Gloria's Cafe is a just few blocks away from Culver City's downtown proper, underneath a violently purple neon light which, if the restaurant weren't on a strip mall that also houses a liquor store and a tire shop, would seem out of place.
Gloria's is an excellent alternative to the liquor store, if your intention was to go in there and grab a sad dinner, or a very handy pit stop if you are waiting for your tires to be rotated. Else, for those who have no business at either the liquor store or the tire shop, it's a fantastic place to drop in on anyway. Once you step in from the concrete, you'll be whisked away into a homey, loving, family-run Mexican/Salvadorean operation, with possibly one of the best plates of carnitas in town.
Gloria is usually first to greet you. If she's not there, she'll surely come around at some point to see how you are doing. If you take that moment to ask her what you should order your first time, she probably will recommend her signature carne adobada. If you ask your server — who, you may later realize, is Gloria's son — the same question, he'll probably point to it, too.
And with good reason: Gloria slow-roasts chunks of carnitas throughout the day, marinating the pork in a glorious burnt orange adobada sauce that smacks of chili. The resulting dish is amazingly tender; the carnitas fall apart with just a nudge of the fork. Hot warm tortillas served alongside the dish are a welcome spoon to scoop up that sauce, now infused with so many layers of flavors that it pops. Rice and beans complete the plate. Plantains are optional, but they should be mandatory.
If you come in often enough, someone in the family might recognize you as you wait for a table and say, “It's been simmering all day! It's really good today!” You know what “it” they're talking about, and you also know that you must order it, even if you were readying for the other popular dish of theirs, the tortilla soup. But, the carne adobada has been simmering all day. It's hard to argue with that.
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