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Downtown’s Aguascalientes-Style ‘Flying Gorditas’ Sell Out On The Street In Three Hours

The family behind this stand also owns a Mexican chile and spice import company , so their guisados taste remarkably fresh. Their gorditas have been so popular that they are opening a brick and mortar restaurant in East L.A. this Saturday.

Gorditas estilo Aguascalientes

Gorditas estilo Aguascalientes.

In the realm of Mexican food, the allure of 'homestyle' dishes is undeniable. While many establishments in L.A. may lay claim to this mystical 'sazón,’' few can truly deliver.

Gorditas Nena, though, is a crazy anomaly that doesn’t need to advertise this buzzword. Their menu, banners, and social media may not boast about it, but their Aguascalientes-style gorditas sizzle with that unmistakable homestyle 'sazón,' a deep flavor that's a testament to their culinary heritage.  

“Every day we're open, my mom is up at 3 AM to ensure everything is cooked fresh,” Carlos Maldonado proudly shares with L.A. TACO on an overcast Wednesday morning outside their stand on Olympic Boulevard. “She's the one who started this business, and while we all lend a hand, it’s all her dedication to it.”

At 10 A.M., Maria del Carmen Delgadillo Maldonado is pit-patting the last of her "flying gorditas" (gorditas voladoras, as the family calls them) and throwing them on the plancha like a frisbee, which inspires giggles from her loyal hungry customers. 

The Maldonado family behind Gorditas Nena. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
The Maldonado family behind Gorditas Nena. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

“My mom has been selling gorditas all of her life,” Carlos says before informing some approaching customers that the stand only has their guisado de papa (potato) left as a filling. The rest of their guisados, which are displayed on alluring clay pots next to the plancha, include nopales con costillitas, chile relleno, rajas, frijoles, and queso, but they are the most famous for their chicharrón en salsa verde or roja. Carlos also goes the from-scratch route for that, too, puffing up the chicharrón himself using slabs of pork belly; each mouthful is full of tender meat and luscious fat. 

“This is all a dream come true for my mom.”

Gorditas Nena sets up right in front of the Del Spices warehouse in L.A.’s produce district, about a block away from the street food market known as Mercado Olympico. She and her family own this company and warehouse, which specializes in importing everything from corn husks to beans from Mexico.  

A gordita de chicharrón en salsa verde.
A gordita de chicharrón en salsa verde (left) and papa (right). Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

In just three hours, she and her team of sons, one daughter-in-law, and other family members have sold more than 600 gorditas made from white corn that she imported and nixtamalized herself. Since her family imports the chiles, spices, and herbs she uses in her cooking, her guisados' freshness stands out. The resulting gorditas are floral and chewy and have absolutely no “off smells” or flavors from the usual preservatives added to instant corn Maseca flour, which most masa-based vendors use due to its much lower price. Finding a handmade white corn nixtamal tortilla in L.A. is rare. Most restaurants and taquerías that make their own handmade corn tortillas use yellow corn, which offers a sweeter flavor than white. 

In 2000, Maria and her family made the journey from Aguascalientes to Cudahy. She had been selling gorditas in Mexico and continued to do so from her home in southeast Los Angeles until 2023. 

That year, she decided to join the vibrant street food scene around Central and Olympic in Downtown Los Angeles, bringing the flavors of Aguascalientes to a new audience. 

Before Gorditas Nena, L.A. TACO had not experienced the unique taste of an Aguascalientes-style gordita. The griddled, handcrafted masa pockets are similar to the more famous Zacatecas-style gorditas. Each gordita is about 4 inches in diameter and about as thick as a pupusa. They are cooked without oil on the plancha until the gordita puffs up and the edges are slightly crispy. When the gorditas puff up, each one is sliced with a knife and stuffed with a couple of tablespoons of guisado, which are meant to be eaten immediately. Three should fill you up, especially if you get there earlier and score the ones stuffed with an entire chile relleno.   

When they first opened, the family called and WhatsApp’d their extended relatives and friends to come to support them. Not even a year after opening, the family’s makeshift gordita stand was so successful that they rented a full restaurant in East Los Angeles right where it meets Monterey Park's edge. This was all due to the demand being so high that they couldn’t keep up with just having a street food operation. 

“This is all a dream come true for my mom,” says Carlos. 

The stand is open at 1400 E. Olympic Blvd. Downtown, from Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 8 AM until they sell out. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 53 and 66 - "Olympic/Central." 

Gorditas Nena will open to the public this Saturday at 351 S. Atlantic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90022. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro E Line - "Atlantic Station", Bus Line 260 - "Atlantic/4th" or Bus Line 106 - "Pomona/Beverly."

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