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Cemitas Poblanas (Culver City)

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I've been on a carnitas torta kick, so my friends and I decided to hit our favorite taco truck (Cemitas Poblanas) which is parked on Venice, in front of Smart & Final, in Culver City. When we got there, I remembered that I'd never tried the eponymous cemita, and decided to get that instead of a torta. Sadly, they were out of carnitas (boo!) so I ordered al pastor, which I usually prefer anyway.

The sandwich I received ranks easily among the best I've ever had. Unlike the torta, the cemita comes on a seeded egg roll with avocado, red sauce, and oaxacan string cheese. The roll was a nice contrast to the torta and provided ample structural integrity even as the pork nectar from the al pastor permeated the bread. But the creamy cheese, which comes in little ribbons like cabbage or lettuce, was what really made the sandwich. My main complaint with taco trucks is that the setting usually precludes dairy-based condiments like crema. The cheese provided just the right creamy component that's been missing for me.

We arrived after the lunch crowd and were able to snag the three folding chairs they keep in front of the truck. As we enjoyed our sandwiches in the sun of a perfect LA day, it occurred to me: if there is a sandwich heaven, this must be it.

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  1. Alright. I'm a MAJOR cemitas poblanas fan. My favorite these days is the truck on Venice at Sepulveda, that parks there late at night. I'm going to get this one, however. Today. Excitement is high.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Thi N.

      It's probably the best taco truck I've tried in WLA, but I'd never actually tried the cemita. It really was a revelation. The only downer was the al pastor nectar that stained my shirt like a blood spatter from Dexter...

      BTW, thanks for the tip re Venice and Sepulveda. I think I've tried that truck but never the cemita.

      1. re: Thi N.

        Out of curiosity, what's your favorite way to order cemitas from the Venice/Sepulveda truck?

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Milanesa de Pollo by FAR. They do an excellent rendition and the rather mild flavor of the meat really helps highlight the other flavors of cheese, chipotle and avocado...

          --Dommy!

          1. re: Dommy

            Went tonight... arrived around 7:45 and drove around all 4 points of the intersection looking for the truck before giving up.

            We made a U-turn and were heading east on Venice to go home, and were just under the 405 when we saw a catering truck at Sep & Venice about to make a U-turn. Lo and behold, the parked in front of a psychic shop just east of the 405. First customers of the evening... whoopie!

            We ordered 2 tacos (asada & al pastor), 2 sopes (pollo & chorizo) and 1 cemita. The taco meats were unremarkable... couldn't tell the asada from the al pastor. Not a good sign. The sopes bread was tasty, the chorizo greasy, the pollo lacking flavor. The cemita suffered none of these problems, though she forgot to but the proper bread and served it to us on a torta roll (not egg bread/no sesame seeds)

            So, in a nutshell, here's what we got....toasted/pressed roll, nicely crispy and soft, with a wispy thin breaded/fried milanesa cutlet, avocado, string cheese, spicy & smoky chipotle, and... what else? I don't know. It was wildly delicious, even without the egg roll & sesame seeds. Crispy, soft, salty, smoky, all wrapped up with love. The cemita cost $6, the tacos $1.25 and the sopes $2 each. Will definitely be back... thanks for the rec, Thi & Dommy :)

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              Have you tried the truck in front of the Smart & Final on Venice? I've only had the one on Sepulveda once and I rank that one after the S&F one.

              Actually the Sepulveda one would fall to third. Personally I prefer the S&F one followed by the one parked on Inglewood near Culver by Top Valu supermarket.

              Mind you, this is the beef milanesa for all three. But the times for all three don't really overlap so it does depend on when you want it. The S&F one is daytime. The Top Valu one late afternoon, early evening. Sepulveda late evening.

              1. re: Jase

                Last night was the first cemita of my life (and technically it's not, since it was served on a torta roll). So no, I've never tried the smart & final one, but after this experience, I fully intend to give it a shot.

                Mr Taster

              2. re: Mr Taster

                Yeah... the Cemita is the ONLY way to go w.r.t that truck.... and if you are feeling really adventurous next time order the Cemita of head cheese. The softer rich filling makes it seem like an even bigger indulgence...

                --Dommy!

                1. re: Dommy

                  What is w.r.t.?

                  We drove past the Smart & Final on Venice Friday night also, but didn't see a truck parked there.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I think he cuts out about 3:30-4PM.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Yeah, he's strictly a daytime operator....

                      --Dommy!

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      "Angelica," the Venice Blvd Smart & Final Cemitas Truck, works Monday through Saturday from about 11:00 AM to about 4:00 PM.

                    3. re: Dommy

                      With Respect To

                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                        yup... with regard to..

                        --Dommy!

