>> Señor Big Ed | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 4 June 2021

Señor Big Ed

PUERTO RICO 🇵🇷

COVID-19 UPDATE: Indoor dining is open in their big dining room, with plenty of space between tables.

When Puerto Ricans from Florida or New York relocate to Southern California, they quickly learn that the foods they found to be ubiquitous in their former homes are much harder to find. Even non-Puerto Ricans who spent time in those places are surprised by the dearth of mofongo, frituras and guisados puertorriqueños.

No matter who they are and where they come from, even the island's Hollywood celebrities eventually end up in Cypress for Señor Big Ed's, an institution now approaching 40 years of age. Back in 1982 it's Puerto Rican owner only offered Mexican food, something that still has a couple pages on the menu, but after a bit more than a decade in business the foods of his native home became the real draw here.

Puerto Rican spots and trucks pop up here and there over the years, but that kind of longevity hints to something really special happening in the kitchen here in the Los Angeles and Orange County borderlands. Sitting down at one of the tables is as close as you can get to feeling the tropical sunshine, wind, and humidity of San Juan's Castillo de San Cristóbal. In fact, it is painted on the walls.

And the food is indeed fantastic. Ordering an array of dishes, the kitchen proves its talent by executing each with class. You will notice a delicious smell before even sitting down, and much of this comes from the amount of garlic used in everything and all of the fried goodies. Start with an alcapurria ($3.25, below) or two, one of many Puerto Rican fritters available at stands and restaurants with open windows to the street.

This enjoyable treat is made of seasoned ground beef wrapped in mashed green bananas before frying. It really requires no sauce or additions (it already has plenty of garlic in the wrapper and seasoning in the meat), although a small bowl of housemade salsa does arrive with orders.

Along with frituras, guisados puertorriqueños are part of daily life and make up the bulk of quick lunches around the island. The meat in this pollo en fricase ($11.99, below) was so tender that it started leaving its bones even before arriving at the table.

You get to choose the way you prefer your rice and plantains for most main dishes, but cannot go wrong with any combination. Even the white rice is good here, cooked exactly like Puerto Ricans will remember, and paired with meaty habichuelas rosadas. This and the expertly cooked tostones are perfect vehicles for soaking up plenty of the savory stew that spreads at the bottom of the plate. So comforting.

If you can order more than one dish, also try their arroz con gandules, a Puerto Rican-style rice and pigeon peas dish that is cooked in the same pot as the sofrito. In addition, you can add their fried sweet plantains to get a taste of everything.

Do not miss the carne guisada ($12.50, above), a dish that switches to beef and potatoes but oh so much better than that pot roast that your aunt from Wisconsin made for Christmas. This is another plate that has a base of liquid that you will want to soak up with whatever you can find. No one is going to give you side eye if you end up licking the plate.

There may be no more unique Puerto Rican dish than mofongo, which comes in many shapes and sizes depending on who is making and presenting it. The base and most important part of mofongo is mashed plantains, which is infused with all of that garlic you smelled when the door was opened. This is a dish to avoid if you need pleasant smelling breath later in the day.


Here the mofongo relleno ($9.50, above) is served more as a side dish, and can be eaten "stuffed" with pork, chicken, or beef. The plantains are already mashed with pork rinds, so choosing pork to get a hefty portion of their excellent pernil is a great choice.

Cypress may not be first on your list of places to visit if you do not already live nearby (although the weekend swap meet at Cypress College has tons of good vendors!), but Señor Big Ed should definitely be first on your list of Puerto Rican restaurants to try. Hopefully it will be around for another 40 years.

📍 5490 Lincoln Avenue, Cypress, Orange County

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