Badiraguato. When executed properly, machaca, a sort of red-brown heap of fried beef jerky, is one of the great dried-beef dishes of the world, an intense distillation of the flavors of the Mexican West, all salt and smoke and heat. At Badiraguato, a converted hamburger stand on the main drag of South Gate, the machaca may be hidden on the breakfast menu next to the cumin-laced stew chilorio and the spicy Sinaloan version of chilaquiles called picoso, but it is a primal, fundamental version, with a specific gravity approaching that of lead. 3070 Firestone Blvd., South Gate, (323) 563-3450. Open daily 9 a.m.–8 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. JG ¢
Caribbean Treehouse. Caribbean Treehouse is perhaps the only local restaurant that currently dishes up the spicy food of Trinidad and Tobago. Service is casual to the extreme — if you want another bottle of pop, you walk over to the cooler and take one out yourself. Roti, sort of a Trinidadian burrito made of chicken-potato stew or a handful of curried beef wrapped up in a grilled Trinidadian flatbread, can come pumped up with the restaurant’s fiery homemade sauce. On Saturdays, there’s the “sparrow special,” an enormous plate of food that involves jerkylike strips of salt cod, boiled cassava, sautéed onion, tomato and a certain quantity of dense, chewy dumplings. 1226 Centinela Ave., Inglewood, (310) 330-1170. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $8–$18. Caribbean. JG ¢
Phillips. For many of us, Phillips is a Saturday-night ritual: the called-in order, the drive to the south end of the Crenshaw strip, and an hour in line outside the restaurant, trash-talking the Lakers, guzzling off-brand soda pop and admiring the bootlegged Reverend Shirley Caesar CDs somebody always seems to be selling from the trunk of her car. A small-end slab from Phillips can hold its own with any barbecued spareribs in the world. The extra-hot sauce, tart with vinegar and so crowded with whole dried chiles that the ribs occasionally look as if they have been embellished with Byzantine mosaics, has tempted better men than you and me to gnaw the flesh right off their fingertips. Several years ago, Mr. Phillips expanded his empire to a second store, in Inglewood, and now there is another Phillips’, in the chalet-style Crenshaw building that until recently housed the well-regarded Leo’s Bar-B-Q, and it seems as if the supply of great barbecue in Los Angeles has exponentially increased. 2619 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 731-4772. Tues.– Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.– mid., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., closed Mon. 1517 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 412-7135. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., closed Sun., Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m. 4307 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 292-7613. Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–mid., closed Sun. No alcohol. Lot parking. MC, V. Barbecue. JG $
Rincon Hondureño. There are perhaps a couple of dozen Honduran restaurants scattered around Westlake and Huntington Park; but nowhere, except at Rincon Hondureño, will you find sopa de caracol as good, or curry-tinged arroz con pollo, or coconut-infused fish soup that revolves around a whole, fresh rock cod as highly peppered as pastrami. For breakfast, there is hash fish, finely minced whitefish sautéed with onions and peppers, served with red beans, plantains and the inevitable square of salty, white cheese that seems to come with everything here. 1654 W. Adams St., Los Angeles, (323) 734-9530. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer only. Takeout. Street parking. Cash only. Lunch or dinner for two, $12–$18. Honduran. JG ¢
Stevie’s on the Strip. On Fridays, if you arrive before they run out, Stevie’s has an extremely good gumbo, dark and rich, salty and blisteringly pepper-hot, with shreds of smoked chicken, plump shrimp, a couple different kinds of sausage, and crab legs cut so that you can get at the meat without spattering your shirt with the viscous black goo. The flavor is equally earthy and marine, heightened by the murky herbal complexity that only filé can lend, full of garlic from the sausage, smoke from the chicken. 3403 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 734-6975. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $7; dinner for two, food only, $18–$20. Cajun. JG $
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Tasty Q. Around Thanksgiving time, this barbecue emporium may be best known as the home of the deep-fried turkey, a Louisiana delicacy that you can order here with a couple days’ notice even when it doesn’t happen to be November. Believe us: Turkey is not something you want to deep-fry at home, even if your cousin Lambert happens to think it’s a good idea. The rest of the year, Tasty Q functions as a genuine drive-thru barbecue stand — but trust us on this one too — Armor All is of absolutely no use against the sauce. 2959 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 735-8325. Open seven days, 10:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $9.25-$15.50. Barbecue. JG ¢