Columbusing: Eastside

Foodies might know some of these things, but maybe not. I’m going to columbus these.

The eastside of LA, east of the LA River, is mostly Mexican. There’s all kinds of Latinos, and some of the other races, but the main commerce here is Mexican or American. For foodies, there are a few things to get, where you’re going to get something good.

Birria – not just the tacos, but the stew. Available at many restaurants, and a handful of specialty shops.

Tamales – shops specialize in this, and some bakeries sell it as well.

Bread – Mexican bakeries are based on French baking, and sell fresh bread, pan dulce, and cakes. Pan dulce is sweet bread usually eaten with coffee.

Carnitas – lard fried pork, sold in shops. Chicharron is also sold at these shops. Grocery stores also sell this.

Aguas – fruit and juice mixed with sugar and water. Doesn’t sound special, but it’s good.

Burritos – a Mexican American food. Al and Beas, and Lupe’s, sell a midcentury LA style burrito. Most others sell burritos more influenced by 1980s immigrant taqueria tacos.

Tacos – everywhere, and on the streets at night. Some have the spit with pastor. Some do a pan with simmering meats (these are really good). Some do birria quesotaco, the current trendy food. Some do organ meats. The current trend meat might be the crunchy tripas (milk guts). That’s my bias. I think chorizo taco is also trendy. Potato tacos are available at a few restaurants. I like Atacor.

Sugar cane – this is becoming a thing. Or maybe it was a thing and I didn’t know. This is really popular in the Vietnamese community, and I suspect the infrastructure for that is getting to the eastside.

Chilis – the grocery stores have the widest variety of chiles I’ve seen. They aren’t trying to be completist about it – Mexican Americans just eat a lot of dried chiles.

Corn – elotes. Corn on the cob with mayo and cheese. These are actually pretty hard to find nowadays, but walking vendors (ambulantes) used to sell these all over.

Churros – some bakeries have these. A couple trucks/carts sell them. Unlike the Costco ones, which seem to be made of bread dough, these are made with choux, and fried at the cart/truck/bakery.

Mariscos – seafood. Shrimp cocktails, ceviche, and campechana. Also tostadas.

Pollo Rostizado – this is basically El Pollo Loco, but on weekends on Whittier Bl. a couple places break out the charcoal and cook outside.

Beans – you can ask for them at any restaurant, whole or refried.

Hamburgers – it’s not a burger mecca, but there’s a lot of small chains that sell burgers. There’s no In N Out, or Habit, or Burger Im, but the locals Troy, Jim’s, Alex Jr., George’s and a few others are good enough to fend off the new big chains. Burgers went from meh to really good in a decade…. but the quality of these small shops has been pretty high for decades. Some taco shops also sell burgers, and, so far, so good, to me.

Raspados – basically snow cones. I don’t think these are so special, but they are better than regular snow cones.

Ice Cream and other things – Michoacana sells ice cream. Some stores have paletas, which are like popsicles or ice cream on a stick. There’s also nieves, which are like slurpees, but with different flavors.

Candied Apples – generally sold by ambulantes (walking vendors) but not that plentiful. They do the caramel, and one that’s rolled in chili powder and chamoy flavor. The latter is the one to get.

Mango chili – some grocery stores have these dried mango coated in mild chili powder. There are a bunch of different candies with the chamoy flavor.

Peanuts – ambulantes, often disabled, sell these. They come in a few forms: “Japanese” with the flour shell and soy sauce flavor; fried with chiles; chili lime flavored; plain roasted; pan roasted in the shell.

Otomisan aka Otemo, an old Japanese restaurant from the 1950s that looks like it. Sells Japanese food that tastes like the 1970s to me. I like it better than most Little Tokyo food.

Fried Chicken – it’s hit or miss, but there’s FC at Chinese fast food, and at the burger shops like Jim’s. There’s also a Pioneer Chicken. There’s a KFC that’s actually good on Lorena. It’s not as good as South Central, that’s for sure.

El Molcajete – on Beverly. I think this is the main El Salvadorian place that’s been around a long time. The fried yuca and chicharron is good. Pupusas are good, of course.


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