect... report now! There was no name, I only stopped by once by fluke... and its not exactly an area to frequent.

                                                                                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                  I work in Santa Ana (right near the zoo) and I am not adventurous enough to look for Mexican food in Santa Ana, and the part near me is almost 100% spanish (west of I-5) or yuppie chain inspired (Tustin/Irvine-east of I-5)). The closest Mexican to us is Avila's, which according to co workers used to be good, but is now rather crummy so I've never been. I recommend Taco Rosa in Newport Beach for Mexican; it's one of my favorites (Dommy took me here when I first moved here). There are two other locations, one in Orange, and one in Irvine (Tustin Marketplace), but I haven't been to those yet, but I am sure they are just as good. Don't let the nice looking buildings scare you! It's real Mexican, not chain inspired stuff.

                                                                                  1. re: WannaBFoody

                                                                                    WannaBfoody-

                                                                                    I did some of the field work for Mexican in Santa Ana already for mis chowhounds. Please check out the places and update me and us!

                                                                                    Yucatec Breakfast
                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382465
                                                                                    Guadalajaran Love
                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382482
                                                                                    Becoming Chilango
                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382930

                                                                            2. My two new recent faves

                                                                              For a fancier sit-down experience, La Casita Mexicana. The flan is dense and heavenly. Moles are standout.

                                                                              For no-holds-barred taco loveliness, Los 5 Puntos, a market in East LA who makes these thick massive tortillas filled with fresh masa flavor. You can fill your tacos with all kinds of lovelies from behind the glass window heat lamp case... carnitas, buches (is that a snout I see?), blood sausage, etc. The carnitas were........ dear lord, magnificent.

                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                              -----
                                                                              La Casita Mexicana
                                                                              4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201

                                                                              Cinco Puntos
                                                                              3300 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90063

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                Cinco Puntos... an East L.A institution without parallel... glad to hear its still producing. FYI... buche is the ante-stomach not the Snouts.

                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                  Be it the buches or something else mysterious, there was most definitely a snout poking out from somewhere!

                                                                                  Have you paid a visit to Bandini's Taco Hunt lately? tacohunt.blogspot.com

                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                    Oh absolute... snouts, ears & other good stuff are omnipresent at real Carnitas joints.

                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                      Everything but the oink... ;)

                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  Cinco Puntos for me is all about MASA... hence I love their tamales...
                                                                                  They really stand up compared to the other famous tamale spots in ELA and actually surpasses many of them

                                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                                  1. re: Dommy

                                                                                    I've never had their tamales and will have to try them soon. I go to Cinco Puntos for those thick corn tortillas and outstanding carnitas, with its mix of crisp and juicy-tender meat. You can also get very good nopales on the tacos. The last time I was there, a skinny middle-aged Latino standing next to me in line kept going on and on about how he wasn't supposed to eat this kind of food anymore, but then he ordered more tacos than I did! It's a great place -- keep in mind they close at 6 p.m.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Cinco Puntos
                                                                                    3300 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90063

                                                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                    i just drove past this place and wondered about it - thanks for this tip!

                                                                                  3. I've checked most of your list off. My grandmother was the type to climb the hill behind her house with her little machete and pick nopales and tuna, cooked lamb, rabbit, calabacitas, fideo, etc.

                                                                                    There are some great suggestions in this thread already but will add that La Huasteca has a very nice sopa de huitlacoche. Funny you bring up La Super Rica. Their asada is terrible, but I love their calabacitas (on special only) and find them to be very authentic with good quality pork. I wish Gallo's Grill was still around, that place had great meats cooked over wood

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Ernie

                                                                                      "I wish Gallo's Grill was still around, that place had good meats cooked over wood"

                                                                                      I recently learned of our loss... very unfortunately... one of the few outstanding examples of Carne Asada in L.A. in the last couple of decades.

                                                                                      In 1998, my student organization at Cal Poly had a fund raiser where I played "Executive Chef" for a day... marinated 100 pounds of donated Skirt Steaks in the Highland Jalisco style with Beer, Onions, Cilantro... we borrowed a giant charcoal grill from the Student Dorm Cafeteria & grilled the meat over donated Mesquite coals etc.,... we sold out within an hour... Gallo's was the other place I have seen people purchase Carne Asada that rivaled our version.

                                                                                      Regarding La Super Rica... I know they do certain things well... but they also do some terrible & mediocre dishes. The first time I ate there was 2004 or so... and maybe its just a tired concept, they are cruising and once upon a time they earned all the praise.... but nowadays I think they would be pretty average in Tijuana.

                                                                                    2. L.A. seriously lacks restaurants that specialize in Michoacan Highland / Purepecha Plateau cooking. Ofelia Martinez runs a 4 table diner in Lincoln Heights... the menu is mostly made up of the usual standards... here daily specials however provide a glimpse to the specialties of her region (Corundas, Caldo Miche etc.,). My parents are regulars there... so we have gotten special treatment (i.e., they call ahead a few days and she thinks up a cohesive multi-course comida for us)... she has good sazon, and a lot of interesting home cooking to offer for those in the know. I suggest you get to know her.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Ofelia Martinez Restaurant
                                                                                      3010 1/2 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031

                                                                                      1. Chico's in Highland Park... what a trip.

                                                                                        My parent's "discovered" this place circa 1994... the proprietress at the time (I have no reason to believe its changed ownership) was / is a Creole from Highland Jalisco. My parent's actually recognized her as a descendant from one of the traditionally powerful & wealthy families of that area. The idea that she was running a small restaurant catering to a bunch of blue collar "indios nacos", across the border.. obviously meant she must of had a falling out with the family & was disgraced. She always treated my parents (and me) particularly arrogantly & rudely. I suspect she was embarrassed & hoping we didn't return... or maybe she was re-establishing the old Caste order... but her miserable attitude made my parents swear they would never set foot again. However, a year would go by & they (we) just couldn't forget those amazing Chilaquiles or Camarones Rancheros... yeah the food there can be THAT good.

                                                                                        There are certainly places in L.A. that equal her kitchen's results on those dishes... but I like sending people there because it is a good example of the more Creole / Spanish sazon. Her Chilaquiles sauce is buttery, the Camarones Rancheros are heavier on cracked black pepper than on green peppers... and they also feature a wine based sauce etc., These are little differences... but for anyone wanting to taste the more European sazon of the Central Highland Plateaus.... Chico's is a little more convenient than say flying into Leon, GTO & taking a bus over to Lagos de Moreno or San Miguel el Alto etc.,

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Chico's
                                                                                        100 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042

                                                                                        1. One more tonight then I will be quiet for a few days.... Fidel's Pizza in Highland Park.

                                                                                          My paternal uncle lived down the street in the early 90's... and I remember walking over with him to dine at the side walk tables watching the high school girls going by while he egged me on to hit on every other girl.

                                                                                          As far as I am aware... this might be the only legitimate Mexican style pizza in L.A. Fidel learned his trade in Mexico City.. and brought the D.F. style thin crust pizzas with some fairly wild (at least to LA) toppings like Aged Goat Milk "Queso Fresco", Head Cheese, Epazote, Fried Eggs etc.., I don't know if his pizzas are still as true to the DF tradition... but I've read that they are still making their own Chorizos & garnishing pizzas with Avocado etc.,

                                                                                          If anybody has been there recently please let us know what is on the menu - and what is off ;)

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Fidel's Pizza
                                                                                          307 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042

                                                                                          1. Ok, I'm not sure I meat all the hard-core requirements, but I will say this. I finally went to Alegria on Sunset recently, and was absolutely floored by how good the chicken mole was. The waiter informed us that there were dozens of different seasonings/ spices in it. Whatever they did, it worked.

