>> El Huarache Azteca | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 5 July 2021

El Huarache Azteca


COVID-19 UPDATE: There is a tented area for dining beside the restaurant and a few tables in front. Two tables inside have been re-opened for indoor dining.

Depending on where you are in México, some antojitos will be more prominent than others, while others are very regional and only pop up in very specific places. The huarache is common enough in Los Angeles and not impossible to find in many of México's states, but in CDMX and surrounding Estado de México you will see these oval discs of masa stuffed with beans frying on comals on most walks down the street.

In Los Angeles, the huarache can be something like the Goldilocks story. When it is not the main antojito a purveyor focuses on, it can be too thick, too thin, made with not enough or too many beans, or just a boring sandal-shaped Maseca brick. When you are in the mood for huaraches that are made just right like baby bear's porridge and just as comfy as his bed, you head to Highland Park.

Simple and perfect, fit for baby bear.

Was it Jonathan Gold's inclusion of El Huarache Azteca in 2008 and beyond on the essentials list or had word started creeping around earlier? Either way, for two decades before non-locals started descending upon York Blvd. this family spot was well-known in the neighborhood by families wanting daily home cooking and even barbacoa and menudo on weekends. Nowadays besides making incredible food, the restaurant is at the very front of preserving the communities it has served for almost 30 years as outside forces look to mine the neighborhood.

A row of large plastic jugs inside are a good reminder to always order one of their homemade aguas frescas, which are all better than usual. Sometimes they have tepache. You can sit out front or tuck into a table in the small space and enjoy the noises and smells of the kitchen during your visit.

Super huarache de chicharrón.

Super huarache de suadero.

Especially when coming with friends or family with the plan to share, it is impossible to avoid at least one super huarache ($7.99, above). And why would you want to? The slightly larger antojito is covered in meat, freshly chopped purple onions and cilantro, crumbled cotija and fresh crema just like its "regular" versions, but then doused with both their red and green salsas, a dividing line straight down the center.

Most people might agree that the red salsa is to die for, but the combination is transcendent. You will find yourself going back and forth between the two on alternating bites, then combining them as you near the end and they naturally find their way to one another.

Huarache regular de chorizo.

While popular with vegetarian huarache eaters, it is recommended to eat both their excellent huitlacoche and flor de calabaza in quesadilla form, with plenty of stringy cheese which matches these very well. Quesadillas here are made with just as much attention to detail and are far from an afterthought.

Meat eaters will be pleased with any of the available selections. Over the years their delicately prepared chicharrón and suadero have become favorites, but be sure to try as many as possible. Without the "super" salsas, a huarache regular (above and below) runs $4.50.

While many of the newer arrivals in Highland Park are still hours away from rolling out of their beds on weekends and heading to some type of boozy brunch, longtime residents will be up early on weekends to get to El Huarache Azteca for specials like barbacoa and menudo.

In one of the city's best deals for a sit down restaurant, especial #1 ($27.99, below) comes with two full pounds of barbacoa de borrego, 2 bowls of consomé, and two aguas frescas not shown in the photos. It can easily feed four if you are also planning to add a huarache or two to the table.

The lamb is cooked in the style of the city of Texcoco, made most famous in town by some lovely purveyors in Commerce, who themselves came by way of Tijuana and Chula Vista. The small town of Texcoco is a little more than 25 kilometers from the center of Distrito Federal and a weekend destination for many families who pack everyone in their car before sunrise and try to make it to the most popular stands before they are sold out.

The lamb falls right off the bone after cooking overnight and is lightly brushed with spicing. A plate of onions, cilantro, dried chilies, and lemons come with the order to prepare the meat any way you like. Bowls of intensely rich consomé, made from all the drippings, are fortified with rice and chickpeas and just about perfect.

Barbacoa is often eaten on weekend mornings in México and here in Los Angeles at stands that serve it, but you can also roll through later on a Saturday and Sunday and be served. For breakfast on other days, they have all types of egg dishes and chilaquiles con carne ($11.99, above), which uses the delightful salsas they smother super huaraches with. The consensus seems to be that the red is slightly more heavenly.

The rice and beans are both excellent, so ordering any plate that comes with them is always recommended. They can also be added to huaraches for just 50 cents. The slab of carne asada is cooked very well, but you can also eat your chilaquiles topped with just an egg and no meat for a buck less.

Despite not being the focus of most diners, lunch and dinner plates are no disappointment here either. An order of costillas de puerco ($12.99, above) is satisfying, the pork ribs are smothered in their green salsa and topped with a nicely charred paddle of nopal.

They also do carne asada and mole plates, as well as enchiladas and even fajitas, none of which would be predicted to be anything less than stellar. This family seems to have truly gotten better each year since they opened in the 90's.

📍 5225 York Blvd., Highland Park, Northeast Los Angeles


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