>> Chapinlandia Market & Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 14 March 2022

Chapinlandia Market & Restaurant

GUATEMALA 🇬🇹
Tweedy Blvd. facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The market is open for indoor-only seating.

📍 4328 Tweedy Blvd., South Gate, Southeast Los Angeles

The words "Market & Restaurant" together on front signage are almost like being granted permission to go into and eat at someone's home. The restaurants that grow and become popular in community grocery stores like this are usually run by chefs that previously cooked from their own kitchens, either needing more room to grow their businesses or getting invited by the store's owner to bring in more clients.

When you walk into this Tweedy Mile market and restaurant, chances are you will pass a couple guys who know each other chatting it up at the door as they wait for their takeout orders. There are some Guatemalan and other Central American products up front, but the restaurant seems to be by far the major source of business these days, and after eating here for the first time you will realize that this is for good reason.

Pork and chicken tamales

As you make your way back to the restaurant and look into its open kitchen, you will pass 25 or 30 small paintings and pictures from Guatemala hung on the colorful coral walls. A Guatemalan tourism video always seems to be playing on a loop, showing blond men and women frolicking through the country and its natural pleasures or exploring a colonial plaza.

Dining in is the move here, so sit down at one of their six four tops. Their is a video menu board above the kitchen, but the staff will probably bring you a real menu before you can decide what to eat. Taking a look at other tables, you will see big combination plates with hungry souls hunched over them, or bowls of steaming caldos, and most definitely chicken or pork tamales ($3.50, above). These are the Guatemalan version of the beloved antojito, wrapped in banana leaves which leave their floral scent and keep all the fats and oils from seeping out.

Tostadas

The small kitchen has to take things one at a time, so be respectful if you see a lot of people at other tables and waiting for takeout orders. They do get backed up at times, especially in late morning and early afternoon Saturdays and Sundays, when friends and family come to recharge for the week ahead. If you are on a time crunch, come during off hours and it will feel as quick as any other sit down restaurant.

Another satisfying antojito order that will probably come out quicker than the rest of the meal are the tostadas ($3.99 for three, above), available with salsa or beans on top of them, or a combination if you prefer. The salsa is a simple tomato, slightly sweet and comforting. The other option is a black bean schmear and is probably even more satisfying, especially when combined with the crumble of cheese.

Chile relleno

Chapinlandia's lunches range from $9 to $15 and all come with sides of rice, beans, and two thick and freshly made corn tortillas. These seem most popular on weekdays with men coming in between jobs to re-energize. The chile relleno ($10, above) is one of the options, a pasilla chile stuffed with beef, dipped in egg batter and fried.

The menu calls this ground beef, but it is more like a beef stew within, cubes of very tender meat mixed with vegetables and full of great flavor. The nice salsa de tomate is ladled on before serving, and along with the oily white rice the plate is full of different options.

Hilachas

Another way to enjoy beef, and an almost automatic order when it is seen on menus is hilachas ($13, above), a thoroughly Guatemalan stew of shredded meat and potatoes. While the cuts of beef they use are a bit chewy, the stew itself is excellent and great for diners that enjoy dunking either spoons or rice or torn off pieces of tortilla into it. The version here has a bit of kick as well, with chopped up peppers joining the normal savory tastes inside.

The rice that comes with this dish and others is very close to what you see in Guatemala, usually containing a few vegetables and probably cooked with a bit of chicken bouillon or something similar. The tortillas that are made in the country usually have a smaller radius than their neighbors to the north but are much thicker. Hold them to your nose when they come out and are still scalding to the touch and breathe in their corn aromas. Chapinlandia's also have a touch of fire on them too from the grill, which adds even more depth to their taste.

Caldo de pata (cow foot soup)

Not to forget the rest of the cow, the intensely good caldo de pata ($15, above) should be selected when available. Big hunks of cow hoof are submerged in the soup and give it its flavor. Some slices of yuca, carrots, and a wedge of corn join the bowl, but these just seem like additions of color and texture as they will never be the focus.

Throw in the peppery vinegar garnish if desired, enjoy more rice and tortilla dipping, and find yourself planning the next meal here. It is that kind of place.

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