One of the joys of eating in Boyle Heights is that you'll find a good amount of restaurants that are embedded in the neighborhood's history. Spots like El Tepeyac, Al & Bea's and Otomisan have passed the half-century mark and, when you walk into them, you can feel the past and the present intermingle. Yet, Boyle Heights is also home to younger restaurants, like Guisados and Un Solo Sol, who are carving out their own niches in the neighborhood.
Al & Bea’s Mexican Food
Opened in 1966, Al & Bea's Mexican Food is a neighborhood institution. They're renowned across the city for their hefty burritos, but the menu includes everything from tostadas to burgers. If you want a snack or an appetizer, try the jalitos - small stuffed jalapeños served on a bed of lettuce and tomato.
El Tepeyac Cafe
Another landmark Boyle Heights restaurant, El Tepeyac Cafe has been around in various incarnations for more than 60 years. The family-owned restaurant is best known for Manuel's Special Burrito, which you may have seen on "Man vs. Food." This massive burrito (it's more than five pounds) is meant to feed two to four people. However, even their single-person eats will feed the heartiest of appetites. Try the Original Hollenbeck, with pork and a red tomato-based chile verde.
La Mascota Bakery
At La Mascota Bakery, you can fill your sweet tooth with a large cookies, pan dulce and heaving cakes. But if you're craving something savory, La Mascota has you covered. Get your day started with the breakfast tortas: hearty sandwiches with fillings like chorizo con papas (scrambled eggs with Mexican sausage and potatoes) or the wonderful breakfast-as-lunch huevos con machaca with scrambled egg, shredded beef, queso Mexicano and so much more. Lunch tortas include the signature La Mascota (roasted pork loin and chorizo) and the Torta Cubana, which is stuffed with ham, chorizo, roasted pork, egg, queso Mexicano and more. Pro tip: any tamale is just $1.50 each on Tamale Tuesdays; and on Torta Thursdays (2-7pm), get a torta, chips and soda for $6.
Mariscos Jalisco is a popular food truck that serves up lunch in a mostly industrial part of Boyle Heights. Seafood is at the heart of the menu; dishes include the famous pocket-sized tacos de camarón (shrimp tacos), the spicy "Poseidon" (ceviche tostada), and Ostiones Peinados - freshly shucked raw oysters topped with pico de gallo, shrimp and octopus. Note that the truck is pretty far from the Gold Line stops in Boyle Heights. Your best bet is to either drive or check the Metro bus schedule for the most convenient route.
Boyle Heights was once home to a large Japanese American community. Today, Otomisan Restaurant is the last reminder of that past. This small family-owned restaurant opened in the 1950s and, while it's had a few owners over the years, the sense of history is strong. Eating at Otomisan feels as if you're dining inside someone's home. It's tiny and there's a refrigerator behind a counter covered with art and large magnets. Known for their tempura and oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl), the dishes run the gamut from chicken karaage to curry to sushi. Dinner combos are just $12.50 and their most expensive sushi, the sizable Dragon Roll is a reasonably priced $14.50.
Raspados Don Manuel
At Raspados Don Manuel, icy treats are the order of the day. Raspados (Mexican shaved ice slushies) are the draw and come in a variety of flavors. If you're not in the mood for a raspado, there's also bionicos, diablitos, sundaes and more. For a small, sweet-and-spicy fix, go for the mangoneada - a cross between a popsicle and a frozen drink with mango. Make sure you add the chili powder. Cash only.
Tamales Liliana's - Boyle Heights
The name says it all at the original Tamales Liliana's in Boyle Heights. While the ample menu has everything from all-day breakfast to a variety of specials and dinner entrees, you'll want to order the tamales. They are dense eats, with fillings like chile rojo con carne or pollo con verduras stuffed inside the thick masa. Save room for a dessert tamale like pasitas con piña (raisins and pineapple). If you get it to go, you'll leave with a heavy bag and finish the night with a full stomach.
Un Solo Sol
Un Solo Sol is a cozy restaurant with an eclectic menu that brings together flavors from across the globe. You'll find everything from taquitos to tabbouleh on the menu. Ghormeh sabzi, a Persian stew, is a flavorful mixture of spinach, herbs and beans. Cholay, an Indian specialty with chickpeas and served with a yogurt and cucumber mixture on the side, is another meat-free delight. While this isn't a vegetarian restaurant, the menu features plenty of items for those who don't eat meat.