Café de Leche

I think I find appealing any name of an eating establishment that has the slightest thing to do with milk.  After I go on a taco crawl on York Blvd., I usually pass by a closed cafe on the corner of York Blvd. and Ave. 50.  The name was appealing and so was the interior, or at least what I could make of it from the outside at night.

After lunch at Pho 87 with a church friend, P, we checked out Café de Leche.  Parking was easy to find and the place wasn’t crowded.  A nice little spot to chat and enjoy a Saturday afternoon.

P got the “pan de guava” (pictured above) and a “Chaichata,” a mix of chai tea and some good ol’ horchata.  I got a “dulce de leche kiss” (pictured below) and an “Espresso con Horchata.”

I don’t drink coffee so I can’t say much about how great the espresso was.  But I can say the horchata kind of toned down the strength of the espresso which you can probably tell by the color of my drink.  It was a good mix though.

It seems like the Chaichata and the Espresso con Horchata were the only two horchata-infused drinks on the menu.  There’s also a selection of loose leaf teas and other coffee drinks as well.

Picture this.  Two carne asada tacos and a carnitas taco with a bottle of Jarritos from the Tacos La Estrella Truck a few blocks away on York Blvd. and Ave. 54 and an afternoon spent at Café de Leche to top it off.  Hey, I’m a content man.

Café de Leche
5000 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.551.6828

Cafe de Leche on Urbanspoon

Taco Crawl on York Blvd.

This post is to pay homage to the folks over at York Blvd. and to Eat Drink & Be Merry. A couple of posts on “York Blvd.” and the taco post of taco posts by “Eat Drink & Be Merry” inspired me to go on a taco crawl of my own.  It took me some time to get familiar but once I had things down, I was confident about this particular crawl.  I put together what I could find from both of these blogs and what I came across was a glorious feast of tacos for about $10.

On a certain stretch of York Blvd. in the neighborhood of Highland Park, on a good day, you’ll have yourself about five taco stands and trucks to choose from.  Let the journey begin…

York Blvd. & Milwaukee

These folks used to be over on York Blvd and Ave 56 but they moved east quite a bit to where they currently set up.

There aren’t that many places that serve al pastor with pineapple but this is it.  The sweetness the pineapple goes really well with the al pastor.  And this combo goes great with their handmade tortillas.

The tripas here are not so bad and the chorizo here ain’t that bad either.  But at this particular stand, it’s all about the al pastor and pineapple on their handmade tortillas.  Dress it with onions and cilantro, squeeze some lime on it, and top it with the green salsa that kind of looks like guacamole, and you’ll have some happy taste buds.  Make sure you specifically ask for some pineapple.  And ask for the green onion as well.  It’s another great addition to the taco.  Tacos here are a dollar each.

York Blvd. & Ave. 57

It was my first time seeing this stand.  Tacos and Enchiladas.  They set up across the street from the stand with the al pastor and pineapple and the closest signal light is a block away.  You’ll need to do some crazy J-walking to get there.  Try doing that with a group of 11 people and you’ll get madness.

I didn’t try the enchiladas here though most of the people in my group did.  I didn’t want to fill up my stomach with enchiladas.  It was too early in the game to fill my stomach.  So I passed.  But it’s an interesting addition to the scene on York Blvd.

Birria de Chivo on York Blvd. & Nolden

This trailer is well known among those searching for some great birria.  Birria is goat meat for those who didn’t know.  It was getting dark so I couldn’t get a picture of the tacos.  Goat isn’t for everyone.  It leaves a heavy aftertaste, kind of like certain Mediterranean food.  If you like that, then I totally recommend it.  The chorizo here is pretty  dang awesome too.  Tacos here are a dollar each.

Pupusas on York Blvd. & Ave. 56

I have yet to get my hands dirty when it comes to Salvadorean food.  I’ve tried the pupusas here when they first began to set up towards the latter part of last year.  It was my first time trying pupusas and it seemed like the people here weren’t in business that long.  I didn’t really know what to order so somehow I ended up with a pupusa filled with beans.  I’m not big on beans.  Also, what I got was falling apart way too easily.  It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like it as much as I did tacos.  So this time around, I decided to pass on the pupusas.  But I guess practice makes perfect.  The pupusas they were hammering out today looked quite good and literally intact.  They do take some time to make but I’m willing to give these pupusas another try the next time I’m here.  I believe the pupusas are a dollar each.