            2. You should also try the cemitas from the truck (daytime only) on Cotner, at Pico, along side yet another Smart and Final. The cemitas rolls are fresh and delish, I love the milaneza (ask, it's not listed), and their carnitas. And if you're not getting the Cemitas, their homemade corn tortillas are fantastic too. Enjoy!

              20 Replies
              1. re: debra

                That truck is my 4th favorite cemitas in L.A.

                #1 is the Venice and Sepulveda night-time one.
                #2 is one that used to park in front of Mitsuwa at Venice and Centinela at lunch - but I haven't seen it for a while.
                #3 is at the meat market... uh.. La Zuba... zuberateca... something - on Santa Monica near Barrington.
                #4 is that one.
                #5 is one on Vermont around Beverly or something, at night.
                #6 is one that shows up at various places in K-town - like 5th near Vermont - at weird times of day.

                I actually find more cemitas poblanos in LA proper and Westside than I do in East LA - is it related to the large number of Oaxacan places out here? Central mexican community or something? I dunno...

                1. re: Thi N.

                  #3 is right near where I live -- this makes me very happy!

                  I gotta try the cemita at the night-time truck.

                  1. re: Thi N.

                    "#3 is at the meat market... uh.. La Zuba... zuberateca... something - on Santa Monica near Barrington."
                    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    I can't picture that place, and I live just around the corner -- a cemitas poblana right there, I'll be on the lookout. Thanks for the tips!

                    1. re: debra

                      It's a meat market. It's in a minimall on a unlighted small streetcorner, on the northeast corner. It's on the northwest corner of the streetcorner. When you walk in, most of the market is to your right, but the little steam table/food area is immediately to your left. The first four times I walked in (all in the late afternoon), there was a sign for cemitas poblanas, but they said they were out. The fifth time, I figured out that when they said they were out, they meant of the sesame rolls. I asked if he could make me one with a regular roll. He said, "of course, but it won't be right." I said I was crazy that way.

                      It's great, though... massive. It's not a tidy sandwich. Big chunky dudes passing in a truck saw me wrestling with the sandwich off the back trunk of my car and gave me an appreciative whoop.

                      #s 1 and 2 on the list are beatiful. #3 is more a big chunk of happy fun. Good times.

                      1. re: Thi N.

                        is this the meat market in the same center as Monte Alban? SM & Brockton? I can't remember it's name, but I'll drive by.

                        1. re: debra

                          Uh... maybe? It's a meat market. It's probably the one you're thinking of. It's in that same area - one of those four identical strip malls in a row on the north side, all with that extra shack in the middle of the parking lot. I think it's across from the Hollywood Video? I guarantee you: it's the only mexican meat market in that area that has a sign behind the steam table advertising its cemitas poblanas.

                          It's really a shockingly good area for Mexican... Juquila's specials, some of the roving taco trucks are excellent, that meat market for cemitas... There's a density of Mex places around there. The Americanized places outnumber the un-Americanized places, but there's a pretty great number of the latter, and they're easy to tell apart if you use your nose.

                          1. re: Thi N.

                            I'm pretty sure that's the one, even though it's not Barrington, as Thi N originally mentioned. I can't think of another carneceria along that stretch of SM Blvd. It's in the same mini-mall as both Monte Alban and El Super Taco.

                        2. re: Thi N.

                          It's La Zandunga --but not a Cemintas Poblanas in sight. There was some food in the steam trays, but no sign of a menu, or any cemitas sign, or fixins. I was there around 6:30 last night. I asked the ladies at the cash register if they had Cemintas Poblanas, and they said no. They weren't all that forthcoming, as in, no more today, or only during lunch... but really it was the steam try food, and lack of signage, that may have been sending me mixed messages. Maybe I'll try and swing by during the day, when I have a chance. I settled for a Torta from El Super Taco next door, which hit the spot.

                          1. re: debra

                            They might have taken it off the menu - last time I had it was 6 months ago, and there was a bright green hand-written sign directly behind the steam table that said Cemitas Poblanas. Whenever I've had it, it's from a stocky dude who runs the steam-table/meat counter.

                            And "no" in the past has meant "we're out of sesame seed buns" or "the cook has left" or maybe "you smell too funny today"- definitely not forthcoming.

                            1. re: Thi N.

                              Maybe they stopped serving them when El Super Taco opened. When did you last try them? I also wonder if El Super Taco makes them. They're not on the menu, but I'll ask next time I'm there.

                    2. re: debra

                      Thanks for the tip, deb (sorry, can't resist another Dexter reference)! These sandwiches are really a revelation for me. So much better than a torta, imo. I'm also intrigued by the promise of hand-made tortillas, which is something I like about my favorite westside taqueria, Tacomiendo.

