>> Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(JALISCO)
Pasadena Avenue facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room is a well-covered patio with open windows to each side and good ventilation.


Sometime during your first visit to the original Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez, maybe around the time your agua fresca arrives at the table before a meal, you start to appreciate the surroundings enough to know that it will be your goal to become a regular here. The covered patio, corrugated metals, decoration and atmosphere are about as transportive and comfortable as possible, a direct flight to a sunny Guadalajara day via a short trip to Lincoln Heights.

Only serving breakfast and lunch, the restaurant is a colorful beacon that is easy-to-spot on speedy Pasadena Avenue, its red metal awnings extended to the street during opening hours. Pancho Lopez is not the name of the proprietor, but rather an ode to a song by a beloved and recently deceased clown from México known simply as Cepillín. A note thanking him for making "millions of Mexicans happy" graces the menu.

Hand made clay cups holding aguas frescas

Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez is one of the rare places that strongly maintains a full five stars in reviews no matter where you look, a place untouched so far by the narcissistic Yelp "Elite." But you will find a mixture of the old and new faces of Lincoln Heights and Highland Park eating here when you visit, both enjoying everything in front of them equally. The now almost 4-year old restaurant has been enough of a hit that they recently expanded to a second location in City of Industry more easily accessible to Tapatíos in the eastern San Gabriel Valley.

If you have ever visited Jalisco and enjoyed the next door cities of Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque (Nahuatl for "place above clay land"), you will further enjoy the restaurant when dishes start arriving in front of you. All the colorfully painted lead-free pottery cups, plates, and bowls you saw in the dozens of shops and wanted to bring back home are used here and sometimes personalized.

Carne en su jugo

And besides all that shopping, memories from trips will naturally revolve around meals at Karne Garibaldi or one of many other specialists of carne en su jugo ($14.99, above), a Tapatío favorite. This "meat in its juice" is just that and much more, combined with bacon, beans, onions, and a tomatillo broth sharpened by lime juice. The combination of everything is simple and exhilarating at the same time somehow, a comforting dish to satisfy any mood.

Carne en su jugo can be found here and there in Los Angeles but is still somewhat of a special treat and really worth coming for even if you do not want anything else. The version here is one of if not the best in town. A packet of rolled tortillas arrives alongside, but these are meant for dipping if desired, not to try and make tacos from the soup. Don't be that guy.

Torta ahogada

Another meal that is hard to avoid on trips to the Jalisciense capital is a torta ahogada ($9.99, above), a sandwich "drowned" in salsa. The torta absolutely must use a firm birote salado so that it still has a crunch after getting wet, a simple bolillo or other type of softer bread does not do the trick. Just like in the open-air restaurants of Guadalajara that specialize in the sandwich, make sure to order an horchata or other agua fresca because the chile de arbol singed tomato salsa is going to burn if made properly.

While you can get other offerings, generally a torta ahogado is filled with a tough and chewy carnitas as it is here, pork meat that has also been slicked with the fiery salsa. There are onions and lime to throw on to alter the zip as desired, and do not feel bad using the knife and fork that it comes with.

Tacos de barbacoa estilo Guadalajara

The biggest surprise at Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez might came from the smallest package with an order of tacos de barbacoa estilo Guadalajara ($2.99 each, above and below). While not necessarily a barbacoa specialist, these tacos are delicious and done very well. The outside tortilla is fried and crispy, and the tacos are served with a side of pickled onions that are very spicy.

After trying the restaurant's chilaquiles for breakfast, a future visit might just order a plate of these so they can be enjoyed on their own.

Tacos de barbacoa estilo Guadalajara

Birria en consomé

Guadalajara and its surrounding suburbs are filled with birrierias which fill with families early in the day, but in Jalisco goat is king when it comes to this dish. This Lincoln Heights restaurant has chosen beef to go in its birria en consomé ($14.99, above), maybe more of a reflection on what is hot in Los Angeles for the last few years.

The good news is that this is not the boring, glowing-red slop that is unfortunately offered at many of the city's imposter birria trucks, this is a complex stew with delicious cuts of meat and consomé. A squirt of lime and the dish hits almost every surface of the tongue in a positive way.

Quesadilla a mano de carnitas

When a quesadilla with a handmade corn tortilla is offered on a menu next to others with packaged ones, it is often hard to resist because it shows a place is proud of the former. Here the quesadilla a mano ($9.99, above) is more proof of this, stuffed with plenty of the meat or vegetables of your choosing and falling out of its wrapper with cheese, lettuce, and cream.

Carnitas is a good option for this again, prepared more traditionally smooth and full of oil and fat. No matter if you come here just for antojitos like this and the tacos, or prefer more complex platters of Guadalajara specialties, satisfaction is going to result.

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