York Blvd. & Ave. 56

What I like here is the al pastor.  I feel like the al pastor itself is actually better than the taco stand with the al pastor and pineapple.  But the pineapple does a lot of great things.  Anyway, it’s not cooked on a spit here but that’s okay.  The chunks are bigger and the meat actually tastes better.  The carne asada tacos here are pretty good too.  I remember the first time I was here they had tripas.  They made some mean tripas.  But that was the only time I’ve seen them have tripas.  Tacos here are a dollar each.

Tacos La Estrella on York Blvd. & Ave. 54

It sucks that this is the only picture I’m going to give you.  But don’t worry.  On a brighter day and when I won’t be nearly as full as I was, I will give you some better pictures.  This post is a work in progress.

But fortunately, I’ve been here enough times to know what is good.  May I recommend to you the carnitas and the carne asada.  At one point, the tacos from Tacos La Estrella were my favorite.  The carnitas here is great.  The carne asada was pretty good, but I’ve had better.  However, when judging the taco as a whole package, I had to give the carne asada taco here a big nod of approval.  The tortilla was cooked perfectly where you had a bit of crisp to it.  And must I mention their salsa roja?  It wasn’t too spicy where all you feel is heat and it had enough of that smoky taste as well.  It’s perfect.  Oh yeah, and did I say the carnitas taco is great here too?  Al pastor isn’t that bad either.  Also, this is I believe one of four locations.  Tacos are $1.25 each.

El Pique on York Blvd. & Ave. 53

This truck is literally a stone’s throw away from the La Estrella truck.  And at this point of the taco crawl, I was too full to even eat anything.

I’m not too big on the tacos here, though the al pastor here is pretty good.  But what I really like here is the quesadilla.  This is the last stop on the York Blvd. taco crawl, or first if you’re coming from the opposite direction.  But assuming this is the last stop, if you’re not full at this point, though I don’t know how you wouldn’t be, a quesadilla will do the trick.  But really though, I think you should try their quesadilla outside the context of a taco crawl.  The quesadilla with carne asada here is pretty money.  They’re generous with the mozzarella cheese, but my favorite part… I really like how they grill the quesadilla so that the tortilla is nice and crisp.  And both the salsa roja and salsa verde go well with the quesadilla.

The course… It’s literally all on one street.  Before the taco stand with al pastor and pineapple moved, it was a good course to walk all the way through.  Now, you may need a little driving to do.  So after your tacos with al pastor and pineapple, drive to the birria truck.  After some birria, I suppose you could walk but the next stand is a couple of blocks away, driving isn’t a bad idea.  Once you’re on Ave 56, walking to La Estrella isn’t that bad.  But should you decide to walk the whole thing, prepare for a long walk back.

Trucks are parked throughout the day and until late night.  Stands begin to set up around 6PM and should close at around 10PM, and they’re usually there every day but on occasion, they may not set up.

For the crawl itself, bring a lot of one dollar bills.  Giving them a $20 bill is a disservice to them and if you could prepare that ahead of time, that’d be great, and you wouldn’t need to worry about them not having change.  Also, come in comfortable shoes to walk in and bring some outerwear just in case it gets cold.  Most importantly, be prepared to EAT!

This post is a work in progress.  When I can, I’m going to update with more pictures and actually have pictures of the food I’m talking about.  Stay tuned.

Chico’s

In 8th grade, my uncle and aunt took me and my best friend at the time to Las Vegas so we could watch Battle Bots live! I was so excited that I was going to see this clash of metal. My personal favorite was Overkill. So I was definitely stoked to go see that. We met up at my uncle’s house on Mt. Washington. For dinner, we went over to some small little Mexican place nearby. In this small little Mexican place I had my guacamole experience. Before, I absolutely disliked guacamole and I didn’t know why. I never wanted to try it either. And I don’t know what made me decide to try it on this particular day. But I fell in love with guacamole since.

