Since the last decade, Boyle Heights has been repeatedly labeled a “food desert” (mostly, and probably, by white people). Its citizens are portrayed as sad saps with no access to good/healthy food options. Last summer, there was a piece on CoLab Radio on The Market Make-over campaign which attempted to transform corner bodegas into healthy fresh food outlets. Earlier last March, KCRW followed up on the stores’ changes during a Which Way LA episode. In the mean time, this little piggy chased cemitas and mariscos truck up and down Olympic, Caesar Chavez, 1st St and 3rd St.
It’s been well over a year since I wrote about Ricos Marisco on LosanJealous.com. I still like that truck a whole bunch, but sometimes you just don’t want fried stuff. Recently, thanks to the hot weather, I’ve reverted back to ceviche and agua chiles. Typically, the choices are: 4 Vientos, Marisco Jato if I want big portions, and Mariscos Jalisco if a Westsider insists on a icky tacos dorados camaron. All these restaurants and trucks are in Boyle Heights and East LA. Food desert? Or food dessert? Are the public health gurus smoking crack? Do they not know there is a El Super smack dab in the middle of Boyle Heights? And they carry a fantastic line up of fresh vegetables, fruits and raw ingredients?
How can a food desert have such brilliant bites? Witness Los Poblanos Cemitas: http://www.yelp.com/biz/los-poblanos-los-angeles-2#hrid:I-cKWmwHN0wPm8Vl9FCGXA . I found this joint on Yelp, (yes, damnit, Yelp) while browsing for cemitas de pierna. Some (presumed) Mexican issued a Yelp manifesto proclaiming Los Poblanos to have the ONLY legit Pueblan cemitas with a proper sliced pork shoulder, instead of the more commonly found pierna enchilada (shredded). Meanwhile, Warren Olney is still debating how much does Boyle Heights really suck for hungry chubs. After a 5 minute wait, what comes out of the Los Poblanos Cemitas truck is a round pile of heaven, and easily one the top 5 sandwiches in LA (Bludso’s pulled pork on white bread, Roma’s Italian, banh mi nem nuong at Baguette City, #10 at Langer’s).
The pork shoulder here is roasted and lightly sauced. It’s sliced a bit thinner than Langer’s pastrami, but much thicker than the typical, gross, fried milanesa steak. The stuffings in the sandwich is always a few roasted halved chipotle peppers, dry Oaxacan white string cheese, and avocados. If you ask, they will toss in extra papalo leaves. If you enjoy arugula in your burgers (I do), then definitely get extra papalo. If you hate herbs like cilantro, well.. stay away. The lightly toasted bun is much fluffier than tortas buns, and far less hearty than the bun found at Tepeaca. It’d make a splendid burger bun, and is one of the few Mexican style breads that I’ve ever actually enjoyed.
It’s worth mentioning this frisbee-sized cemitas is FIVE DOLLARS and they’re in cahoots with an empty store front so there are actual “dine-in” seating available. I don’t know it’ll make you hollah, but I was beside myself with excitement when the plate arrived.
Los Poblanos Cemitas
3520 Whittier Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Mariscos el Aeropuerto
To this day, I’m unsure how this mariscos cart arrived on the radar screen. It may have been via its facebook, it may have been via its Yelp page. All I know is Mariscos el Aeropuerto’s proprietor should really thank Rudy A for continuously supporting these $3 seafood on crunchy corn. Are these the “b”est ceviche tostadas in Los Angeles? I won’t go out on a limb to make that kind of proclamation. Is the aguachiles a-may-zing? Well, I happen to really enjoy the aguachiles rojos at 4 Vientos. Why bother writing about this joint on the NE corner of Euclid and 8th Street in Boyle Heights? Community.
The sense of community here is precious, and it’s different from other parts of East LA. There’s not an aura of fear or xenophobia. Back in ’08, I did a quick (actually, it took almost a month) tour of al pastor carts in East LA / Boyle Heights. Back then, the Latinos (and even Latinas) were rather unforgiving when the camera came out. Most didn’t want to answer questions pertaining to the food or otherwise. It wasn’t odd, it wasn’t rude, it just was. And I accepted it as I stopped by stand after stand. The economy wasn’t much better then, and probably the discrimination hasn’t decreased. I hate to say it: in 2012, even East LA welcomes foodiots taking pictures of every taco.
The neighborhood kids grabbing a quick ceviche took my order at Mariscos el Aeropuerto while the owner was busy making fresh ceviche. One cat asked me how I found the cart (note to self: don’t wear slacks, button down and Ferragamos while on mariscos exploration next time). Another gent reached into the special chiles section and pulled out a Thai birds-eye chili. I asked them for the named of this pepper. None knew. I mentioned these are Thai peppers and they all laughed in disbelief. This went on for a good 15 minutes. The aguachiles verde tostada was made freshly, plated only after I finished my ceviche. All the utensils are DIY. The local 8th Street drunk swung by and re-arranged chairs to his liking after some customers departed.
No one gave me shit. And the food was tasty. The ceviche was very plain, very crisp. No one would feel like they’re on Sinaloan beaches while the buses zoomed by, but these $3 ceviches are absolutely blessed on a hot summer LA day.
Boyle Heights may not be the upper echelons of LA food neighborhoods, but its residents are just as proud of their neighborhood chow gems as a Silver Laker.
Mariscos El Aeropuerto
3045 E 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Daily until 5:30pm.
Closed on Wednesday.
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