                                                                                            The home-made tortilla chips were outstanding, as were the extremely fresh mahi mahi fish tacos. The presentation is very straightforward, nothing out of the ordinary, but the flavor is just terrific. I was very impressed.

                                                                                            Also, no discussion of great Mexican food would be complete without mentioning Mama's Hot Tamales near MacArthur park. This place blows most LA Mexican grub out of the water, hands down. Both previously mentioned establishments are great bargains as well...

                                                                                            S

                                                                                            16 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Hi_Fi_Chowmaster

                                                                                              Alegria has great food. I also love their Cafe de la Olla with Piloncillo and cinnamon sticks. Delicious. It is exactly the type of funky and delicious hole in the wall that i could see more of here in L.A. I wish there is a street of food stalls with authentic and strongly flavored street food from around the world that isn't expensive unlike the Farmer's Market/the Grove.

                                                                                              1. re: Jolly

                                                                                                There are sigh.... rookies! I guess no one has been to El Mercadito in East L.A., Grand Central Market in Downtown, Pacific Avenue in Huntington Park or Plaza Mexico in Lynwood? I should have made it one of the heavyweight criteria. People, you don't know what you are missing. More about this places later... as I have a con call to join in few minutes.

                                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                  Unfortunately, these areas are not close to where I live which is the Weho/Bev. Hill/Fairfax/Westside area and we don't have very good cheap food here. It's expensive and ok or cheap and grosstastic. And when I say cheap around here, it's not that cheap. I am willing to travel to try great and/or authentic food but it's hard when I want convenient food without planning to get it. I'd be willing to settle for Alegria's level of food in my vicinity.

                                                                                                  1. re: Jolly

                                                                                                    That's the breaks. Cheap food means you pay cheap rent on your place. Cheap rent is not a feature of the northern part of the 310, hence, no cheap food. If convenience AND great cheap food are important to you, then you need to live where the food that you want is, and drive to the rest. I love authentic Chinese food but I know that if I want it, I have to drive to Rowland Heights and the rest of the SGV.

                                                                                                    And the places Eat Nopal referred to ARE worth the drive, at least on a weekend.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jolly

                                                                                                      Tacomiendo is Cheap
                                                                                                      Tacomiendo is Mar Vista

                                                                                                      Monte Alban is Cheap
                                                                                                      Monte Alban is just west of Sawtelle

                                                                                                      The Cemitas Poblana truck is Cheap
                                                                                                      The Cemitas Poblana truck usually hangs out near Culver City

                                                                                                      Finally, the idea that San Francisco has superior tacos & standards than even West LA is.... inaccurate. The Taqueria Sanchez etc., of the Westside are similar. The one thing that I do try to alert people to is the fact that L.A. no longer excercises Taqueria hedgemony over other cities in the U.S. As I have eaten similar quality tacos in Northern California, Washington, Oregon, NYC, Raleigh N.C. etc., etc.,

                                                                                                      There are only a handful of places in the U.S. comparable to what you get in Mexico... but there very passable versions in much of the country now.

                                                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                        Eat_Nopal,

                                                                                                        You've triggered a sore spot. It drives me crazy that we can be so close to Ensenada and yet the fish tacos we get such mediocre results when compared with the insane lovely mild crispiness of the little fish taco street carts there. (And don't even get me started on San Diego's fish taco scene... even with our meager offerings, we're miles ahead of the massive flour tortillas and orange cheese monstrisities that they dish up)

                                                                                                        I know Tacos Baja Ensenada gets a lot of love here, but it seems to be hit and miss. I've had some very good tacos there, and at other times they're just so-so.

                                                                                                        One interesting (and mildly confusing) light in the tunnel is the little place that just opened on Hillhurst called "The Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada". It's actually owned by a white guy who is passionate about making great fish tacos, and that's pretty much all he serves (shrimp tacos too). I've been just a couple of times. I found the fish tacos a little bland, but the shrimp tacos were great. Plus he's got a self service area to top on the shredded cabbage, crema, etc., just like in Mexico. Not a shred of orange cheese in sight. I've gotta give the guy just props for having respect for the food and really trying to do it right.

                                                                                                        But still, it's a far cry from those street taco wonders in Ensenada.

                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                          The best Mexican food in LA is merely a gateway to the real deal.TBE is about the best we can do given the local conditions, or comlicated reasons why we can't duplicate the level of cuisine here in the US that exists in Mexico.I'm very glad Mexico is close enough for me to visit frequently.I suffer much more for my Brazilian fix because Brazil is too far for regular visits.I can do Baja several times a month, and do.
                                                                                                          I expect EN to elaborate since this is his show.

                                                                                                          Oh, let's ad Tamales Lilana's for traditional antojitos.They are excellent eventhough the offerings are very basic.Sopes, pozole, tamales, and menudo.A perfect example of a true East LA Mexican restaurant.

                                                                                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                            "I expect EN to elaborate since this is his show."

                                                                                                            I don't intend or want it to be my show... I am hoping for a panel of experts.... the criteria I set intended to define as "heavyweight" anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in Mexico... or more specifically the interesting chow towns & neighborhoods of Mexico (living & working for 2 years in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City eating only at the empty, soulless, corporate places etc., would certainly not count!).

                                                                                                            Any Chowhound worth his/her salt, that spends enough time in Mexico is bound to have eaten a wide range of foods & regional specialties at every level of the price spectrum thus giving him/her enough tools to be an adequate judge / advocate of L.A's mex-offering.

                                                                                                            Moving on to your point.... you are right L.A. is mostly a gateway... even Chicago which is a bit further along than L.A. on the mexdevelopment (albeit with some ingredient sourcing constraints) is mainly a gateway. However, I don't think it has to be that way. French cuisine in Mexico has been adapted very successfully... and part of that reason is because French cuisine has been codified as a range of techniques & philosphy that is adaptable to a variety of ingredients. I don't think that Mexican cuisine in L.A. will ever be exactly what it is in Mexico... nor do I want it to be. California has its things that it does quite well... and in the ideal world... some great cooks would be using the best of Mexican technique & philosphies to the best of local ingredients & ideas to come up with some compelling new takes. However, as you point out there are complicated reasons (political, social, historical) that challenge this outcome... nonetheless that is what I think L.A. can strive for.

                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                              Yes, but where do you get your fish taco love on at?

                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                The few great Fish Tacos I have found in L.A. (and no I've never had a chance to try Baja Ensenada or Taco Nazo so I am not in any way dissing them) were at the following places:

                                                                                                                Oasis... a tiny fish market & restaurant in the Montebello area (near Gigante). The Ceviche Tostadas are outstanding... they grind their own Sierra Mackeral, Onions are diced very, very, very fine (kind of like a McD kiddie burger)... and they turn it over quickly (so it never gets too limp).

                                                                                                                The fish tacos were notable... good ratio of fish to tortilla & condiments, fried fish (they haul Corvina up for this purpose) was perfectly done.. .the only blemish was commercial tortillas (but at least they were passable & griddled with a little bit of lard)

                                                                                                                The other one was at La Playita in Boyle Heights... this place seems somewhat affiliated with Siete Mares but I don't know the whole story... as a teenager I boxed at the now departed Brooklyn Boxing Gym which was literally just a few steps from La Playita... and all the trainers, professional fighters & the advanced amateurs would descend on it like a voracious hurricane slurping up 7 Mares stews, Ceviches, Fish Tacos etc.,... they were our official sponsors (meaning all our gear & robes said Siete Mares or La Playita)... I don't know if they treated us particularly well but everything tasted perfect.

