Ξ February 27th, 2010 | → | ∇ Highland Park |
I’m a sucker for lists, so I was eager to peruse LA Weekly’s 99 Things to Eat in LA Before You Die, looking for some local representation. Here are the four dishes from Northeast LA that made the cut, and one more that should have based only on last night’s dinner:
Casa Bianca’s Sausage-and-Eggplant Pizza
First off, this is a California interpretation of thin-crust Southside Chicago bar pizza, so if you didn’t grow up rooting for the White Sox, back off: It doesn’t resemble the pizza from Taconelli’s or any place named Ray’s because it’s not supposed to, and it’s cut into diamonds instead of slices because that’s the way it’s done. Secondly, you don’t like canned mushrooms? Don’t order it with mushrooms. You’re offended by the idea of pineapple? Don’t order the Hawaiian. The pasta isn’t al dente? Go to one of those fancy places where the valet charge alone is more than the cost of feeding a family here. But if you’re in the mood for dense, crunchy, chewy, half-burnt, family-cooked pizza with fried eggplant and homemade sausage, nothing even comes close. Casa Bianca, 1650 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 256-9617.
Huarache de Cabeza
A huarache, the definitive unit of Mexico City street food, is a flattish, concave trough of masa shaped like a size-12 sandal, pan-fried or deep-fried, then smeared with beans, sprinkled with meat and layered with lettuce, grated cheese and cream. Part of the fun is eating the thing — a huarache is too brawny to attack with a flimsy plastic fork, and you will either burn your fingers or wait for your lunch to cool into corn-flavored cement. Emily Post provides no guidelines for eating a huarache. You can have a huarache topped with almost anything, from the black corn fungus called huitlacoche to standard-issue steak, but I like it best with cabeza — rich, gelatinous meat pulled from a cow’s head and cooked down into an ultraconcentrated essence of beef. El Huarache Azteca #1, 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park. (323) 478-9572.
El Atacor #11’s Potato Tacos
You will encounter many schools of thought when it comes to these tacos, some of which call for coarsely mashed spuds, others for herbs, and still others for a wallop of chorizo. But all pale before El Atacor #11’s tacos de papa: thin corn tortillas folded around gooey spoonfuls of puree and fried to an indelicate, shattering crunch. The barely seasoned potatoes ooze out of the tacos with the deliberate grace of molten lava. The glorious stink of hot grease and toasted corn subsumes any subtle, earthy hint of potato, and guacamole-drenched tacos de papasevaporate so quickly from the table that you understand why they come 10 to an order. El Atacor #11, 2622 N. Figueroa St., L.A. (323) 441-8477.
Good Girl Dinette’s Chicken Pot Pie
I have occasionally posited the existence of universal comfort food, dishes that would convey warmth and love and abundance as well to an Inuit as it would to a Jain, in Canada as well as in Kyrgyzstan. Then I start daydreaming about fermented mare’s milk, and the afternoon goes downhill from there. But if you were going to compile such a roster, you could do worse than to include Good Girl Dinette’s chicken potpie, a classically transcultural dish of yellow Vietnamese curry, peas and carrots and everything, baked under a dense, buttery biscuit crust. Good Girl Dinette, 110 N. Avenue 56, Highland Park. (323) 257-8980.
Eibis Restaurant’s Arabes: I wrote a pretty sophomoric post a few months ago about hunting down an Arabes truck in East LA, comparing it to Ahab’s White Whale from Moby Dick. The irony of course is that I drive within two blocks of Eibis Restaurant , which specializes in Poblano food, every day. As a prerequisite for writing a food post I have to sprinkle a little knowledge on the dish at hand: Allegedly, Arabes trace their origins to Lebanese immigrants to central Mexico who brought spices from their homelands and applied them to pork, instead of the beef and lamb that was more common in Lebanon. (For two other examples of successful Lebanese-Mexican fusion, see Salma Hayek, and Carlos Slim.) At Eibis, the pork is roasted on a veritcal spit on the street (so as to maximize the exposure to exhaust emissions), filled with some salsa, and rolled into pan arabe, essentially a slightly thick flour tortilla, that has been warmed in corn oil. One word of warning: I don’t think anyone at this restaurant speaks English beyond “hello”. If you don’t speak Spanish, bring a friend, or prepare a script in advance.Eibis Restaurant 231 North Avenue 50 (323) 999-0109