The Dining Guide to Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA

The Best of Latin American Cuisine

Pescado parrillero at Rosaliné
Pescado parrillero at Rosaliné: grilled branzino, charcoal quick dried, black mint aji sauce, canario bean puree | Carla Choy Photography, Facebook

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a "Celebration Beyond Borders," showcasing Latin American and Latino art at exhibits throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. Taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 and led by the Getty, this collaboration amongst dozens of cultural institutions is a citywide effort to connect the Americas. Harkening back to Southern California’s native roots is an exploration of activism, critique of globalism, diaspora, identity and modernism through art, design, architecture, dance, film and music.

As you tour the participating venues located throughout L.A., complement your immersive experience by dining at one of the area restaurants specializing in Latin cuisine. From Oaxaca to Mexico City, Cuba to Peru and El Salvador to Argentina, there’s no shortage of places to enjoy delicious food from a culture adjacent to the origins of the artwork being featured around the city. Your taste buds can provide the perfect context to your visual appreciation of Pacific Standard Time. Read on to find out where.

Downtown L.A. & East L.A.

Yellowtail & Uni Ceviche at Holbox
Yellowtail & Uni Ceviche | Photo courtesy of Holbox

Learning about the history of Día de los Muertos at Self Help Graphics and Art? Enjoying art by Glendale native James hd Brown at USC’s Fisher Museum? Perhaps you’re immersing yourself in Adrián Villar Rojas’s Theater of Disappearance at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Try the following restaurants on for size.

Broken Spanish & B.S. Taqueria - Modern Mexican
Ray Garcia has brought a modern Mexican renaissance to the heart of Downtown L.A., thanks to Broken Spanish and sister restaurant, B.S. Taqueria. Broken Spanish is higher end, featuring inventive small plates as well as impressive platos principales, with B.S. Taqueria addressing the question of tacos and other favorites. The interpretations and flavor combinations are nothing if not unique and delicious, with a tasty cocktail menu, to boot.

El Salsabor - Salvadoran
The menu at El Salsabor in Boyle Heights is extensive, covering breakfast through dinner with tasty rice and bean platters being the overall focus. Of course, there are pupusas and seafood cocktails as well as beer and wine at this family-run and family-friendly restaurant.

Holbox - Yucatán
There’s something fresh, special and new at Mercado la Paloma, and that’s top quality Yucatán-style seafood prepared at Holbox by Chef Gilberto Cetina, Jr. This little stand is not to be underestimated, with impressive seafood cocktails and octopus tacos to die for. If you’re adventurous, go for one of their many different kinds of clams you won’t find hardly anywhere else and brought in fresh everyday.

Hollywood & West Hollywood

Taco Sampler at Guisados in West Hollywood
Taco Sampler at Guisados in West Hollywood | Instagram by @droolzeats

From Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. at MOCA Pacific Design Center to Video Art in Latin America at LAXART and an alt rock concert by Café Tacvba, L.A.'s own La Santa Cecilia, and Chilean singer Mon Laferte at the Hollywood Bowl, you’ll want to complete your experience with some excellent food to be found throughout Hollywood and West Hollywood. Here are a few suggestions.

Loteria Grill - Mexican
Chef Jimmy Shaw brings impeccable interpretations from his hometown of Mexico City straight to his Hollywood location of Loteria Grill, with a great happy hour but also consistently solid renditions of all-time favorites from day to night. The freshest ingredients are used to achieve the brightest flavors to be enjoyed right on one of the most famous boulevards in the country.

Mario’s - Peruvian
This strip mall classic is a family run legacy, known for their Lomo Saltado and seafood plates. The ultimate condiment not to be missed, however, is their green aji chili sauce, conveniently placed on each of the tables in their vast dining room.

Guisados - Mexican
Stewed meats are at the center of the tacos here at Guisados, a no-nonsense, Boyle Heights original now with an outpost in West Hollywood. The pro move for first timers is to order their taco sampler, with a special eye to the heat quotient in their Chiles Toreados and Cochinta Pibil tacos. Proceed with caution!

Rosaliné - Peruvian
Peruvian purveyor Ricardo Zarate is back with his vibrant ceviches and savory protein and grain dishes, complemented by Jeremy Lake’s elegantly palatable cocktails. While seafood is the star at Rosaliné, don’t miss the little things, such as salted cod-potato croquettes and flavorful skewers.

