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Yuca's Already!

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I bet you can think of a place that you just love, a place where, every time you eat there, you think, "Why do I bother with anything else?", a place that for some unfathomable reason, you have NOT seen raved about on the Chowhound boards. For me, that place (well, *one* of those places--it turns out I do bother with other stuff) is Yuca's.

It's not that I see Chowhound complaints about Yuca's, it's that I don't see any Chowhound mention of it at all. Actually, truth be told, I did see it mentioned once. It was recent, and it was done in a casual, this-is-nothing-new-of-course sort of way. So I know you all know what I'm talking about.

Yuca's. It's on Hillhurst north of Franklin in Los Feliz. It's not about ambience (those of you who know it are laughing right now, because you can't actually go inside this "place"), it's not about presentation. It's about the tacos. And the tortas, and the burritos, and the tamales on Saturday, and the other Yucatan delights on the menu (okay, hamburgers are on there too). It's about the carnitas and the carne asada. It's not a taco truck, and it's not a restaurant. It is an institution. And it's out of this world.

Thoughts? Several of you have mentioned this Tacos Baja Ensenada. I've never been. Has anyone been to both who can compare the two? I haven't found anything to top Yuca's, but I don't consider myself the *most* experienced taco connoisseur. Top 2%, maybe. :)

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  1. Au contraire! Yuca's many fine attributes are raved about here. The search engine is what needs a little tune up, I guess.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Christine

      Hmm. It is true that I don't know how to search the bodies of postings, only the titles. Maybe I need one of those lynx things (do I sound like I know even remotely what I am talking about?). Anyway, lest you all think I haven't done my Chowhound homework, I really have been reading a lot and I have done the searches, but to no avail.

      1. re: Peanut Mouse

        Go to the main page, once you have cut to the chow, enter Yuca's in the google box, or to get the older ones, the right hand box, and many options will come up for you and you can read away.

        1. re: Peanut Mouse

          A lot of the Yuca's raves are incidental to the subject line of the post (such as the recent query about eating before a Greek Theater date). Sometimes google catches these in the body of the text, sometimes not. It ain't perfect. Anyway, it sounds like you're doing the right thing.

          The search method Carter describes is one of many; I usually Control+F, but then it has to be in the subject line and spelled correctly.

      2. Yuca's just recently recieved a James Beard Foundation award, I for get what it was for but they must be doing something right.

        1. I've recommended Yuca's; I've included it in my site.
          But, because of it's lack of trendiness, I don't shout it around here!
          Can I now feel safe to post it without being berated?

          Link: http://home.pacbell.net/dagravy/html/...

          1. After reading so many raves about Yuca's for years, I just had to try it. I was quite disappointed. My girl and I ordered two burritos - one carnitas and one cochinita pibil. It was hard to tell the diference between the two meats, both were overly salty, and the pico de gallo in the burros consisted mainly of onions. Perhaps we went on an off day, but to be sure, we were bummed.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Moose

              I'd largely agree with this assessment. Better food can be found at Casa Diaz, just down the street at the intersection of Hollywood/Prospect/Vermont (yeah, that intersection).

              Try their chicken mole or their vegeterian.

              1. re: Moose
                l
                Los Feliz Native

                It may have been an off day (although the first respondent's agreement makes me think it might be more a matter of taste), but I have to say Yuca's is usually really, really good. I bring people from out of town (true foodies among them) and they say they've never had better tacos. That might also be the reason for your displeasure--the tacos, and for most people the tortas, are what Yuca's is there for, in my opinion. I've only had a burrito there once--bean and cheese--and I thought it was sort of boring and not even as good as, dare I say it, Baja Fresh's pinto and cheese.

                I almost always order a carnitas and a carne asada taco, but sometimes I get a carnitas torta. With these, I have never been disappointed (and I've been eating there since I was a kid). The meat is tender and flavorful--it almost tastes like they've added a dab of butter to it (which I don't think they have), and I'm not sure the "too-oniony" pico de gallo is even supposed to be pico de gallo. The corn tortillas are always fresh and pleasingly gritty in your throat, and the cilantro is on top as it should be.

                And it's cheap as all get out.

                1. re: Los Feliz Native

                  Thanks for the feedback. One thing that also bothered me about Yuca's is the fact that they do not have any of the traditional red-hot and green salsas that is so common at most other Taquerias. Carnitas cries out for a tangy spicy tomatillo salsa, and carne asada comes alive with a nice pungent hot red chile-based salsa.

                  Perhaps you just may be right, it could be a matter of taste, but based on your feedback and suggestions, I'm willing to give it another go and try the items you suggested.

                  Long live Chowhounds!

                  1. re: Moose
                    l
                    Los Feliz Native

                    I know what you mean--they have a few bottles of Tapatio lying around, and that's about it (which I end up using, even if it is a poor substitute--the salsa makes a big difference). But, I've even enjoyed the carnitas tacos and tortas salsa-less, and I think it's still worth it.

