Eat Your Way through East LA

Posted on February 10, 2011


Eat Your Way through East LA
by AnneLise Sorensen

This story captures my philosophy about living as a “global local” – and traveling in your own backyard. I wrote it for New York Magazine this month – click here. And, now on my blog I’m including the longer, “unabridged” version – starting with the food. Stay tuned for more.

Engage in two of LA’s less fashionable activities: public transport and eating. Escape the clogged freeways and explore the Latino culinary trail through East LA and Boyle Heights on the expanded Metro Gold Line.

Huarache at La Placita del DF, LA (Photo: © AnneLise Sorensen)

Bite gingerly into huitlacoche at La Placita del DF (1859 East 1st St, 323/780-8232; Metro: Mariachi Plaza) and discover that corn fungus is delicious, filling the mouth with an earthy, almost smoky flavor. Fresh huitlacoche (rather than canned) is hard to find north of the border, and the delightful owner – Señora Columba – strips it straight from the corn. Try the quesadilla with huitlacoche ($4.50), and the huarache, an oblong maize tortilla ($4.50), shaped like a sandal, and hence its name, topped with peppery beef.

Mural in Mariachi Plaza, Los Angeles (Photo: © AnneLise Sorensen)

Spear a juicy chunk of goat, wrap it a warm tortilla, and dunk it into a lip-tingling, garlic-and-chile broth at Birrieria Jalisco (; Metro: Mariachi Plaza). There are two sizes: An orden (full-order; $9.75) or media orden (half-order; $8.25) of roast kid, which is all they serve. The menu makes this clear with a tart reminder: “No servimos arroz o frijoles” (no rice or beans). The setting’s equally straightforward: A point-and-pick wall menu with close-up photos of each dish; lazily spinning fans; and a touch of the home country with faux hacienda arches.

Al and Bea’s, Los Angeles (Photo: © AnneLise Sorensen)

Join the line, from cops with squawking radios on their belts to City Hall lawyers, that snakes out of Al & Bea’s (2025 E. 1st St, Tel 323/267-8810; Metro: Soto). Go purist with a bean-and-cheese burrito ($2.50), a blistered, flour-dusted tortilla swollen with deliciously fatty refried beans. Order at one window, pick up at another, and wolf it down at sun-faded outdoor tables that look out of a highway rest-stop. Time for dessert: Take the Metro four stops to the Atlantic station and pop in to the pastel-hued Las Delicias ( for frothy strawberry-and-milk licuados (smoothies; $3.50).

Travel Transforms: Fat burritos: $2. Licuado strawberry smoothies: $3.50. Riding the metro and avoiding the clogged LA freeway? Priceless.

Posted in: Los Angeles