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Where To Eat Now 

Wednesday, May 3 2006
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Page 6 of 8

East Los Angeles

Alameda Swap Meet. If you duck into the subway on a Saturday afternoon, a few minutes later you can alight from the Blue Line at the Alameda Swap Meet, an immense converted factory complex south of downtown, stuffed with hundreds of stalls selling everything from sea-turtle extract to straw ranchero hats, fluffy white first-communion dresses to the latest Versace bootlegs. In the courtyard is a bewildering succession of food stalls perfuming the air with grilled meat, and sputtering oil, and a certain high note of stickiness. Flank steak sizzles on steel-drum grills; meat is picked from grinning roast cow’s heads and folded into tacos. One popular dish involves chile, lime, mayonnaise, kernels of fresh corn and a generous squirt of Liquid Parkay, all mixed up in a cardboard bowl. There are more than 7 million native Spanish speakers in metropolitan Los Angeles, and sometimes it seems as if they are all here at once. 4501 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, (323) 233-2764. Open Mon. and Wed.–Fri. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lunch for two, food only, $3–$10. Cash only. JG ¢?b

Antojitos Denise’s. In a land dominated by carne asada, Denise’s is where to go for pork, a bagful of one of three or four different kinds of house-made chicharrones (fried pork rinds), the pickled pigskin called cueritos, or a pound or two of roast pork. If you have a buck for a taco, you can taste the carnitas, among the best in East L.A., dense-textured, with the full, almost gamy flavor of slow-cooked pig. Also good are the tacos with chicharrones stewed in spicy tomato sauce — numbingly rich, a 1,500-calorie taco. 4060 E. Olympic Blvd., East L.A.; (323) 264-8199. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–6 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Lunch for two, food only, $7–$10. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢b

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La China Poblana. In the auto-repair district of East Los Angeles, La China Poblana may be the best place in East L.A. to find the cemita, the classic street food of Puebla, a multilayered sandwich on a dense, toasted sesame-seeded bun. The cemitas roll is sliced, crisped on the stove and crammed full of good stuff: thin slivers of avocado, slices of ghost-white panela cheese, and perhaps a tangle of pickled onions, carrots and jalapeño peppers. But the most popular filling by far is the milanesa — beef pounded to the thickness of a playing card, dredged in flour, and fried in clean oil to a sort of bronzed, leathery crispness that is closer in every way to a really large Maui potato chip than to anything you might call steak. 3568 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 263-8310. Open daily for lunch and dinner. No alcohol. Cash only. Takeout. Sandwiches $3 to $4. Mexican. JG ¢b

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

Camilo’s. Camilo’s started out as a catering company on York Boulevard in Highland Park — the small attached café was added almost as an afterthought. But the good Cal-Mex food and neighborhood-friendly prices caught on with everyone from starving artists to thriving yups, and in no time, the café had outgrown its venue. Owners Camilo and Amelia Gonzalez have since moved their operations to a large building smack on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, and they’ve reclassified it as a “California bistro” — though to us, it still looks and feels like a friendly indie coffee shop. There are chilaquiles and eggs Benedict for breakfast, cobb salads and Cuban sandwiches for lunch, filet mignon and pasta for dinner. 2128 W. Colo­rado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 478-2644. Breakfast and lunch Tues.–Sun. 8 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Tues.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $9–$27. California. MH $b

Chili John’s. From a series of stainless-steel vats in the center of the room, the counterman at Chili John’s scoops out pinkish beans, mounding them high in a yellow plastic bowl, then he carefully spoons thick, brick-red chili over the beans until the bowl nearly brims over onto the counter. With a flourish, he tops off the chili with a splash of bean water. He cocks an eyebrow, which means: “Would you like an extra little drizzle of orange grease with that?” Of course you do. 2018 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-3611. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat. till 4 p.m. Closed July and August. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $9–$12. Chili. JG ¢b

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