Antojitos Denise’s. In a land dominated by carne asada, Denise’s is where to go for pork, a bagful of one of three or four different kinds of house-made chicharrones (fried pork rinds), the pickled pigskin called cueritos, or a pound or two of roast pork. If you have a buck for a taco, you can taste the carnitas, among the best in East L.A., dense-textured, with the full, almost gamy flavor of slow-cooked pig. Also good are the tacos with chicharrones stewed in spicy tomato sauce — numbingly rich, a 1,500-calorie taco. 4060 E. Olympic Blvd., East L.A.; (323) 264-8199. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–6 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Lunch for two, food only, $7–$10. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢

By Brazil. You eat meat until you die. Massive, garlicky heaps of short ribs and spareribs and sausage and rump roast and chicken are sliced off metal spears onto your plate by a parade of meat-bearing waiters, all for the fixed price of $21.99. And while the buffet may be nothing to write home about, come evening there’s the classic churrasco (barbecue), brought to your plate until you cry uncle. 1615 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance; (310) 787-7520. Lunch and dinner seven days, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Full churrasco on weekends. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Lunch for two, food only, $16. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Brazilian. JG $

Chameli. The north Indian restaurant Chameli’s mustard-green version of saag is as vivid, as intensely flavored, as any Deep South dish of boiled collards. And, as in Alabama, the classic accompaniment to the greens is corn bread, in this case a flat, chewy disk of coarsely ground corn called makki roti. Call it real Punjabi soul food. 8752 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; (626) 280-1947. Lunch seven days, 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Buffet lunch. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20–$25. AE, D, MC, V. Indian. JG $

China Islamic Restaurant. Like other Muslim restaurants, China Islamic has a minor specialty in lamb, sliced thin and quickly fried with green onions, garlic and crunchy bits of fresh ginger; fried with the thick, resilient homemade noodles called “dough slice chow mein”; served in a cloying “sa cha” sauce. Lamb stew warm pot is served seething in a clay vessel, with thick, murky broth, cellophane noodles, cabbage, and the most extraordinary lamb, red-cooked on the bone, chopstick-tender and pungent with soy and star anise. 7727 E. Garvey Ave., Rosemead; (626) 288-4246. Lunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner 5–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $16–$25. MC, V. Chinese. JG

Jimmy’s Tavern. Trendy, Jimmy’s Tavern is not. Rather, it’s part old-boy steak house, part Irish hotel. The food is a mix of good, straightforward New American cuisine with a handful of Irish classics — think chophouse plus Irish pub fare. Classics are upgraded by using top ingredients and a few unobtrusive, innovative flourishes. But it’s expensive. Still, in the bar, a piano player resolutely transforms old standbys. The pretty hostess couldn’t be friendlier. Customers are known by name and catered to, families celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and graduations. This is a restaurant that’s about relationships. 10543 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 446-8808. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $15–$29. AE, D, MC, V. American. MH $$

Pete’s Café and Bar. Pete’s has completely classic bar-’n’-grill good looks. There’s also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional, midpriced take on New American cooking: mac and cheese, a gilded burger (fontina, tomato aioli), steaks, bread pudding. Highlights include the martini glass heaped with shrimp, yellow and orange baby heirloom tomatoes, and green guacamole, all doused in citrus salsa. And when available, a fresh tomato soup that seems to sing, optimistically, of summer. A house specialty, blue-cheese fries, is sinful, potatoes tossed hot with the sharp salty cheese so they’re limp yet crisp and chewy — irresistible. 400 S. Main St., downtown; (213) 617-1000. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Wed. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Thurs.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., breakfast Sat.–Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Entrées $10–$24. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH. $$

Señor Fred’s. The food at this stateside Mexican restaurant with American sensibilities is pretty good, and sometimes even surprises with an occasional spike in quality and deftness. Taquitos have a delicate chewiness and related textural pleasures — the crumble of fresh cotija cheese, the soaking avocado sauce, the threadlike shredded chicken. An ensalada pico de gallo — big chunks of papaya, orange, cucumber, jicama and mango tossed in a lime-and-chile dressing — is especially spirited and quenching. For dessert, it’s hard to beat the Mexican hot chocolate with cookies. 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 789-3200. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $8.50–$18.50. AE, D, MC, V. Mexican. MH $$

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