The only problem was that I was only in 8th grade and didn’t know where anything was, nor did I remember. For eight years, I’ve been having guacamole that just wasn’t as good but helpless because I had no idea where I had this excellent guacamole. Then it all came to me after my first trip to My Taco for some potato tacos. I was heading over to My Taco and some parts looked familiar, then I saw the Mt. Washington sign and realized my uncle lives here… Passed by a supermarket which looked familiar. On my way back to USC from My Taco, I saw Chico’s. Shoot!!! Small Mexican place near the supermarket at the base of a mountain. This has got to be it. This has definitely got to be it. I was getting so excited.

I went back to USC and looked up Chico’s on yelp. I saw a picture of a table and seat and started to get even more excited. But I did have a little chance for doubt still left. The only way to get to the bottom of things was to go try their guacamole.

So I did. I went and ordered the guacamole along with a chile relleno. The guac came out and I was filled with joy. This was it. This was THAT guac. And I didn’t even taste it yet at that point. What makes Chico’s guacamole different from others, aside from it’s taste, was some white crumbly stuff that’s in it. I believe it’s cotija cheese but I could be wrong. Then I ate it with their chips. Let me tell you, I was a happy man.

It really sucked to set the guacamole at Chico’s as a standard for all other guac. Only thing that came close from the guacamole I’ve had was the one at El Cholo. As gringo as that establishment may be, they have some good guacamole. But still, I couldn’t find anything that was good as this.  The guacamole at Chico’s is of the chunky kind, the avocados aren’t completely mashed.  You can’t really taste the cotija cheese as the taste of the lime, cilantro, and onions are stronger, but again, to my eyes, it’s what made it distinct.

The guac here is great and the food here isn’t bad.  I’ve been getting the tampiquena (carne asada and enchilada) here the last couple of times and it’s good.  The chile relleno isn’t bad either.  The food is good but I don’t find myself raving about it.  It’s all about the guacamole at Chico’s.  So if you’re around Highland Park and you’re looking for some good guacamole and Mexican food that’s not bad, stop by.  Or maybe you can order chips and guacamole from here and walk over a block and a half for some bomb lobster burritos at Via-Mar.

Oh yeah, and Battle Bots… I remember that I had good time but what I took away from that trip was an appreciation for guacamole. And I guess it technically wasn’t even a trip at that point because I was still in LA.

Chico’s
100 N Ave 50
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.254.2445

Chico's on Urbanspoon

El Huarache Azteca

It is said that El Huarache Azteca is THE place to go in Los Angeles if you want a “huarache.”  The sad thing is that the times that I’ve been here, it wasn’t for a huarache.  Heck, I’ve never even had one, ever.  A shame, I know, but what can you do.  Just from trying to describe what it looks like, all I can say that it looks like a humongous sope.

But I can tell you this.  El Huarache Azteca serves a mean plate of Huevos Rancheros.  After browsing through blogs that dealt with the neighborhoods east of the LA River, I came across Chanfles.  It’s a great blog based in Lincoln Heights and gives you a perspective of Los Angeles that isn’t the Westside’s.  In addition to being a blog for the community, El Chavo seems quite dedicated in finding the perfect plate of Huevos Rancheros.  El Huarache Azteca is up there for him and after reading that the tortillas were deep fried, I just couldn’t resist.

The plate of Huevos Rancheros were just perfect for me.  Before this, I was only used to the tortillas that weren’t deep fried.  Little did I know how much of a difference deep-frying the tortilla could make.  Not only that, the eggs were cooked perfectly; the yolk was cooked just right where it didn’t run all over the place but just enough.  And then the ranchero sauce.  The tomato and chili are blended so well.  It fit my Korean palate just perfectly.  The same goes with the rice that comes on the side.

El Huarache Azteca is a nice spot in Highland Park.  The restaurant itself is very tiny but the food gets made pretty quickly.  If you’re here, you should probably try the huaraches as I’m probably not wrong in saying that it’s their specialty.  But if you’re here during breakfast, the huevos rancheros aren’t a bad choice.

El Huarache Azteca
5225 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.478.9572

Huaraches Aztecas on Urbanspoon

Via-Mar

As a Westsider, Lobster Burritos are probably something I expect in my neck of the woods.  And they would probably command at least double what I paid for at Via-Mar.  Would it be as good?  I can’t say.  But take the word of this gringo here if it means anything to you, the Lobster Burrito at Via-Mar is pretty darn money!