Mid-City

Bone-In Ribeye for Two and Ribeye Cap at Carlitos Gardel
Bone-In Ribeye for Two and Ribeye Cap | Photo courtesy of Carlitos Gardel Argentine Steakhouse, Facebook

Whether you’ve been perusing works by Carlos Almaraz at LACMA or viewing Latino film culture at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, there’s plenty of Latin cuisine surrounding the centrally located Museum Square to tantalize your tastes.

Carlitos Gardel - Argentinean
Named for the legendary tango singer who died tragically in a plane crash, Carlitos Gardel is a family-owned and -operated Argentine steakhouse on Melrose that's a meat-lover’s delight for lunch or dinner. Incorporating the freshest ingredients to achieve distinct flavors, a meal at Carlitos Gardel is partaking in a 20+ year tradition.

Guelaguetza - Oaxacan
A Koreatown gem, Guelaguetza is understandably the Oaxacan go-to when it comes to mole, tlayudas, mezcal and much more. Especially conducive to large parties due to their expansive dining room, there’s something here for everyone at the always festive restaurant, including the lively, familial vibe.

Westside & The Valley

Carne adobada at Gloria's Cafe
Carne adobada at Gloria's Cafe | Instagram by @hungryintaipei

Perfect for pairing your tour of Photography in Argentina or Ancient Kingdoms at the Getty Center; Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985 at the Hammer Museum or Latin American Cinema in Los Angeles, 1930-1960 at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the following restaurants will fill your Cuban, Salvadoran and Mexican cravings.

Versailles - Cuban
A longtime L.A. favorite, Versailles is famous especially for its pollo asado (garlic chicken). The overall menu, however, is extensive - meaning there’s something for everyone in the family. Portions are generous, only to be bulked up with that essential, delicious side of plantains, so be ready to take home leftovers.

Gloria’s Cafe - Mexican and Salvadoran
The specialty at Gloria’s Cafe is the carne adobada, a flavorful meat stew made possible only by the love Gloria puts into it, herself. Tortillas, rice and beans are the savory accompaniments, perfect for sopping up as much burnt orange sauce as possible for maximum flavor.

South Bay & Long Beach

Lamb Shank Birria at Ortega 120
Lamb Shank Birria | Photo courtesy of Ortega 120

Whether you’re viewing Art, Pedagogy, and Activism in the Americas at the Ben Maltz Gallery in the Otis College of Art and Design, or Relational Undercurrents at the Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, you have some great choices when it comes to dining nearby.

Ortega 120 - Mexican
Ortega 120 is a Redondo Beach favorite for delicious Mexican standbys coupled with boozy Margaritas a lively vibe. From queso fundido to yellowtail tacos, crispy Brussels sprout salad, sopes and crab cakes, you’ll find fun modifications incorporated with the vibrant flavors of the food. It’s a great place to sit down with your party and enjoy the plethora of sauces from salsas to moles available to accent your meal.

Cafe Cuba & Cakes - Cuban
What’s not to love about a family-run restaurant serving up hot, pressed and melty Cubanos with not just ham and cheese, but also ham and cheese croquettes inside the sandwich? Absolutely nothing. The menu at Cafe Cuba & Cakes also includes other Cuban specialties, a la carte or on a platter with Congri or White Rice, Black Beans, Maduros and Bread. Be sure to go before their closing time at 7pm.

Public Beer & Wine Shop - Alta California
Chef Eddie Ruiz returns to the scene as a resident of Long Beach. His ceviches at Public Beer & Wine Shop are stellar, putting a nuance on unique combinations of quality, citrus-enhanced ingredients. Comforting sides like Jalisco style casserole and aged cheddar mac & cheese complete this unmatched bar food menu.

Pasadena & San Marino

Cubana at Tortugas Pasadena
Cubana | Photo courtesy of Tortugas Pasadena, Facebook

You might be enjoying Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century at the USC Pacific Asia museum in Pasadena. Or, you might be strolling through Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. Either way, you’re going to need to eat.

Tortugas - Mexican
Quality tortas that are as delicious in the sandwich shop as they are on-the-go can be found at Tortugas, named after the slang word for tortas. And slanging sandwiches they are, with versions such as Adobada (marinated pork), Bistek (salt and peppered sirloin), Cubana (ham and cheese) and Milanesa (breaded meat). The portability of this deliciousness is just the bonus.

Amara Chocolate & Coffee - Venezuelan
While in Pasadena, enjoy Venezuelan fare at Amara Chocolate & Coffee. If it’s the beginning of the day, you can also take advantage of their light breakfast menu. Arepas (grilled white corn flatbread), cachapas (grilled crepe made with fresh & roasted corn), churros and an extensive coffee menu make Amara perfect for any time of day.

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Esther Tseng