Saturday, July 07, 2007

El Huaraches Azteca

You know the famous Beach Boys song "Surfin' USA" with the line: ''We'll all be wearin' our baggies, huarache sandals too..." Well huarache sandals sandals are called that because they look like the Mexican dish the huarache which is a piece of flat fried dough topped with meat, cojito cheese, refried beans, cilantro, onion, & crema. The huarache is a lot more rare to find than a taco but there is a comparison to be made. A good huarache is defined by the quality of the carene, the cheese, the flavor toppings and the doughy "plate." Here is an introduction to my new favorite Highland Park restaurant: El Huaraches Azteca on York and Ave 52.

El Huaraches Azteca has been open 7 days a week for the past 11 years and -- according to Frank the very nice guy who works there -- has never closed for even one day. We went for an early Saturday lunch and found the place mildly empty (though we picked one table in the back that still had the remnants of a feast on it. Come to think of it, there were a lot of empty tables still needing to be bussed. I think that is a very good sign. (Sundays, Frank says, are the busiest.)

If it was mellow when we got there by the time we left El Huaraches had a line out the door. All the tables inside were filled, people were waiting for take out and the front patio was also standing room only. Clearly, El Huaraches is not a secret in our Highland Park neighborhood!

We settled into a nice comfy table and were quickly greeted by Frank who cleaned off the plates and dishes from the previous party. We ordered one huaraches con carne asada and one con pollo adobado with two drinks. I read one review online that described a huarache as "doughy, meaty, cheesy" and that is pretty right on and yet only part of the story. I was more than excited by the time the food arrived. This spot was recommended to me by more than a couple neighbors as a great taste / low price miracle. I wanted so badly for it to live up to the billing. When the huaraches arrived I could not believe my eyes. For $2.50 what we got was beyond satisfactory. The huarache took up nearly an entier picnic paper plate and the helping of meat was very generous (so much so that there was nearly a taco worth of pollo that rolled off the huarache).

The meat was tender, not overly faty and rich rich rich in flavor. While a different meat and a different preparation style, the pollo adobado compares very favorably to the Cactus al pastor. This is an adobado so rich and spicy in flavor that I will have dreams about. The pile of meat was lightly bathed in crema and sprinkled with cilantro, onions and cotijo cheese. I wanted to roll up the whole plate and put it all in my mouth with one gulp. The first bite was so good that I forgot to get extra cilantro and salsa at the salsa bar (which had many options). The fried dough that makes the base of the huarache was perfectly cooked: crisp without being overly hard, doughy without being too chewy. The only "problem" is that the dough broke a bit when folded. If it could roll a bit more it would have been easier to eat. (And easier to eat in under 10 seconds!)

Immediately after devouring my first huarache, I ordered another (but this time carne asada at the request of my lady). It was just as amazing to look at but I prefered the pollo to the asada. This time, however, I took a trip to the salsa bar and added a generous spoonful of cilantro, onions and got a small tub of salsa roja and salsa avacado.

Yum. The huarache #2 was just as good -- actually it was less greasy due to the change in meat. And the additional salsa made it a homerun. It dawned on my that I could proably stand to eat 3 or 4 of these at a sitting. That meant we had to leave!

But the huaraches are only half of the story at El Huaraches Azteca. I'm sure it can be gotten elsewhere, but their Agua Fresca is amazing. We ordered a watermelon and a pomegranate agua fresca and the fresh squeezed juice / water mixture was as addictive as the huarache! Other flavors include pineapple, Jamiaca, tamarindo and horchata. At $1.25 for a medium these are well worth it. Must haves really. The Agua Fresca tasted super fresh and while we were there I saw more than one variety refreshed and filled anew.

You can eat well at huaraches for well under $10. This is totally a place to tip well too. I can see myself coming here regularly for years and the food never getting bad, the prices rarely going up and the experience never changing. And on top of all that, the music was really cool Rock En Espaniol. There is also a Mole Verde special on Wednesday that I am dying to try. El Huaraches I love you!

El Huaraches Azteca is located at 5225 York Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 478-9572. Open daily, 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Cash only.

Find El Huaraches Azteca on Google Maps

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