                                                                                                                In both instances the style was straight up Ensenada without any bastardizations.

                                                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                  Have you tried any of the Ostioneria Colima locations? It's been years but I remember it being pretty good for campechanas, ceviche, etc.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Ernie

                                                                                                                    Not sure... I remember eating at a place with a similar name.. many years ago.. food was good but they didn't have any of the Seafood in a Green Coconut type dishes that Colima is famous for so I just wrote them off.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                    z

                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                    El Oasis
                                                                                                                    9312 Whittier Blvd, Pico Rivera, CA 90660

                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                      I urge you to try the Big Three (Senor Baja, El Taco Nazo, Tacos Baja Ensenada)... TBE has what might be the most authentic fish tacos but ETN has astoundingly wonderful shrimp tacos. You need to squeeze a bit of lime and you might need a shot of hot sauce, but they're amazing.

                                                                                                                      If you go to TBE -- whose fish tacos are sublime but whose shrimp tacos are not as good as ETN -- you can have the whole ELA experience too, including the double-parking. :P

                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                        Sounds like a great plan... unfortunately I we are moving to Oahu next week... and will not get down to L.A. prior to the move. Given that all our relatives want to come visit us in HI (at least for the first couple of years)... I imagine it will be some time before I can set foot on my beloved East L.A. again.

                                                                                                    2. re: Hi_Fi_Chowmaster

                                                                                                      Alegria is Southwestern cuisine, and their taco and burrito offerings are Cal-Mex, with a handful of regional Mexican dishes on the menu.The sensibility here is again Southwestern in respect to the regional dishes.

                                                                                                      That being said, it is a nice restaurant in that part of town that makes quality and tasty food.

                                                                                                    3. La Serenata de Garibaldi in boyle hts and Babita in san gabriel

                                                                                                      1. Continuing with East L.A.

                                                                                                        Serenata de Garibaldi is the "historic" premier spot for Sea Food in the area. I hate their West L.A. / Santa Monica locations... their menus suck, execution is tame & really just a waste of time & menu.

                                                                                                        However, the East L.A. location is an institution. The menu has changed over the years... but its always packed and the regulars know what to order... Catch of the Day or Shrimp in any of the various preps Mojo de Ajo, A la Diabla, A la Ranchera etc.,

                                                                                                        The Siete Mares in East L.A. is also an institution... its a zoo, and I am well aware of the criticisms of this chain...but I think this location is the best... their Pescado Ranchero & soups are quite good.

                                                                                                        I think both places are excessively criticized... if you could magically transport them to some touristy port town in the Northeast... I think people would be swooning all over most of the food.

                                                                                                        Granted..... there is definitely better Mariscos throughout East L.A and South L.A... but these places, with their character & crowds, I think are certainly recommendable to a visiting Chowhound.

                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                        El Siete Mares
                                                                                                        2729 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                          Agree wholeheartedly about La Serenata de Garibaldi. The West L.A and Santa Monica locations are awful. The service is terrible, and it's just a poor facsimile of the original. Just a note that Boyle Heights does not have a full liquor license, only beer and wine.

                                                                                                        2. A real Chow gem in East L.A... along the lines of the hardcore manifesto is El Borrego de Oro... a place specializing in slow cooked lamb in the style of Hidalgo state. This is THE place to go for Barbacoa & Consomme in the city... bar none.

                                                                                                          I should also note that there is listing for a restaurant called Otomisan in East L.A. I haven't heard anything about it... but the name is an allusion to the Otomi / Toltec people whose range includes Mexico & Hidalgo states. I LOVE THEIR COOKING.

                                                                                                          Some of the Otomi contributions to the Mexico City culinary scene:

                                                                                                          > Major Wild Mushroom & Quelite Foragers
                                                                                                          > THE experts on Pit Cooking & Mixiotes
                                                                                                          > THE experts on Mexico City style Quesadillas & Tlacoyos (particular the ones feature Blue Corn Masa, Huitlacoche, Wild Greens, Wild Mushrooms etc.,)
                                                                                                          > THE experts on Steamed & Grilled Golden Trout dishes

                                                                                                          etc., etc., etc.,

                                                                                                          I think the name alone implies something interesting is going on there.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          El Borrego De Oro
                                                                                                          2403 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                            Alas, Otomisan is an old-school Eastside Japanese restaurant. Very much of the neighborhood, but nothing to do with the Toltecs, I'm afraid.

                                                                                                          2. t

                                                                                                            -----
                                                                                                            Otomisan
                                                                                                            2506 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                                                                                                            1. For authentic without battling the ELA interchange, there’s Chabelita, a hound-worthy gem. Located at Western & 20th St, a half block north of the 10 Fwy, Chabelita is a 3-part operation. The brightly muraled stand provides mostly meat – the all-pork burrito is worth the trip. A roach coach turns out fresh shellfish primarily, like the ubiquitous shrimp coctel & oysters. Then, across 20th St, is Mariscos, where for the price of a triple bacon bbq cheeseburger you can indulge in a lovely siete mares soup or a soaring whole fish in garlic sauce.

                                                                                                              [Quirky sidenote: On the second day of the LA riots, while all around it was on fire or looted, Chabelita continued to operate as usual. In fact, looters respectfully parked their booty-filled shopping carts while purchasing – yes, purchasing – their fill of the fuel they needed for the rigors of the rest of their day.]

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Grub

                                                                                                                Too funny!

                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Grub

                                                                                                                  what kind of whole fish and is it fried?

                                                                                                                2. Teresitas Family Restaurant reminds me of a comfortable, coffee shop. Not too big, but great, carefully prepared food that is served with love and respect for what it should taste like.

                                                                                                                  Pork ribs in chile negro only on Wednesdays. On Tuesday the albondigas is the way to go. On Friday try the espinazo con nopales special. The pork chile verde seems to top out on the Scoville units chart as far as my poor, charred taste buds could tell.

                                                                                                                  The number of available Mexican drinks is also a stand out here. I've never tried the dessert, but a friend said that he likes the arroz con leche (rice pudding) with raisins, spiced with cinnamon.

                                                                                                                  I won't dignify the "lightweight - heavyweight" crap with a response.

                                                                                                                  http://www.teresitasrestaurant.com/

                                                                                                                  1. I like El Coyote on Beverly and Tere's on Melrose!

                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                    Tere's Mexican Grill
                                                                                                                    5870 Melrose Ave Ste 1, Los Angeles, CA 90038

                                                                                                                    El Coyote Spanish Cafe
                                                                                                                    7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: love2eat

                                                                                                                      Hmmm.......Fajitas, nachos,jalapeno poppers,chile con carne, and combination plates.

                                                                                                                      These are not Mexican restaurants.Que lastima.

                                                                                                                      1. re: love2eat

                                                                                                                        El Coyote Spanish Cafe?

                                                                                                                        That is exactly why I put out the criteria... are you trying to just wind me up? I would rather eat cat food.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                          I second that. El Coyote might be some of the worst food around. I have no idea how that place is consistently packed with patrons - mind blowing.

                                                                                                                          1. re: SecretHeadquarters

                                                                                                                            If you make margueritas, they will come.

