Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lamb and Pork Goodness! :) - El Huarache Azteca

I still remember the day I read Jonathan Gold's "Nueva York" article, talking about the various Mexican eateries along York Boulevard. On that day, I grabbed a Taco Hound to accompany me in search of the amazing Al Pastor Tacos that Mr. Gold mentioned, and to sample something from one or two of the other eateries mentioned in his article. After grabbing a Taco from El Pique (a story for another day :), I realized there was one restaurant just a block away that I remembered from that article. I walked in and noticed they had Carne Adobada (a Mexican-style Marinated Pork). The restaurant was El Huarache Azteca, and from that day on, it became one of my regular standbys whenever I happened to be in the area.

The name of this restaurant hints at its most famous dish: The Huarache (Spanish for "sandal") is a long "sandal-shaped" fried Masa topped with your choice of meat. They make their Huarache to order, fresh, even having a dedicated kitchen station setup outside with someone constantly making them as the orders flow in.

Whenever I've visited the restaurant, I've never been able to pry myself away from ordering the Carne Adobada (my current favorite incarnation of this dish in L.A.), but on my latest visit today, I decided to try another dish which prompted me to finally write about it all. :) There are basically three items on the menu at El Huarache Azteca that really stand out for me: Their Pork Adobada, the Huarache, and today's amazing dish, Barbacoa de Borrego (Lamb Barbacoa).

Firstly, their namesake, the Huarache has always been consistently good. As aforementioned, it arrives on a bed of fried Masa (Cornmeal dough), with your choice of meat (ranging from Chicken to Lengua (Beef Tongue) and many others that are standard at authentic Mexican eateries around L.A.). I usually order the Huarache Adobada (Huarache with "Marinated Pork" as it's listed on their menu), which is topped with some Onions, Cilantro, Cotija Cheese, and Mexican Sour Cream. It sounds simple, but the freshness of the fried Masa and the goodness of the Pork Adobada, the Cotija Cheese and other ingredients never fails to put a smile on my face! (^_^) Delicious.

But the #1 reason for my continued patronage at El Huarache Azteca would have to be their Carne Adobada Taco. Ever since the short-lived (but oh so good!) Taqueria De Catedral closed down years ago, I had given up on finding a good version of Carne Adobada as repeated visits to random places always ended in disappointment. But El Huarache Azteca's version comes very close to the greatness of my old favorite. Their Carne Adobada is wonderfully smoky, marinated chunks of Pork that's just screaming with flavor! The hints of Chile Powder, the slight tang from the Vinegar, the Oregano, and also a slight sweetness... it all adds up to a wonderful Adobada Taco that I prefer even over my favorite Al Pastor Tacos around L.A.!

On today's visit, they had one of the best Aguas Frescas (literally "Fresh Waters") I've had in the last few months: Agua De Pepino, a refreshing cold drink of Cucumber, Pineapple and Lime with Water. So simple and so delicious.

But the new dish I finally tried today was their Weekend Special, the Barbacoa De Borrego (Lightly Marinated Steamed Lamb) served with Consomme De Borrego (Lamb Consomme) and Fresh Corn Tortillas. (Note this is served only on Saturday and Sunday.)

While visually pedestrian, nothing could be further from the truth regarding its taste: Imagine lightly marinated Lamb steamed to the point that it's *completely* fall-off-the-bone tender, and when eaten with a bit of the Lamb Consomme that comes with the dish, it's nothing short of wonderful! This is rustic, hearty food, but it's so good! (^_^) There's a self-serve station with 3-4 different types of fresh Salsas, Onions, Cilantro, Lemon, Turnip Slices, etc., so you can adjust it to your liking. I haven't had Barbacoa in Mexico yet, so I'll leave it up to Dommy!, Eat Nopal and the rest of the experts to comment on how it compares, but on its own, it's hearty and tasty. :)

El Huarache Azteca is a very simple mom-and-pop-type establishment. You place your order and find a table and wait for the food. The service has been just fine for this type of eatery every time I've gone, and really you're there for the food, only. (^_~) Their Tacos are $1.25 each, and the fresh-made Huaraches are $2.50 each. We usually average about ~$6 per person total(!), and even for today's Lamb feast, it came out to be ~$7 per person total, which is a bargain.

El Huarache Azteca isn't a "destination restaurant," but they deliver consistently good Huaraches, and some of the tastiest Pork Adobada I've had around L.A. Add to that their ever-changing selection of fresh fruit beverages (Aguas Frescas), and the amazing Barbacoa De Borrego (Lamb Barbacoa) at very fair prices, and you have one of the great neighborhood Mexican eateries that's worth a visit if you're in the area. :)

Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0)

El Huarache Azteca
5225 York Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Tel: (323) 478-9572

* Cash Only *

Hours: 7 Days A Week, 8:00 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.


teenage glutster said...

thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment, really means a lot to me!

Huaraches eyy?

Have you tried a Oaxacan "Memela"?

Basically, the same fried corn goodness stuffed with pureed black beans and topped with oaxacan string cheese, avocado and red/green salsa?

It's kind of a rare treat, but I know of a couple of endangered trucks that have them.

Let me know...

Exile Kiss said...

Hi teenage glutster,

I haven't tried Oaxacan Memelas yet. Please *do* share with me your favorite places for this. Thank you! :)

Nanette said...

I may be a year late, and don't know a truck that does memelas, but there's always Guelaguetza, locations in West LA and K-town border. Only place I've found them outside of Oaxaca....

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Nanette,

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to try them out soon. :)

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