                      1. re: debra

                        I believe the guy who owns the cemitas truck that is parked on Pico and Cotner is the brother of the Cemitas Poblanas truck guy parked in front of the Smart & Final on Venice in Palms/Culver City. If the truck on Pico is emblazened with, "Cemitas Poblanas," on the side, he's the brother...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Almost forgot - the brother of the better known "Cemitas Poblanas" truck parks his "Cemitas Poblanas" truck on Inglewood Blvd, just north of Braddock Drive, in the Mar Vista/Culver City area. He tells me he is normally there from around 4PM to about 10PM, Monday through Saturday... If you ask me, the cemitas from both trucks seem identically fantastic.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            B, do you mean the Pico/Cotner truck parks on Inglewood from 4pm through 10pm? Or is there a third brother?

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              If I correctly recall, the "little" brother (of the well-known Cemitas Poblanas guy) parks his truck on Pico - I'm pretty sure he said around Cotner - during the day - about 11 or 12PM to roughly 4PM, then drives over to Inglewood and Braddock from around 4PM to 10PM. Those hours aren't written in stone though. I was around Inglewood and Braddock around 5PM a couple of Fridays ago and was looking for a quick supper to hold me over while I took care the last couple of a long list of errands. I swung by there, and he was nowhere to be found. However, I do drive through that area pretty regularly, and I have seen him since...

                        2. re: debra

                          Tried the truck on Cotner at Pico for a late lunch. I think I must have hit them on an off day (or maybe too late in the day?) because my cemita was a little disappointing. The roll was toasted to the point of brittleness, providing poor structural integrity. The cheese was clumped together, more chewy and less creamy than the Venice truck. It's tough comparing the meat because I ordered carnitas today and al pastor at the Venice truck. Still, I've had carnitas at the latter and recall it being tastier there. I'll definitely give these guys another shot because I live closer to it. For the time being, however, I'd give the Angelica truck on Venice the edge in taste.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Had a similar experience about 2 wks ago. Chalked it up to a stale roll they'd heated to make it better. It's been several months since I tried the Venice truck. Hope it's not a trend! I had the milanesa btw, which was good, but just not great...also, the parking is nearly impossible at the Pico/Cotner loc. - I nearly got a ticket (sprinted back as the ticket guy pulled up to my car).

                            1. re: cant talk...eating

                              Hmmm...was it a man or woman who made your cemita? Bulavinaka mentions the owner is the brother of the Angelica truck, but it was a woman who made my cemita. Is it possible the Pico/Cotner truck was sold? Or maybe it depends on who's making the sandwiches?

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                I can't find the Cemitas Poblanas business card on which the locations and times were hand-written, so I can't verify if the Pico/Cotner truck is the other Cemitas Poblanas guy/brother. On my visits, both trucks are set up the same way. The orders are taken on a yellow tablet by a man and the grill is handled by a woman...

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  I think I goofed - the truck I referred to is just e. of Overland at Manning (still @ Pico), well east of Sepulveda.

                                  I just found the card - it's called Paloma Celestial (323) 535-3520.

                                  Looks like it's at Pico and Manning from 9AM to 4PM, and at Culver and Inglewood from 4PM to 10PM.

                                  There - now you have all the information you need on a middling cemita truck!

                        3. a_and_w, the name of the Cemitas Poblanas taco truck in Culver City is "Angelica."

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Norm Man

                            Thanks Norm Man -- can't wait to go back and try the carnitas version.

                            Also, just to clarify, the Angelica truck is only there during the day.

                          2. WOW!
                            just got back from my first cemita poblana. tried the carnitas version and it was fantastic! the carnitas were juicy and the seeded bun was deliciously soft on the inside and a little crisp on the outside. the oaxacan string cheese was both gooey and salty. it almost tasted meaty. i found the truck outside the smart and final on venice. however, yesterday i tried finding it on venice and sepulveda as some of the posters said it would be, but was out of luck. anybody know when the truck moves ie what it's schedule is?
                            anyways, good lookin out!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: lakeshow318

                              Angelica, the Culver City Smart & Final Taco Truck, can be found in front of Smart & Final Monday through Saturday from about 11:00 AM to 4-5:00 PM. After taht, they go home (at least that's what the Angelica guys told me).

                              The truck that parks at night at Venice Blvd and Sepulveda Blvd is another taco truck. I have read good things about this truck but I have not eaten there yet.

                              1. re: Norm Man

                                Could you please tell me which corner of Venice and Sepulveda? It takes a lot of maneuvering if I approach from the wrong direction.

                                What time does the late night truck get there?

                                1. re: mar52

                                  Forget all this driving around looking for trucks -- how 2008 is that? -- and just go to Don Adrian's Cemitas Poblanas:

                                  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/val...

                                  Enjoy.

                                  -cb-