                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                            1. re: SecretHeadquarters

                                                                                                                              It's clearly packed with refugees from Casa Escobar in Santa Monica, which is the only place I can think that would be worse.

                                                                                                                          2. re: love2eat

                                                                                                                            El Coyote is gross. It's a theme resturant, nothing more and not a place to go for good Mexican food.

                                                                                                                          3. As EN mentioned in another post, Fine Mexican Food has tried to break through in L.A. for many years... the last big push brought us Tamayos... Oh SUCH promise!!! But quickly they retreated to the familiar. Looking to be more Acapulco than Babita (completely with awful happy hour) but some of the old lustre is still there if you know where to look...

                                                                                                                            Tamayo's Mole Poblano is still exquisite. When served as Enchiladas it’s one of my favorite ‘mexican plates’ anywhere…

                                                                                                                            Their Ceviche is always very fresh and well prepared and if you call ahead, they’ll even make sure they have some cabrito for you…

                                                                                                                            --Dommy!

                                                                                                                            1. I sometimes have to smirk on this side of the screen when I see posts complaing about Koreans owning sushi bars... Taiwanese owning dumpling houses... etc.. Everyone in the business knows the truth though.. it doesn’t matter WHO owns it because they SAME people are all cooking it… Mexicans… Chinese, Korean, Four Star, Drive Thru… Its Mexican cooks that are feeding this city… And hence GOOD Mexican food can come from anywhere.

                                                                                                                              Like FAVORITE Chilaquilles can be found… in an bowling alley. And you don’t understand, I am actually pretty casual about Mexican Food… I don’t mind people fancying up a Taco. Burritos can come in all shapes and sizes. But I am a daughter of a Chilanga and if there is one thing I will not STAND for… it’s someone messing my Chilaquilles.

                                                                                                                              You’d think with such a structurally simple dish, anyone can make it… Nope… THEY CAN’T… the secret is not only in the salsa (NOT Las Palmas!) but in how the tortillas soak up the salsa, never mushy, never too crisp. Always flavorful balanced and so so comforting. The cooks at Pepy’s Galley know this… and they make me so so happy.

                                                                                                                              --Dommy!

                                                                                                                              -----
                                                                                                                              Pepy's Galley
                                                                                                                              12125 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                                                Heck even at Urasawa, the cooks in the back are Mexican, though in all fairness I should point out that Hiro Urasawa does still bust his b@llz for your dinner.

                                                                                                                                That said, I don't go to Korean owned sushi joints. I pay good money for a Japanese guy (or gal) to cut up my fish in front of me.

                                                                                                                              2. A little part of me dies every time someone asks me for my Carnitas Recipe. Or my Dad’s Carne Asada recipe. How about Cabeza Dommy? How do you cook that?

                                                                                                                                Those are all taquero meats…. There is a DEEP tradition in taqueros, you are pretty much born into it, recipes are family jewels and you DON’T make them at home, you go to the taqueria and see a true artisan at work.

                                                                                                                                Here in L.A., it’s the same thing. Recently one of my favorite taco stands went through a change in name and concept. My heart sank, I know the competition here is fierce and I can understand their need to diversify… but that Cabaza… those sopes… those family recipes… show some respect people!!!

                                                                                                                                Luckily they still do, Taqueria Estilo Mexico is gone, but Sazon is still dishing out some of the best Braised Taquero meats out there. Their Barbacoa, epic, that Cabeza, chunky, moist and flavorful. Now that you can get some Platanos Machos to start and flan to close, it just makes it all better…

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                                                  And sometimes you just want a bowl of guisado to warm you right up to the core, especially on rainy days in industrial Los Angeles, where you'd think the grey can't get any greyer...

                                                                                                                                  For us, it was lunch time trips to Las Trancas, I turned my entire team onto their Chile Colorado. Made with beef, like it should be, eaten with tortillas or just mixed up rice and beans. When Mama seemed so far away... Las Trancas was there...

                                                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                                                  Las Trancas
                                                                                                                                  5351 Atlantic Blvd, Maywood, CA 90270

                                                                                                                                2. So what do we make at home? Well, Guisados. Chile Colorado, Chile Verde, Nopalitos con Puerco, Verdulagas con Pollo. Stews to be poured over rice (White flavored with sauteed onion) and eaten up with the quarter of a tortilla used like a scoop. And whatever was left over... was stuffed in a burrito for lunch the next day... Oh those burritos... wrapped in foil, miraculously would stay warm for hours...

                                                                                                                                  There is only one place I go for a true guisado burrito, that is the legendary El Tepayac. A base made of whatever Abuelita was growing out back... Garlic, Tomato, Onion, Chiles... the chicken is the BEST (They go through the stuff too fast for the pork to be cooked properly half the time!). And if you aren't up for the hollenbeck challenge, then take on their taquitos... the best in town... no one even comes close...

                                                                                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                                                  El Tepeyac Cafe
                                                                                                                                  812 N Evergreen Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                                                                                                                                  1. And my final post...

                                                                                                                                    A couple of years back when I was burning the campaign trail, it was my turn to go into New Mexico. They tried to warn me... "Dommy... they people of New Mexico are very different..." I'd read enough Rudy Anaya... I thought I was ready...

                                                                                                                                    I was not... Chile Verde is truly a magical experience. Although some might fight that it's southwest dish... I join the rally cry of the border crossed us!! Chile Verde is a true Mexican Guisado if there ever was one. And although southwest does pretty cheap flights to Albaquerque still... I am so happy to find my fix at Tonnys... Again, burrito or plate. That Chile Verde will have your seeing visions...

                                                                                                                                    --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                    1. Okay I lied... one more post... (I'm sure I'll think of several others this weekend as well... LOL!)

                                                                                                                                      One of the reasons why in many ways I am behind in the exploration of Mexican food in this city was that for the most part I believed (And sometimes still do), it's worthless to hope for food to be as good here as it is in Mexico.

                                                                                                                                      This isn't the elitist in me speaking. It's all down to the most basic truth of Mexican food, the one CORE. It's not rice... it's not beans... it's tortillas. And quite honestly Tortillas in the U.S. all stink....

                                                                                                                                      I will however give credit to the places who realize this and try to make their own. And for me, the one that has comes the closest is Luz del Dia.

                                                                                                                                      Honestly, it's the Clifton's of Mexican food. However, those girls in the back make it so much more. Their skills in making a wonderfully flavorful masa creates for a tortilla experience like no other in this city. So I take it back... maybe not ALL...

                                                                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                                                        "This isn't the elitist in me speaking. It's all down to the most basic truth of Mexican food, the one CORE. It's not rice... it's not beans... it's tortillas. And quite honestly Tortillas in the U.S. all stink.... "

                                                                                                                                        I think you are just spoiled rotten.... the Yucatan seems to have incredible tortillas!

                                                                                                                                        For my tastebuds... its not about the tortillas or anyone ingredient so much as the difference in balance, proportion & distribution of culinary styles.

                                                                                                                                        When La Reconquista is complete and I am designated Benevolent Dictator on all things Mexican... I will proclaim the following distribution of the approximately 5,000 Mexican eateries in L.A:

                                                                                                                                        > 1,625 Cantinas, Cevicherias & Ostonerias

                                                                                                                                        These are male dominated eateries specializing in Drinks & often free food (Ceviche Tostadas, Seafood Cocktails)... they rarely have set menus... the food is extremely seasonal & specialized. Men drop by on their lunch break for some R&R prior to going back to work.

