>> La Esperanza Restaurant & Bakery | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 8 April 2021

La Esperanza Restaurant & Bakery


COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant has re-opened for indoor dining, with plexiglass in between tables. There is a (previously covered) outdoor area in the parking lot that was not open on the last midday visit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Big thanks to Any's Tamales for this recommendation.

Outside of the normal epicenters of Central American communities in Westlake, Pico Union, and South Central, this Western Avenue restaurant in Torrance might be the place in Southern California that buzzes the most with Guatemalans and Salvadorans. You do not have to search very long to find the latter in Los Angeles, but their cuisine has some overlap of both dishes and customers, so it is offered to broaden the baseline.

As seen in the above photo, the banner for pupusas could stop a hungry soul traveling down Western Avenue. But for the interest of this article, it is the roots of the restaurant and its Guatemalan favorites that will be discussed and recommended.

On a first visit many months ago a simple order of their hilachas ($19.99, above) was placed, a generous portion that easily feeds two with rice, three thick homemade tortillas, and a small cup of beans. This hearty stew of shredded beef and potatoes is Guatemalan home cooking at its finest, but would satisfy even the least adventurous of your friends.

If you have ever been invited into a home in Guatemala, hilachas are one of the dishes you might find served for you. In fact, they are not widely found on the menus of the city's restaurants, and even when you do find it they are often disappointing. The version here is strong and worthy of grabbing.

Where Guatemalan food is most different from Salvadoran is in their dishes with roots in Mayan cuisine, far before ships started arriving. The most common of these dishes, which is also eaten in what is now southern Mรฉxico where Mayans also proliferated, is pepiรกn ($19.99, above and below). What their menu calls a "thick Guatemalan-style salsa" is made of pepitas, tomato, and sesame seeds.

You can get the thick, nutty dish with either chicken or beef, the latter of which was selected for the first time after a spirited recommendation from the manager. This turned out to be a great decision, as the ancient recipe combined and penetrated the beef quite well.

Dig under the surface and you will also find string beans, chayote, and carrots. Once again like most of their entrees, three tortillas come with an order and are perfect for making your own creations and combinations. These are so good you could munch on them on their own without a problem. Both the hilachas and pepiรกn are also served with a small tamal de chipilรญn.

While not sampled yet, the menu has a wide array of Guatemalan antojitos that were seen arriving at tables as the last takeout order was placed. You can also find specialties like pollo con crema or a plate of churrasco guatemalteco.

Order the full portion of caldo de gallina for $18.99 and it comes with a grilled half hen on the side like usual, but ask for the caldo de ½ gallina ($9.50, above), and the soup is served with feet, necks, and gizzard.

As you can imagine, sipping the soup is warming and comforting and perfect, but those looking for larger portions of meat with their soup should order the full portion.

๐Ÿ“ 22832 S. Western Avenue, Torrance, South Bay


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