There are many who think of quesadillas as something basic. Just cheese and tortilla, something that was eaten as an after-school snack, perhaps heated up in the microwave. But there's a woman working in Echo Park — she introduces herself only as Alejandra — who is creating some of the most soulful food in Los Angeles. And she's “just” making quesadillas.
The menu at this street cart proves that, in the right hands, something seen as average can very nearly become art. Alejandra starts by grabbing a handful of blue corn dough from a big bucket of it. It looks exactly like Play-Doh, and as the dough is stretched into a disk, it moves like Play-Doh, too.
As the tortilla begins to crisp up on the griddle, Alejandra adds cheese and another option of your choosing. You gotta go with huitlacoche, the fungus that grows on corn and is sought after by gourmands around the world. Here it's been sauteed with onions and spices to create a guisado that's rich and a little spicy. It stands up entirely on its own, but cut it with one of the meat options if you're nervous about diving totally into corn smut.
The huitlacoche mix is pretty runny, so you'll probably eat your quesadilla standing in the parking lot behind Alejandra's mobile grill. Which is the perfect setting in which to eat a dish that's so L.A. in its secret complexity and embrace of the rare. A parking lot off the main drag of a loud neighborhood? The city's favorite dining room.
Southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue. Fri.-Mon., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., more or less. Quesadillas usually cost $4.