                                                                                                                                        > 1,175 Antojitos & Street Vendor Food Stalls (including Taqueros & all types of Antojitos & Garnachas...most often prepared by women)

                                                                                                                                        > 875 Fonda / Comida Economicas
                                                                                                                                        Female dominated eateries specializing in daily changing prix fixe menus... this is the soul of Mexican cooking... rich, nourishing, healthy, soulful... extremely regional, specialized, seasonal & cheap

                                                                                                                                        > 535 Regional Specialty Eateries
                                                                                                                                        These are your weekend places that focus on very regional - not large - but comprehensive menus. They are family friendly & provide opportunties for multiple courses served family style.

                                                                                                                                        > 300 Cenadurias
                                                                                                                                        Like the regional specialties... they serve serious food, but they have very limited menus (Pozolerias, Birrierias, Mariscos etc.)

                                                                                                                                        > 150 Restaurantes Campestres.... Like the regional specialties but they revolve around a food source (Mushroom Farm, Trout Pond, Hunting Grounds etc.,) they focus on a few high quality ingredients, prep them a 1,000 ways... and they are usually out of the way, day trip type things (imagine going to Saddle Peak Lodge and they offered campgrounds etc.,)

                                                                                                                                        > 175 Alta Cocina / Contemporary Cuisine
                                                                                                                                        These are of course your Babita, Chichen Itza & La Huastecas of the world.

                                                                                                                                        You may be asking yourself... wtf is this guy talking about? As I have researched Mexican cuisine in its many incarnations (Urban & Rural, Regional vs. Fusion, Low End vs. High End)... the research has informed my "formula" which translates Mexican culinary traditions at a high level.

                                                                                                                                        As you compare... what I would "command" versus what exists in L.A. it gives a real clear idea of the types of concepts L.A. is seriously lacking in. Imagine if we could 175 Babitas? At least one Campestre and a true Fonda in every neighborhood?

                                                                                                                                        That is the potential I would like to see L.A. live up to one day.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                          Whoa, whoa whoa

                                                                                                                                          'When La Reconquista is complete and I am designated Benevolent Dictator ' I hope you jest.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jolly

                                                                                                                                            I can't hear you over the chanting of "¡Si, se puede!"

                                                                                                                                            When Taco Bell is outlawed only outlaws will have Taco Bell.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jolly

                                                                                                                                              I think there is some jest there, yet...
                                                                                                                                              This area was once Mexican land and prior to that Native American. The demographics of Latino's in this area continues to grow, hence "La Reconquista!".
                                                                                                                                              Bumping my prior question that was not answered-
                                                                                                                                              I have recently noticed in the area above USC and east (south Koreatown) street vendors selling what looks like to my eye, yucca flowers (could be wrong). If they are yucca flowers "flor de novia", are there any resturants in LA that serves them?
                                                                                                                                              Also, I recently saw a big resto sign on Pico mid city in a mini mall that I had not noticed before that read "Expresiones de Oaxaca". Is it new?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LaLa Eat

                                                                                                                                                Yucca Flowers are new to me. The one thing I can say is the Restaurant Menus are a weak shadow of the ingredients available for our home cooking. Here in Wine Country I can go source Huazontle, Quelites, Green Garbanzos-Favas-Peas, Verdolagas, Berros, Xoconostle etc., at this precise moment... yet not a single restaurant in the area (out of about 200 Mex eateries) uses a single one of those ingredients.... boggles the mind!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                  that's so true, of many cuisines. it is as if the chefs lost touch with the earth itself. it drives me crazy too

                                                                                                                                        2. This list is so long... but I don't think anyone has mentioned La Paz in Calabasas. That was my first taste of goat, but not my last. Very good, they also have an excellent whole fried fish, and great shrimp and rice.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Iceman

                                                                                                                                            I am glad you found something good there... I stopped there under the promise of Yucatecan seafood and was deeply, deeply, deeply dissappointed. Not a single iconic Yucatecan seafood dish I could spot there... no Tik'n Xic etc.,

                                                                                                                                          2. Alright - I'm not as well-travelled through Mexico as Eat Nopal and Dommy, but I'll do my best:

                                                                                                                                            First: I don't understand why anybody likes Loteria. Is Chichen Itza the same kind of food? Somebody told me it was, once. I know nothing about the regions. I don't know the proper Spanish names for anything. If this makes the below invalid, so be it.

                                                                                                                                            Anyway: Chichen Itza: stunning, deep, quiet, soaring. Loteria: tastes like retirement home. My favorite stuff at Chichen Itza involves anything with that pumpkinseed glop.

                                                                                                                                            Oaxacan: 10 years ago, Guelaguetza (K-town branch) really did it for me. Now, it tastes - it has that old taste, that taste of a non-deep-souled, grinding chef cooking away at the recipes that a great chef wrote down for them years ago. It tastes like years gone by. For a long time, my favorite thing in Los Angeles was their dense, intensely spiced sausage in black mole. It still intellectually parses the same these days, but I don't love it anymore.

                                                                                                                                            Of the Oaxacan restaurants, the good ones seem to be: Juquila Restaurant (Santa Monica Blvd.), Monte Alban (Santa Monica Blvd.), El Sazon Oaxaquena (Washington), and Antiquera Oaxaquena (Melrose and Wilton). Monte Alban I know gets a lot of love, but it seems to lack... some depth for me. They have delicacy (and some great stuff), but not the sear that goes down to the colon of your soul. Juquila is less delicate but more soulful - the secret there seems to be to stick with the specials. Cactus-n-eggs, oaxacan-spice-dry-rubbed-deep-fried-ribs, some kind of pastry stuffed with potatoes and cheese and deep fried - all shockingly great. They have a way withi nopales. El Sazon Oaxaquena is probably the least of all these places, but they make really good tlayuda.

                                                                                                                                            My favorite these days,though, is probably Antiquera Oaxacaquena - it's a little homelier, they have an excellent platter of appetizer stuffs, but their menu is full of wonders. Fried rolled taquito-like in red mole - dense, intense. They're aiming lower than some of the other places - it's more homey gramma mole than highest-of-the-high restaurant mole, but it's deep. Their chicken soup is shockingly good - intense, with a single clear note of that green, herbaceous herb, and really, deeply, truly tastes of pure chicken - in the way that usually you only get at the best Chinese restaurants. Also: chile relleno, stuffed with really good chicken and raisins - I'm guessing from leftover mole negro. Very chicken-y, very good.

                                                                                                                                            The Oaxacan truck that parks at Rose and Lincoln from 6'oclock has treally good stuff - they make really good lengua - tongue. Tongue tlayuda there is a mouthful in every way. I'm an addict. My buddy Daniel weeps over this stuff - he didn't think anybody could make better tongue than his Jewish grandma.

                                                                                                                                            I have this intense passion for cemitas poblanas - the sesame seed torta with fried meat, avocado, chipotle chile paste, Oaxacan string cheese. (Incidentally: oaxacan string cheese teaches me that wet dog can taste *good*.) There is a great truck that occasionally parks in front of the Venice Mitsuwa at lunchtime. The carniceria on Santa Monica around Bundy - it's right across from the Hollywood Video - El Z something - makes really, really good, really overstuffed cemitas poblanas. You sometimes have to talk them into it. The might be out of the sesame seed bread. The first five times I went, they said they couldn't make it - then I figured out they were just out of the sesame seed bread, and they were willing to make me a version on normal bread.