I felt I needed a Lobster Burrito so I drove on over to Highland Park.  Via-Mar is on Figueroa in between Ave. 51 and Ave. 52.  Street parking in the area should be abundant.  I’ve hit a good streak of Mexican seafood places.  I’ve only tried two though, hahaha.  The other being Mariscos 4 Vientos in Boyle Heights.

I ordered the Lobster Burrito, a Shrimp Taco, and an Horchata to wash all the goodness down.  Let me start with the burrito.  Pretty sizeable chunks of lobster have a light batter on them and is fried to a perfect crisp.  The fried lobster is just tasty itself.  It’s wrapped in a warm tortilla with rice, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, crema, and some hot sauce.  The crema adds a slight sweetness as well as richness to the taste of the overall burrito but it is nicely balanced with hot sauce that adds a slight lingering kick.  This stuff is legit.  This stuff is good.

The Shrimp Taco was good as well, but I was full enough from the burrito.  After a few bites into the taco, I started picking off the shrimp. It was sitting as I was eating my burrito and I was surprised the shrimp wasn’t that soggy.  Oh, the shrimp is also fried like the lobster.  But at $2.75 for this taco, I feel it’s a better deal to get this in burrito form.  The same probably goes for the lobster burrito which is at $6.  The other time I was here, I got the Lobster Burrito and the Shrimp Taco Dorado-style (hard-shell/deep-fried).  I felt the Dorado Shrimp Tacos were a lot better at Mariscos 4 Vientos and it’s a bit cheaper at $1.50.

That being the case, come here for Lobster Burritos.  I think it’s a pretty good deal for what they put out.  And I’m not taking anything away from the fact that it’s pretty good regardless of price.

Via-Mar
5111 N Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.255.4929

Via-Mar Seafood on Urbanspoon

My Taco

As a transfer applicant, I applied to only one school.  That school being USC.  USC was where I wanted to go and that was it.  I wanted to be a Trojan for two primary reasons.  The first was that I wanted access to the alumni network; I wanted in on the Trojan Family.  The second reason was that I liked its location.  That raises brows considering that USC isn’t in the best of locations.  That doesn’t matter so much to me because I don’t live around there.  I like how USC is just so close to everything. After experiencing Trojan Football, I guess you can throw in football as a third reason. That probably tells you something about my priorities.

I liked that it’s so close to Downtown, Koreatown, not too far from Hancock Park, Los Feliz, Miracle Mile, the Fairfax District, and it’s not too far from home.  By the way, I live much closer to UCLA, and I’m not a big fan of the Westside.  Today, I went to Highland Park to go to My Taco.  I’m not familiar with the area and didn’t realize until I was driving back to USC that my uncle lives in that area, Mt. Washington.  And it’s so damn close to school, only about a 15 minute drive.  That’s only 15 minutes away from taco-capital.  Freaking awesome.

My Taco is a taqueria minus the taqueria feel.  It’s clean.  There’s an attempt at decor, it’s quite colorful in there.  They have a nice LCD TV in there.  It just doesn’t feel like a taqueria.  But the taqueria prices are still there.  I ordered the Tacos Dorados with potatoes… Man, I love hard shell tacos.

The entry on York Blvd. about the potato tacos describe them well.  It truly is “a blank palette for a good salsa.”  My Taco has a nice little salsa bar that’s clean and definitely fresh.  And man, the carrots there are great too.  I wasn’t so big on their guacamole salsa, but it definitely was thick.  The guacamole that came with my potato tacos on the other hand was to my liking.

Though the tacos dorados were deep fried, it wasn’t as heavy as I expected hard shell tacos to be.  It wasn’t drenched in oil like the hard shell tacos at Campos.  And I liked it like that.

While driving through Highland Park to get back to USC, I was being exposed to a part of Los Angeles that I’ve never really touched other than vague memories of going to my uncle’s house in Mt. Washington.  This is what I love about Los Angeles.  There is just so much to the city; the diversity, the different experiences, and the different vibes you get with the different neighborhoods you go to.  There’s so much to experience here.  Los Angeles doesn’t get old; only if you let it.

My Taco
6300 York Blvd Ste 4
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.256.2698

My Taco on Urbanspoon

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