                    If you do try it again, let me know how it turns out...I hope you have a better time!

                    1. re: Los Feliz Native

                      I usually take a few of the spicy pickled carrots to add that piquant zing to the asada burrito and pibil taco that I get every single time I go to Yucca's. Not quite the same as salsa, but the carrot definately adds a nice tang.

                    2. re: Moose

                      "One thing that also bothered me about Yuca's is the fact that they do not have any of the traditional red-hot and green salsas that is so common at most other Taquerias"

                      Are salsas traditional to Yucatan?
                      Besides, did you look inside the "kitchen" ?

                      IMHO, what makes Yuca's stand out isn't that it is "food to die for", but it's differences.
                      Some may like it, some may not.
                      But, it isn't your typical taqueria.

                      They don't even have chicken, let alone fish offerings.
                      How uncool is that?!

                      1. re: Curt

                        Are salsas traditional to Yucatan?

                        Very much so! Even our Tamales are topped with Salsa... We are a very saucy people! ;)

                        I will say that Yucas is NOT an Yucatecan restaurant (I never had Carnitas until a teen... and it was love at first bite! :)) and they just may have a spicer salsa roja in the back if you ask! :)

                        --Dommy!

                        1. re: Dommy!

                          What regional style is Yuca's food? What to make of the pibil, achiote & citrus juices, the bottled Yucateco hot sauces on the tables? I get that it's different from the food at Chicken Itza, but what is it?

                          -confused

                          1. re: petradish

                            So sorry to confuse you! I meant my statement to say that Yucas obviously does not follow strict rules regional rules of Yucatan when it comes to it's menu. So for that reason, it's can't be pegged with a label like Guelagetza or Chichen Itza..

                            The same thing can be said about Babitas, which is another Yucatecan 'inspired' restaurant, but they feature dishes with Huitlacoche and Chiles En Nogada, which are more commonly seen in the Capital and not Yucatan (My first Huitlacoche experience was in Chiapas... it's just not eaten much in the Yucatan...)

                            So, to answer your question, there is no 'style' to Yucas... it's a taco stand that happens to be owned by a Yucatecan guy and his family. Hence, he has on his menu one of the most common and favorite dishes of Yucatan, Cochinita, and the salsa you grew up on is always your favorite (Like, I never liked Pico de Gallo!)

                            Hope that answers your question! :)

                            --Dommy!

                            1. re: Dommy!

                              Too bad papa Herrera passed away last year. He and I would discuss his desire to open a Yucatecan restaurant with about 30-40 seats in that area where he could really do seafood and other Yucatecan food justice. He was such a nice man, as are his wife and Dora.

                              1. re: carter

                                Oh no!!! I haven't been to Yucas in AGES. I had no idea he passed away! He pegged me as a Yucateca right from the get go... :) He was indeed a very nice man...

                                --Dommy!

                              2. re: Dommy!

                                Hehe. But I was confused before this thread began! Thanks Dommy, I get Yuca's now. I had my first brush with Yucateco salsa there and I was so amazed by its texture & color, it reminded me of volcanic lava the way it clogged up the top of the bottle-love it!

                                1. re: Dommy!

                                  The reason Babita's features Yucatecan dishes is because it took over the space that used to belong to El Emparador Maya, which was a rather fancy Yucatecan restaurant with a devoted clientele, and there were a lot of people coming in asking for panuchos and salbutes. The owner/chef is from Los Mochis in Sinaloa, and he is very proud of his region.

                                  And as for the `hype' behind Yuca's - it was just a few blocks from Ruth Reichl's house when she was the restaurant critic for the L.A. Times, and it was the closest thing to a `real' L.A. taqueria that she ever wrote about, or probably even made it to. It's pretty good for the neighborhood, but I never thought it deserved its outsized reputation.

                                  1. re: condiment

                                    Thanks for some history about Babita! I had no idea the Chef was from Sinaloa... I have an uncle from there who is also an amazing cook (With meats!) I will be sure to let him know! :)

                                    --Dommy!

                    3. Personally, only the burritos are worth the trip...the beans are fantastic and make the food.

                      The tacos are small and meager - compare to tacos at Grand Central Market. I would say 4 yuca's tacos are the equal to one Roasttogo Carnitas taco- and not as good.

                      I'll repeat, however, that I love the conchinita pibil burrito and will drive to eat it.

                      Coachboy

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Coachboy

                        My standard order at Yuca's is a burrito, the only variation being pibil or carnitas, but always with extra hot sauce. The best $3.25 or thereabouts you can spend. Get a beverage next door at the liquor store.

                        1. re: Coachboy

                          I also have loved the conchinita pibil burrito for many many years. The carne asada is just ok imo. Recently had the conchinita pibil at Chichen Itza and WOW, that is darn good stuff.