There is a Compton strip mall, not far from Kevin Bludso's ash-black smokers, where birria de chivo is served. Of course, it's not hard to find Mexican food in Compton, or Central American food for that matter. And in a long, squat strip mall just off the 710 freeway on Alondra Boulevard, you can find whatever Spanish-speaking delights you might be looking for.
The pupusas and Sinaloan fare could still be considered soul food in a way, but the people and memories attached to those souls are from very far away. Thankfully, those people, their souls and all of the cooking migrated here to Los Angeles. Here's what's cooking at the corner of Alondra and Atlantic Avenue.
There are no frills at Cenaduria Sinaloa, the medium-sized yellow eatery whose name translates directly to "Sinaloan Restaurant." Hard booths, tile floors and a menu board -- you won't even find frills on their toothpicks. In fact, only two things stand out at Cenaduria Sinaloa: the woefully underserved skill crane game in the corner and the cooking.
The restaurant prides itself in its signage as serving homemade food, a claim that often gets small commercial operations into a lot of trouble. In less capable hands, scaling up your cooking to feed dozens of people a day usually means you fall off when it comes to the little touches that add up to create a home-cooked meal. Cenaduria Sinaloa may not roast its goat with as much delicacy as your neighbor's Hispanic grandmother, but this hot and brothy birria de chivo doesn't suffer in the result. It's still meaty, not too funky and with just the right amount of fresh onion crunch. Go for the freshly patted corn tortillas right off the bat, or risk a cool-down period that stiffens up the thick round masa disks. Cenaduria Sinaloa probably will take your credit card but not be happy about it. It's open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. 4616 Alondra Blvd., Compton; (310) 631-2716.
If you want to drink, Pupuseria La Ceiba is your place. It has a little bar in the front corner and everything! Beers are only $3.50 each -- or cheaper if you spring for a bucket of 'em -- and you can grab a giant watery margarita if beer isn't your thing. La Ceiba is a strip-mall drinking find, that's for sure, but the dark restaurant has a menu that will help you soak up all those drinks as well.
This being Salvadoran food, expect the usual run of pupusas. Revueltas and loroco, cheese and squash blossom, each will make their appearance known in the pupusa section on the spiral-bound menu, but some of the best deals are in the larger plates. For around $10 you can choose from meat-heavy meals like the one pictured above, which features a pounded and salted chicken breast, some seared beef, a few small links of chorizo and a couple of butterflied shrimp. Add on the sorry-looking salad, side of goopy beans and straightforward rice for a filling anchor to the night of drinking ahead. The absurdly thick tortillas help in that department, too. La Ceiba is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and accepts credit cards. 4606 Alondra Blvd., Compton; (310) 885-3214.
To answer your first question: Yes, there are two other Panaderia La Villas around, although their direct affiliation to one another remains murky. And your second question: How are the cookies? Pretty damn good, actually. Sure, they've got that crumbly pan dulce consistency that's practically a requirement for every panaderia, but that doesn't mean the cookies can't also be delicious. With racks and racks of cookies on display at any given time, it seems that a decent portion of the neighborhood must agree. Otherwise all of those colorful cookies would just be going to waste, and that's not how you build a panaderia empire. Panaderia La Villa #3 opens early, and does not accept credit cards. 4530 Alondra Blvd., Compton; (310) 608-6068.
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