                                                                                                                                            The best cemitas poblanos, though, is at the Oaxacan truck on Venice, right at Sepulveda - it's there from 8 PM or 10 PM onwards, most nights. Shockingly, perfect. Gorgeous. The world spins around me every time I eat it. Their string cheese is... pungent.

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                              I am super glad you gave Antequera de Oaxaca the attention it deserves Thi, and in a way that truly encapsulates what it stands for.
                                                                                                                                              If anyone still does not understand what we Mexophiles drum incessantly about, I challenge them to order the Mole amarillo here and have their gastronomic world rocked. Regarding the chile relleno here - its the first time I seriously got mad at anyone for not sharing a single taste with me. hah.

                                                                                                                                              If you want Las Vegas style Oax go to Guelegetza. Leave the Antequera to us momma boys.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the reminder guys... this HAS to be on our hit list next time we head downtown (Which will be soon...)

                                                                                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                            2. More: best birria I've had is at that place on 3rd in East LA that's in the J. Gold book. Strangely, El Gran Burrito also makes a really good birria sometimes.

                                                                                                                                              Best menudo I've had is in a little farming town called McFarlane about 20 minutes north of Bakersfield, right off the highway, in a building that looks like a concrete bunker where they make snuff films. It's right by the cow fields. It's the freshest tasting menudo I've ever had. I was surrounded by field-hand-looking dudes snorking the stuff up with like there was no tomorrow. I have yet to find menudo even close to that in Los Angeles.

                                                                                                                                              Seafood: El Siete Mares just makes me sad. I'd rather eat at Jack in the Box. That stand - Linda's Mariscos - on Venice near Rose is shockingly good, for being on the westside. Ceviche. I've had far better ceviche in East L.A., but I was drunk out of my mind and I have no idea where I was. Incidentally, for ceviche addicts, go Peruvian.

                                                                                                                                              Tacos Baja Ensenada still seems to me the best - Taco Nazo had gloppier, less fresh sauce, and thicker, oilier batter. But I've only been to one branch of Taco Nazo. I'll agree with the other poster about the Los Feliz joint, The Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada. They aren't, but they're definitely the best fish tacos in Los Feliz, and maybe the best fish tacos west of the 110. I go there a lot. Turnover is high.

                                                                                                                                              There is a truck that I can occasionally find in East L.A. It is sometimes parked at 4th as it passes under the 710, late at night - like past 10 PM. It has shockingly, shockingly good carne asada, and other meats. It is recognizable by its enormous glass front window and its incredibly bright, cheery lighting. Even better carne than my favorite joint at the Alameda Swap Meet.

                                                                                                                                              Carnitas: La Indiana Tamales had really good carnitas. The Hollywood branch of Antinojero Denise's used to have godhead carnitas, but it closed. Maybe the East L.A. branch is still open. In Hollywood, where I live, I go most often to El Gran Burrito - still solid all around, for basic tacqueria fare, and sometimes really good cabeza. But in Hollywood, you get good Mexican and stunning Salvadorean.

                                                                                                                                              There's more, but my brain is tired now.

                                                                                                                                              Someday I want to do a goat-a-thon - goat curry at Ambala Dhaba, birria, and then those insane all-goat-madness places in Koreatown where they end up the meal by stir-frying salad greens and rice in the oily remains of the goat stew.

                                                                                                                                              God. I need to get some goat now.

                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                Best menudo I ever had was my first, ca. 1985, at Rick Bayliss's Topolobampo in Chicago. My first whiff made me wonder if we'd been magically transported down to the stockyards, it was that gamey! But it was also truly wonderful, and by the second bite I was a confirmed addict. I am still trying to find some that will match that.

                                                                                                                                                I've been cruising through this amazingly long and detailed thread, and I reckon I've picked up enough solid-sounding recs to keep me broke and fat for the next year. I have not yet encountered any mention of the last place that knocked my socks off, La Abeja on N. Figueroa. Anyone got a comment on that?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                  Anyone have the name of that place in McFarlane on Highway 99?

                                                                                                                                                  Anyone else tried it?

                                                                                                                                                  I see a couple of Mexican places on Google maps in that
                                                                                                                                                  town but not sure which one.

                                                                                                                                                  Looking for some great food around 99;
                                                                                                                                                  don't care how funky.

                                                                                                                                                2. Oh - and on Centinela, below Washington, is this taco shop that J. Gold wrote up long ago - some absurd name, like Senor Taco or Pepo Taco, something like that - that's the taqueria wing of a carneceria. They have very good al pastor - in the restaurant style, soft and stewy, not the spit style. But they use to have tripatas tacos - gooey, crunchy, deep fried intestines - that made my eyes spin back in my head cartoon-style. Then they stopped serving them. My rage was great. Any leads on other great tripatas?

                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for the great contributions... the place you are referring to is Carniceria / Taqueria Sanchez... it really was greatness until 2003 or so... then the quality become overwhelmed by their popularity and the ensuing demands... still some solid Taqueria fare (although no handmade tortillas).

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                      Yeah - I think I stopped going around then - something happens when a restaurant stops to drop off. Your inner animal knows it before your brain does - your brain keeps insisting, "This is fantastic," but somehow you just stop wanting to go there.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                        Its the story of L.A. Taquerias... I am not going on a limb for anyone in particular... although I fully trust StreetgourmetLA & Kare_Raisu on their reporting of East L.A. fish tacos etc.,... and of course you have the Goat Taco at Monte Alban which is without argument one of the very best bites of Goat meat in L.A... and there are others... but your typical wannabe Taqueria fare replete with boring choices like Lengua, Faux Carne Asada - Al Pastor & Carnitas etc., isn't anything to distinguish LA from say Queens, Raleigh, Atlanta etc.,

                                                                                                                                                  2. Boy... I lost steam on this thread.. and I was just starting to scratch the surface. I will just add a few things:

                                                                                                                                                    > El Mercadito in East L.A. is an absolute must for any serious Chowhound. Should be one of the requirements for board membership. Its popularity has gone up & down... along the migration patterns I identified early in the thread. Last time I was there in 2006... it had healthy traffic (easy enough to find parking... but visibly vibrant).... 3 Story traditional mercado with street vendors peddling ice cream, elotes, yams, roasted plantains etc., etc., flanking the entrances... 1st level has leather goods, CD shops, clothiers & all kinds of other durables... 2nd story has herbalists, seafood markets, carnicerias, torterias, taquerias, coctelerias, grocery stores, more CD shops etc., 3rd story has three "traditional" restaurants with live Mariachi bands seemingly 24 x 7

                                                                                                                                                    Like others have said... its definitely worth the drive.

                                                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                                                    El Mercado De Los Angeles
                                                                                                                                                    3425 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                      Anyone who has not been to El Mercadito or El Mercado ( whtever your prefernce may be) has missed one of the great Mexican food experiences they could ever hope for. The food on the second floor will serve you some of the best tacos, tortas, licuados, and menudo you have ever had. You have to try it several times to find the stand you like the best. The mariachis are mediocre or less. I would rather be in Tiajuana or at one of the bullrings there (while they still exist) to listen to the music of Mexico. But if you need a fix before you can go to Mexico they will do. Just don't expect Javier Solis.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                        The Best thing about El Mercadito is the Mole Vendor... huge vats of it... he'll give you a taste and you can really education yourself on what goes into and the differences between the varieties...

                                                                                                                                                        --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                                      2. One of my favorite restaurants in all of L.A. is Birrieria La Barca. A "find" only to Chowhounds... people wait up to 1 hour to get a table on the weekends... this restaurant has very fresh, high quality ingredients, great Sazon and impressive turnover.

