At first, the thought of eating an animal's tongue might make you squeamish. Then you think about what this organ meat actually is. The cow's tongue is a muscle, just like more common cuts of meat such as lamb shank, filet mignon or flank steak — but it's much fattier, and mild.
Many cultures have found uses for beef tongue, from Europe to North Africa to Latin America, letting this cheap meat cook down until it's tender enough to eat. When prepared properly, tongue can be a luxurious, soft beefy cut, and L.A. is home to some of its more interesting uses. Here are six tongue dishes in L.A. you'll actually want to eat.
Grilled tongue and sea salt combo from Kinjiro
Located in Little Tokyo, Kinjiro is a swanky izakaya offering premium seafood, meat and vegetables, as well as craft beer and sake. Though its menu features lots of worthy modern and traditional-style Japanese small plates, the one everyone orders is the prime beef tongue, which is grilled bare and garnished with sea salt. Deliciously textured and simply flavored, it's one of the most straightforward examples of tongue in the city. And it's only $12 a plate. 424 E. Second St., Little Tokyo; (213) 229-8200, kinjiro-la.com.
Lengua tacos from El Flamin’ Taco
El Flamin’ Taco is one of L.A.'s most recognizable taco trucks, and its menu offers much more than the traditional meats. Along with classics such as carne asada, pastor and carnitas, the Echo Park El Flamin’ Taco also serves lengua, a Mexican-spiced grilled tongue that tastes like a milder, slightly chewy version of barbacoa. 505 S. Vermont Ave., Echo Park; (213) 718-1790, elflamintaco.com.
Tongue sandwich from Attari Sandwich Shop
Located in the heart of Westwood, this Persian sandwich shop offers nearly every cut of meat you can imagine, from chicken leg to beef brain. Attari keeps the tongue sandwich simple: served on your choice of bread with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and pickles. If you’re feeling the urge for more innards, you can go for the tongue and brain combo — which makes for a more decadent sandwich, with the brains' texture similar to beef brisket. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 441-5488, attarisandwichshop.com.
Tongue soup from Han Bat Sul Lung Tang
One of Koreatown’s hidden gems, Han Bat Sul Lung Tang offers deliciously fresh ox-bone soups swirling with just about any meat you can imagine. Called sul lung tang, it's the Korean answer to pho and ramen, and though it can be filled with intestine, spleen or tripe, employees say the tongue soup is the restaurant's true specialty. The meat is sliced thin and lightly seasoned, making the flavor less intense than traditional grilled tongue, which is good if it’s your first time tasting this delicacy. 4163 W. Fifth St., Koreatown; (213) 383-9499.
Beef tongue schnitzel from Bäco Mercat
“Bäco” is a flatbread sandwich invented by chef Josef Centeno that's made with thin-baked bread rolled flat and used as a vessel for pork, beef, poultry, seafood or vegetables. The menu's East-meets-West touch is apparent when looking through the bäco offerings, including the beef tongue schnitzel topped with harissa, smoked aioli and pickle. The tongue is sliced thin, coated in breadcrumbs and lightly fried à la Austrian-style veal schnitzel. The crunchiness of the bread complements the tongue's softness in an unexpected way, and the harissa adds a little kick to the tongue’s light flavor. 408 S. Main St., downtown; (213) 687-8808, bacomercat.com.
Beef tongue gnocchi from Bowery Bungalow
Bowery Bungalow boasts modern takes on ancient flavors from Levantine, North African, Anatolian and Mediterranean cuisines, among others, to make an adventurous menu of dishes. Its beef tongue shawarma gnocchi with nutmeg and mace is a cross between Levantine and Mediterranean cuisine, and it's both sweet and savory. The meat is slow-roasted for days to bring out the most flavor, then sliced and added to potato gnocchi for a well-rounded and texturally unique dish. 4156 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 663-1500, bowerybungalow.com.