Ciro’s

My blog has gone international. That’s right, it’s gone global.  How global? One reader in Korea, ahaha, but hey, I’m totally happy with that. She had requested that I update the blog so thank her for the update. This one’s for you noona!

Some setbacks have let me home having much time in my hands. In the beginning it was cool. I got to relax. But too much time led to my idleness and I felt I needed to establish a routine. Rather than sitting on my rear end and getting fat, I started going to a Muay Thai gym last week. It’s probably as close to Rocky as I’m going to get. When I signed up I was told, “When you walk through those doors, you’re ours.” I get a work out and learn a martial art, it’s a win-win situation. Well, my bruised feet and shins might not feel that way.

The gym being in the industrial part of downtown is pretty close to the Eastside. Heck, The Yard is pretty much at the western border of the LA River. What does that mean for me? I’m gonna cross those damn bridges and get me some breakfast in East Los. Heck yea.

Recommended by Valentina of Eastside Food Bites, I stopped by Ciro’s, down the block and across the street from Manny’s. If you’re not on the lookout for Ciro’s, I’d say it’s easy to miss. Dark windows and no flashy signs. You walk in, and you’ll be welcomed in by friendly people telling you to sit wherever you please. So I sit and I’m ready to order a complete meal after being worked at the gym.

Some chips and some salsa and avocados come out for you to snack on. Let me tell you, that’s $1.20 worth of avocado you get at Subway that Ciro’s just gives to you. I don’t know what it is with many of the places in the Eastside but what you get for your money is a pretty damn good deal. Anyway, last week I ordered the Chorizo and Eggs and a tamale.  Today was the Huevos Rancheros and a tamale. A complete breakfast.

So I’ve noticed a couple of different variations of the Huevos Rancheros.  You have one where the tortilla is deep fried with a slightly thicker ranchero sauce and you have on where the torilla isn’t deep fried but with the ranchero sauce not quite as thick.  I’ve come to like both kinds.  The Huevos Rancheros here is the non-fried variant.  The eggs are cooked right with the yolk a bit runny and the ranchero sauce… yum! Roll up the tortilla and soak up the sauce and yolk, yum again. The peppers and onions that were simmered in the ranchero sauce, with the egg, the tortilla, and the sauce all in your mouth create a party in your mouth. These are some good huevos rancheros.

The lady brings out my tamale and tells me that now I have a complete breakfast. The tamales here are pretty special. They are made only in the month of December and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. The one you see here is the pork tamale. The corn base is good and the meat is spiced well. They’ve got other tamales I want to try, for instance, the sweet one with pineapple, coconut, and raisin. There aren’t that many days left to get them so I better hurry. I think you should hurry too.

I’m pretty glad to have tried Ciro’s. The folks are friendly. The food is good. The portions are generous. Looks like I have a new breakfast joint to frequent.

Ciro’s
705 N Evergreen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: 323.269.5104

King Torta

You have got to be kidding me.  King Torta?  The king of tortas?  It’s on like Donkey Kong!  As much as I like tacos, and I really do like tacos, the torta is my favorite taqueria fare.  But in this great city, good tortas seem hard to come by.  Or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.  But if a place claims the torta is their specialty, I’m going to find a way to get there.

King Torta is in the neighborhood of Lincoln Heights.  I went for lunch on a weekday and was surprised to see many fellow Trojans there.  Turns out it’s very close to the USC Health Science Campus.  Good to know!  I think it’s safe to assume that the torta was probably the right thing to order.  And may I add that this seems to be a pretty popular joint.

I ordered the carne asada torta.  The carne asada itself was good and the salsa accompanied the torta well.  I think the salsa share a hint of similarity to King Taco’s salsa, just a hint.  The bread was a bit lacking though.  My favorite part of the torta is the bolillo bread.  I like it nice and soft, but the outside should be slightly buttered and toasted just enough.  And the taste…  I can’t believe I can’t describe how I like the bolillo to taste.  I obviously haven’t been to Super Tortas in a while.

King Torta is a nice option to have, especially if you’re in the Lincoln Heights area.  Fortunately, my church is in Lincoln Heights.  So if I’m feeling like torta and I need to go somewhere close, King Torta it is.

King Torta
4507 Valley Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Phone: 323.222.7006

King Torta 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

Mariscos 4 Vientos

After seeing pictures of the Shrimp Tacos on LA Taco, I knew Mariscos 4 Vientos would soon have to be crossed off my I-seriously-need-to-go-there list. I headed east on Olympic Blvd. and learned that the street suddenly ends in the Fashion District in Downtown and mysteriously starts elsewhere.  I started looking for the truck in unfamiliar territory.  Then I ended up on an intersection where I thought the truck was supposed to be at.  Great.  But I had to use the bathroom.  So I continued back on Olympic to find a supermarket or something.  Well, several blocks down, I found the brick and mortar location of Mariscos 4 Vientos with a bathroom.  Nice.  And then I had the Shrimp Taco experience at Mariscos 4 Vientos.  That was a few weeks ago.

I’ve gone a couple of times since.  I’ve never had anything quite like these tacos before and they’re great.  You have a generous amount of shrimp with some sort of mixture that’s in tortillas and then deep fried.  It’s covered in their salsa and a generous amount of avocado.  The salsa has a refreshing taste to it, kinda different from the salsas at other taquerias where they have more of an earthly taste.

But don’t stop with the Shrimp Tacos here.  Go on and try the other things that they offer.  The Tostada with Ceviche and Shrimp is pretty good too.  There’s a nice citrus flavor and may I add that they are very generous with the amount of shrimp they pile on.  And on every table there is a bag of tostadas which, I suppose, you can take as much as you please.  The Coctel de Camaron is also great.  Again, Mariscos 4 Vientos is generous with the shrimp.  The cocktail sauce has a nice sweetness to it.  The Coctel would be awesome on a hot summer day to cool you down.

This brings me to wonder… I wonder how some dining establishments are able to offer great food with generous portions at generous prices whereas other places offer great food but with not-so-generous portions at not-so generous prices.  Eh, I guess I do have some idea why: Cost of doing business, property value, supply and demand, the cost of living, etc. etc.  Well, can’t have everything your way, right?

Something that’s pretty neat is the roving bands that play here.  Live music!  With maybe a little price attached.

Mariscos 4 Vientos
3332 E. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Phone: 323.269.3605

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

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