                                                                                                                                                        > Camarones a la Diabla... probably the best version of ever had North of the Border. The sauce is certainly spicy but also nutty, buttery... addicting.

                                                                                                                                                        > Molcajetes... all the various varieties are excellent... and served with gorgeous boiled Mayocoba beans (sounds easier than it is to accomplish)...

                                                                                                                                                        > Top Notch Birria... I don't know if its the best, or not... but it is certainly an elite level version... perfectly tender, juicy, flavorful young goat slow cooked in a complex combination of dried chiles, herbs such as thyme, Mex oregano etc, and spices like Cloves, Allspices & cracked pepper.... served with its own special Salsa & bowl of juices... as well as Frijoles Maneados (creamy beans spiced with a little bit of chorizo).

                                                                                                                                                        > They have other good stuff such as the Jalisco style folded enchiladas... and various stuffed Chicken breast dishes etc.

                                                                                                                                                        1. In conclusion... if I were to spend a week in L.A. myself... this is what I would choose (particularly if it were a first introductory trip to L.A's Mexican offering):

                                                                                                                                                          Essentials:

                                                                                                                                                          Babita
                                                                                                                                                          Chichen Itza
                                                                                                                                                          Monte Alban
                                                                                                                                                          Natural Fruit Los Reyes
                                                                                                                                                          Tacos Baja Ensenada
                                                                                                                                                          D.F. Truck at Sycamore Grove Park
                                                                                                                                                          Los Cinco Puntos
                                                                                                                                                          El Borrego de Oro
                                                                                                                                                          El Mercadito in East L.A.
                                                                                                                                                          Birrieria La Barca

                                                                                                                                                          Alternates:

                                                                                                                                                          La Huasteca
                                                                                                                                                          Frida
                                                                                                                                                          La Flor de Yucatan
                                                                                                                                                          Antequera de Oaxaca
                                                                                                                                                          El Taco Nazo

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                            Thanks Eat Nopal for extensive info and reviews of these L.A. establishments. I've only been to 4 of the restaurants on your list. I can't wait to try out the rest! :)

                                                                                                                                                          2. Aloha Eat Nopal!

                                                                                                                                                            Mariscos Chente for regional mariscos Sinaloa/Nayarit in Lennox,CA.The only Sinaloa/Nayarit seafood restaurant in LA with true regional dishes and superb execution.The shrimp are brought directly from Mazatlan by the owner, Magdalena from Nayarit, and the chef is from Los Mochis and has the magic in his sauces.Too bad you weren't here to check it out.

                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                              "Too bad you weren't here to check it out."

                                                                                                                                                              Muy chistoso cabr.... but hey I found good Ensenada style Fish Tacos in Honolulu so its all good and da kine brudda.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                                .....

                                                                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                                                                Mariscos Chente
                                                                                                                                                                4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                  This location(Centinela) is closed temporarily due to a fire, but will be open soon as they pass their inspection.

                                                                                                                                                                  For now, and the one I've been going
                                                                                                                                                                  Mariscos "Chente"
                                                                                                                                                                  10020 Inglewood Ave.
                                                                                                                                                                  Lennox, CA 90304

                                                                                                                                                                  I believe both will be open when the Centinela restaurant reopens, with the husband, wife, and Dona Magdalena moving to the Centinela location where they will be set up to do pescado zarandeado.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                                  The maps I have show that MC Lennoxico is just over the line into Inglewood.
                                                                                                                                                                  Nit, picked. Place linked for ENs return!

                                                                                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                                                                                  Mariscos Chente
                                                                                                                                                                  10020 Inglewood Ave, Lennox, CA 90304

                                                                                                                                                                3. The SFV now has an entry,Don Huarache for D.F style huaraches(best in LA), sopes,quesadillas, pambazos, cemitas,an authentic breakfast service,amazing tortas, barbacoa, superior menudo,and real comida corrida.They also serve expresso, capuccino, and real brewed coffee, no folgers! And, the chicharron prensado, as everything else is made in house by a chilango.

                                                                                                                                                                  Don Huarache
                                                                                                                                                                  10719 Burbank Bl.(just east of Vineland
                                                                                                                                                                  )North Hollywood,CA
                                                                                                                                                                  Mon-Thurs 8-9
                                                                                                                                                                  Friday-saturday 8-10
                                                                                                                                                                  Sunday 9-6

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                                    Have you tried El Borrego de Oro? I wonder if Don Huarache is in the same galaxy (el Huarache Azteca in Highland Park certainly isn't).

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                      No I haven't.I will make it a point to do it soon.Yeah, I liked my taco de tripas at Huarache Azteca much more than the huarache, which was OK, but not as good as Nina's in BH, nor do either resemble anything I've had in D.F. or Guadalajara. Don Huarache integrates flavors and textures with a thoughtful presention, like someone who cares about cooking, where HA just puts stuff on some masa.The toppings aren't bad, the huarache is made good enough, but in the end, a disconnect.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. I've never been to El Taurino and wondering how it ranks in relation to the restaurants discussed so far?

                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: xox

                                                                                                                                                                      El Taurino related to Rincon Taurino... the Raul Martinez empire that includes King Taco? Not in the same galaxy as the places mentioned on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                        Estoy de acuerdo.If it's the El Taurino truck with the pastor, that's also not in the same galaxy.I went to try that truck a while back, about 3 months ago, and was blown away by how lame those tacos were.LA is not a place for al pastor tacos or carne asada, and this famous truck frequented by mostly club kids, when I was there, is not even worth the trip.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. this is the best thread i've ever found on chowhound. i've only gotten about 1/4 of the way through it, and i've already learned so much. now i'm hungry!!!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Eat_Nopal, Moles La Tia in East LA is a new standard in Los Angeles.Rocio Camacho, A mixteca, is making hand crafted, subtle, concentrated, ingredient dense moles from the mixteca region of Oaxaca(mancha manteles,guey)among other alta cocina classics like white mole, and her own original musings suck as the rose petal mole.She has a constantly changing selection including her new mole de huitlacoche, unbelievably good.She has around 10-14 moles on the menu at all times.

                                                                                                                                                                        Her soups are equally provocative, crema de chayote, and ensaladas de nopal con queso panela.Agua frescas of alfalfa and the best hand-made corn tortillas in town.Her cooking is traditional with the expert culinary presentation of a master chef from D.F., a real Mexican version of alta cocina.She makes the best moles in town, and I believe this is the best Mexican restaurant for all regional cuisines in Los Angeles at this time.A nice addition to your fine list, compadre.
                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.moleslatia.com/index.html

                                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                                          haha the website URL almost looks like it says "moléstia".
                                                                                                                                                                          sounds tasty tho.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ceviche

                                                                                                                                                                            Lol........... yea it does

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ceviche

                                                                                                                                                                              no nos molestas

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                                                                                                              Muy Bien

                                                                                                                                                                              -----
                                                                                                                                                                              Moles La Tia
                                                                                                                                                                              4619 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90022

                                                                                                                                                                            3. great thread.
                                                                                                                                                                              i'm a welterweight because I've only ordered four of the items on the list.

                                                                                                                                                                              that said
                                                                                                                                                                              i like the menudo at El Jerezano on Hazeltine near Burbank Blvd.
                                                                                                                                                                              And i'm curious about the tacos with tripas de leche I've heard El Gallo Giro in San Fernando has. But I haven't gotten the oomph to go and try them.

