El Huarache Azteca: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011

Without anyone much noticing the transition, Highland Park has become one of the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles to experience regional Mexican cooking. Even the trucks and taco tables serve food from parts of Mexico barely represented here a decade ago. At the vanguard was El Huarache Azteca, which was serving the antojitos of Mexico City long before some of its regulars knew the cooking was regional at all. The famous dish here is, of course, the huarache, a flat, concave trough of fried masa the approximate size and shape of a size-12 sandal, mounded with beans and tough, thin shards of grilled steak or chile-red nubs of marinated pork, a layer of shredded lettuce and strata of grated cheese and Mexican-style cultured cream. If you are up to the challenge, you can get it piled high with the cabeza, rich, gelatinous meat from a cow's head, cooked down into an ultraconcentrated essence of beef with the consistency of refried beans. Don't miss the burning-hot huitlacoche quesadillas — fried turnovers stuffed with musky, jet-black corn fungus — made on weekends by the stone-faced woman who mans a fry cart outside the entrance. 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park. (323) 478-9572. Daily, 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Takeout. Cash only. Mexican.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

Jonathan Gold's Introduction
Anne Fishbein's Photos
The Google Map

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