Shoehorned into a former Hawaiian barbecue place, near where Monterey Park runs smack into East L.A., Cook's is a new paradigm of an Eastside restaurant, with the chalkboard menu, the sleek pastries and the Illy espresso much more common in Westside coffeehouses than in elbow-in-the-salsa taquerías. There are house-made aguas frescas here, notably an agua of watermelon, lime and mint. Side dishes include chunky new-potato salad and a Caprese made with Mexican queso fresco. But Cook's revolves around its updated tortas, made with crisp, dense bread baked at the café and featuring such oddball fillings as grilled vegetables with pesto, smoked salmon with cream cheese, and salt cod with roasted peppers, as well as more traditional tortas. The fad at Mexican lunch counters these days is for the torta ahogada, a Guadalajara-style torta drowned in chile sauce, and Cook's version is almost surreally spicy, stuffed with heroic quantities of roasted pork and painted on both sides with a vivid red sauce. I'll take the manly Cook's ahogada over the usual sogged-out takeout models every time.
Payment Type: All Major Credit Cards
Parking: Lot Available, Street
Reservations: Not Necessary