Tag Archives: Best Mexican Food LA

End of the World Party

As you may have heard, the last day of the 5,125-year-long Mayan calendar is December 21st of this year. Is the world going to end on that day? Probably not. Is it a good reason for an end of the world party? You bet! And I know exactly where to get the food. Chichen Itza Restaurant, named after the ancient Mayan city, specializes in Mexican cuisine from the Yucatan region (where the Mayans lived) and is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s located in the awesome Mercado La Paloma Community Marketplace, a cool and funky warehouse-like space/food court where you can get inexpensive gourmet grub, view an art show and buy a dress for a quinceanara. Mercado La Paloma was also the home of my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Mo-Chica, until it moved to swankier digs a few weeks ago.

I’ve had almost everything on the menu at Chichen Itza and I love every dish there. The Kibis are an amazing way to start your meal. Introduced to the Yucatan by Lebanese immigrants more than a century ago, they are ground beef and cracked wheat patties which have been seasoned with mint and spices, fried golden brown and served with Yucatecan pickled red onions. I also recommend the Sikil-Pac, a dip made with roasted tomatoes, pumpkin seeds & chives, and served with tortilla chips. The Tacos de Chicharron, made with crispy fried pork cracklings, pico de gallo and diced avocados are really unusual and a must-have. But my favorite dishes of all are the Queso Relleno, which is edam cheese stuffed with ground pork, olives and capers and served with a white sauce, and the Cochonita Pibil, a very popular Yucatecan specialty of braised pork which has been wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf with achiote marinade. To drink, get an Agua de Chaya, a sweet beverage made with a leafy green vegetable known as “tree spinach.” I know that a green vegetable drink might not sound appealing but trust me on this one. Like everything else at Chichen Itza, it’s really good!

Chichen Itza is located at 3655 S. Grand Ave in Los Angeles (South LA near USC).



Tacos de Chicharron

Queso Relleno

Cochonita Pibil

Poc Chuc (thin slices of pork loin, cooked over mesquite charcoal, marinated with sour orange juice served with roasted red onion, roasted tomato sauce, avocado, black bean puree and corn tortillas)

Platanos con Crema

Queso Napolitano

Agua de Chaya

Chichen Itza on Urbanspoon

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Attack Of The Killer Burrito

It’s surprising that until a few weeks ago, I’d never been to Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe in Boyle Heights. Serving up traditional Mexican food since 1955, El Tepeyac is an LA institution known for its legendary “Hollenbeck Burrito.” The restaurant was suggested to me by my friend Frank Buckley, anchor extraordinaire of the KTLA 5 Morning News, who does not play jazz flute like Ron Burgundy, but does knows a thing or two about good food. While Frank had heard about El Tepeyac, he too had never actually been there so we decided to check it out together to see if the burritos lived up to the hype.

Walking into El Tepeyac was like walking back in time into a different era. The restaurant is a small and lively diner packed to the gills with affable Angelenos of all races, ages, shapes and sizes. Presiding over the party is diminutive (in stature only) 78-year-old owner Manny Rojas, who arrives for work at the restaurant at 3am every morning and stays until early afternoon. Manny is incredibly charming and treats all of his customers as if they are his family or close friends. He loves to flirt with the ladies and greets many of his female customers with a kiss, while he welcomes the male clientele with a warm handshake or a hug. Manny poured Frank and me shots of tequilla from his private reserve and regaled us with stories of his youth interspersed with bits of his life philosophy. He is quite the character and no doubt a large contributing factor to the restaurant’s success.

But the food is also a huge draw at El Tepeyac, especially the delicious burritos that we devoured. My favorite was the Machaca Hollenbeck Burrito (pictured above), which contained shredded beef, sautéed onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, eggs, melted cheddar cheese, rice, beans and guacamole and was topped with ranchero sauce. There was a lot going on inside that flour tortilla but it all worked and I loved it! I also really enjoyed the original Hollenbeck, which contained chile verde (pork meat in chili sauce), rice, beans and guacamole and was topped with more chile verde. El Tepeyac has other burritos on its menu as well, including “Manuel’s Special Burritos,” which are ridiculously gigantic six-pound versions of the Hollenbecks. I seriously think that a family of four could come in, order only a single Manuel’s Special Burrito, split it four ways, and each family member would have a filling meal. There is a wide assortment of other Mexican dishes on the menu including huevos rancheros, chile rellenos, tacos, taquitos, tostadas and quesadillas, but the real stars of the show here are the burritos, and of course Manny.

Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe is located at 812 N. Evergreen Ave., Los Angeles (in Boyle Heights). A second location recently opened at 13131 Crossroads Pkwy South, City of Industry.

Original Hollenbeck Burrito de Chile Verde

Chile Relleno

An LA institution since 1955

Frank and Manny

El Tepeyac Café on Urbanspoon


Filed under Boyle Heights, City of Industry

You Had Me at “Cacao”

CaCao Mexicatessen, a cute little place in Eagle Rock, describes itself as a modern version of a Mexican deli that pays homage to Mexico’s greatest contribution to the Culinary World — Chocolate!  This is misleading.  While you order at a deli counter, CaCao Mexicatessen is simply one the best gourmet Mexican restaurants in the city.   And while they serve awesome hot chocolate drinks and offer some great mole dishes, this place is about so much more than chocolate and mole.

The menu is extensive and full of so many amazing small plates of perfection, it is hard to know where to begin.  The Carnitas de Pato (duck confit, avocado, vinegar onion, radishes and chili oil) as either a taco or a sope is a must-have.  As is a taco or sope made with the Chorizo Rojo Con Papa (house-made spicy ground pork seasoned with Mexican spices, dried potatoes and topped with onion, cilantro and salsa).  The Chile Rellenos at CaCao are perhaps the best I’ve ever had.  Their standard Chile Rellenos incorporates squash blossoms, green pumpkin seed mole, imported Oaxacan and Jack cheese, and roasted corn.  A special version I had recently had Chorizo Tejano, Salsa Ranchera and Crema de Habanero.  If you feel like going more exotic, I also recommend getting a taco with the Conejo Con Granada tacos (rabbit confit with a four chile pomegranate sauce) and one with the Wild Boar Chorizo Verde. CaCao has many great vegetarian tacos as well, including an excellent one made with fried hibiscus flowers.  Make sure to go there with a group so you can sample as many things as possible!

CaCao Mexicatessen is located at 1576 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles (in the Eagle Rock neighborhood, mid-way between Glendale and Pasadena).

A cute, small and brightly-colored restaurant

Hot Cacao, the speciality of the House

Carnitas de Pato (duck confit) taco and sope

Flor de Jamaica (hibiscus flower) taco

Mole Poblano (chicken mole) tacos

Conejo con Granada (rabbit with four chile pomegranate sauce) taco

Cacao Mexicatessen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Eagle Rock