                                                                                                                                                                              (tripas de leche = marrow gut, pagliata)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. definitely a welterweight, but the grilled whole fish at mariscos puerto espernaza in Tustin Ave Orange was good and memorable.

                                                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ja hat

                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree... this place is serious.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                    Added

                                                                                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mariscos Puerto Esperanza
                                                                                                                                                                                    1724 N Tustin St, Orange, CA 92865

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                      I ate dinner here last night and had the langostinos zarandeados and the quesadilla with shrimp and chorizo. Both dishes were fantastic. I wish this place was closer to my house. (santa monica).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: joshekg

                                                                                                                                                                                        Then if you haven't been to Mariscos Chente in Mar Vista you need to go. The decor is nil, the service is OK, but the seafood is better than Puerto Esperanza. That's not a knock on MPE -- frankly I like the menu variety better at MPE -- but having been 3 times to Mariscos Chente, what dishes they do, they do better than MPE.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                          I've eaten at Chente around 10 times now. I thoroughly enjoy the food there, but man those langostinos were good and the chorizo in the quesadilla hit the spot for some meat to go with all the seafood.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: joshekg

                                                                                                                                                                                            Ok, I've seen all these posts about this place, and am curious:
                                                                                                                                                                                            Do they only serve seafood? I can't eat seafood/fish, and can't even stand the smell. I won't eat in a restaurant that even smells fishy.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mdpilam

                                                                                                                                                                                              Are you talking about Mariscos Chente? Or Mariscos Puerto Esperanza?

                                                                                                                                                                                              If Chente, yes, they only serve seafood. If Puerto Esperanza, no, they serve a couple of beef and chicken dishes -- the chicken lunch special is outstanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. as a direct result of this post, i have tried the following places recently:
                                                                                                                                                                                  - tacomiendo: the chile relleno was so-so, probably because i ordered it right before they were closing. the tacos dorados de papa are really great, better than home-made. their menudo and carnitas are also great. i wish i knew about this place when i was working at sawtelle & olympic this past summer!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                  - chichen itza: their sit-down place on 6th street was excellent all around. i really liked the pulpo en su tinta, the cochinita pibil and the jicama salad. the bistec that my wife ordered was only so-so (reminds me of the kind of bistec that one would make on a weeknight), but i'm guessing they only put that dish on the menu to appease lightweights like mrs. ceviche. i'll probably be taking my parents to the chichen itza stand near USC sometime soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                  - sazon oaxaqueno: excellent chilaquiles with machaca. looking forward to eating there again.

                                                                                                                                                                                  so many places to try!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. fwiw since this is such a great list - one word for Don Adrian on Victory @ Kester in the valley. TIny place - just cemitas.

                                                                                                                                                                                    But hey, I like them. The head cheese sandwich is great. And the price, not too shabby.
                                                                                                                                                                                    four tables - whole place seats maybe six.
                                                                                                                                                                                    But if anyone is up for exploring, there are three or four restaurants on the NE corner. I've tried the mexican place that had wonderful caldos - there's a mariscos place, el pulpo I think, and a peruvian chicken place that's burning (don't tell the government or the kyoto people) real wood in the ovens to roast chickens.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jerome

                                                                                                                                                                                      A place that ONLY does 1 thing? That to me sounds.... promising. There is only one way to deliver optimal quality inexpensively.... through specialization. Much of L.A. is about convenience & price... the broadest menu, biggest portions at the lowest prices... that is the formula that tends to win out... of course also leads to crappy food. You just can't deliver a quality meal for $8... unless you are highly focused, efficient & specialized.

                                                                                                                                                                                      To boot they have head cheese as well! (Cold filling tortas are big gap in L.A's torta offering).

                                                                                                                                                                                      The one other thing that is often correlated between excellent meals that are inexpensive... the ICD (Improvised Cooking Devise)... some of the best meals in North America are cooked on recycled or repurposed materials (the new oil drum sliced in half, welded on to some legs & a grate... voila Webber can't touch this.... the re-manufactured go cart engine used to power the Al Pastor spit etc., etc.,).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'll second Jerome's rec. The cemitas are very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Jerome

                                                                                                                                                                                        Linking

                                                                                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                                                                                        Taqueria Don Adrian
                                                                                                                                                                                        14902 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91411

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Great list-- I think it's time for the five years later update!
                                                                                                                                                                                        Bar AMA- amazing tex mex. Josef Centeno rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock-- some of it is authentic and some is their own innovation but using a lot if precolombian ingredients like duck and venison. They make regular trips to Valle de Guadalupe and bring up olive oils and wines made there.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Moles la Tia for sure- Rocio Camacho also now has a place in Sun Valley I haven't tried yet

                                                                                                                                                                                        Huaraches Azteca

                                                                                                                                                                                        La Estrella-- for the al pastor. Good fish tacos too.

                                                                                                                                                                                        El Faisan y El Venado-- in highland park, authentic yucatecan food

                                                                                                                                                                                        Huaraches Azteca--still going strong

                                                                                                                                                                                        Antojitos Carmen was the best--rip. is that family still making food anywhere?

                                                                                                                                                                                        El Rey de Barbacoa-- stumbled on it once-- I think it was at Adams and Hill-- amazing goat

                                                                                                                                                                                        Chichen Itza, the sit down place closed but the stand in Mercado Paloma is still going strong

                                                                                                                                                                                        Guisados!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                          Rocio is no longer associated with Moles La Tía; she has two places called Rocio's Mole de los Dioses, one in Sun Valley and the other in Tarzana.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Antojitos Carmen is gone—I haven't found them and I don't think they're back cooking in the street. Nina has moved around a bunch—last time I saw her was across from the Breed Street Shul.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Mariscos Jalisco truck.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Tacos Leo for their al pastor.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Tacos Los Güichos in South LA for weekend carnitas done the right way.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm still looking for the amazing beef specialist to pop up in LA... some place that doesn't just say "carne asada" but talks about "diesmillo" and "palomilla" and "New York" and all the other cuts of meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                            Antonojitos Carmen moved to Iowa according to their twitter feed. Too bad I don't have business trips there anymore. It would be funny to pop in and tell them I followed them all the way out there.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jase

                                                                                                                                                                                              The Antojitos Carmen folks tweeted last month that they will be returning to LA and will be closer to Downtown LA. I don't know what that means because they also opened a place in Columbus Junction, Iowa, which is southeast of Iowa City.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jwsel

                                                                                                                                                                                                That's great news!

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                              Check out Cacao, they do excellent smoked their carne asada and do a NY steak too, machaca for breakfast

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                                I like Cacao, esp. the flor de calabaza but they are a bit heavy handed with the salt

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                              Rocio has a place in Tarzana as well, both have a great Sunday buffet

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                                Only thing to add is Taqueria Los Anaya in West Adams district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Something is truly wonderful about that place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Stravinsky

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have to give a shout out also to Colonia Taco Lounge in La Puente, Ricardo Diaz's new place. It has FANTASTIC tacos, and also very good cocktails. My favorite may actually be the fried cauliflower taco, but the Oaxacan beef stew also rocks as does the seared queso with bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I need to get over there!! To serve a taco of Caulifor Capiado hits you right at the heart and soul of everything that is Mexican.... J.Gold had mentioned it, but now that I have another hound report back of its wonderfulness, it might just be dinner tonight!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                                                                                                                      You won't be disappointed, it's delicious. They also make killer potato tacos and a nice chicken tesmole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: clintonhillbilly

                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/coloni...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/coloni...