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Beyond Tacos: 5 Mexican Dishes that are Under the Radar (And Where to Get Them)

12:28 PM PDT on June 14, 2018

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen you write for a publication called L.A. Taco, there’s a natural inclination to focus on the food that we take our name from, and truthfully one could spend a lifetime eating, hunting, and writing about glorious tacos in Los Angeles. That said, it would be a crime to have such a monofocus, especially when this city’s Mexican food scene has become so varied and interesting in recent years.

So for this article, a specific challenge was created-- find some excellent, delicious, but lesser- known (at least in the North) Mexican dishes that pair well with an authentic Mexican lager, and figure out the best places in town to find them. The beer of choice was Sol, a crisp and refreshing lager born in the heart of Mexico. Sol has been brewed since 1899 and earned its name from its bright golden color that shines like a ray of sunlight. Be sure to have some cold ones on hand before you go exploring LA’s many unique Mexican restaurants to go beyond the taco:

Aguachile at Coni'Seafood: This addictingly spicy type of ceviche is the perfect dish to pair with an ice cold michelada--especially on a hot summer day. The aguachile (chile-water) served at Coni'seafood is prepared Narayrit-style (a Northwestern coastal state of Mexico) which utilizes raw jalapeños and/or serrano peppers in lieu of the spicier chiltepín pepper, which is primarily used for the equally delicious Sinaloa-style (the state of Mexico which sits just north of Nayarit) version. Involuntarily watering of the mouth may ensue as this hypnotizing wheel of fresh Mexican head-on shrimp topped with a bright green jalapeño-lime purée and rings of red onion and cucumber arrives at your table. The balance between the naturally sweet shrimp, spicy chiles, bright citrus and crisp bite from the onion and fresh cucumber is just one of the reasons why this dish keeps showing up on more restaurant menus.
3544 W Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, CA 90303 Hours: 10am-8pm Sun-Thurs / 10am-9pm Fri & Sat
4532 S Centinela Ave Los Angeles, CA 90066 (2nd location) 11am-8pm Sun-Thurs / 11am-9pm Fri & Sat

Tlayuda at Poncho's Tlayudas: This is one of many Oaxacan dishes that can be enjoyed for breakfast lunch or dinner. A vinyl record-sized (and larger) thin and crispy yet pliable white corn tortilla is first topped with a thin spread of asiento (unrefined pork lard), an aromatic black bean purée that's flavored with avocado leaf, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese) and shredded cabbage which is then grilled (traditionally over mesquite coals) either open-faced or folded and served with a fiery salsa on the side. In addition to the main components of a tlayuda, a variety of meat options such as chorizo; tasajo (thinly sliced grilled beef) and cecina (chile- marinated pork) along with sliced avocado and tomato, often top one of Oaxaca's most renown family-style dishes. While a variety of delicious toppings can and are often added, there's also something beautiful about a simple tlayuda, in all its perfectly grilled corn tortilla glory, paired with a crisp refreshing Mexican beer like Sol.

Torta Ahogada at Chago Ahogadas: One fiery dish that deserves to be more widely recognized and appreciated is the torta ahogada, which originates from the city of Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Before any meats or toppings are even discussed, one of the main components that makes or breaks a proper torta ahogada is the quality and type of bread that is used. The traditional torta ahogada utilizes a birote salado, an artisanal sourdough roll which has a thick, crunchy exterior and chewy interior that holds up to the salsa(s) that it is eventually drenched beneath. After the birote salado is filled with with pork carnitas, or a mix of offal cuts (e.g., tongue, hog maw), the torta is submerged in an intense, lip-numbing and satisfying chile de árbol salsa. A milder tomato sauce is also offered in case one's palette is not equipped to handle the extra spicy árbol chile deliciousness. And while slices pickled red onion top the torta to contrast the extreme yet addictive spice levels, only a lager or michelada can help balance out the torta ahogada experience.

123 Washington Blvd, Montebello, CA90640 Hours:9am-8pm

Cemitas Poblanas at Cemitas Poblanas: Another unique sandwich that hails from the East- Central state of Puebla in Mexico is the cemita, referring to the dense roll on which it's served that's made with egg and is studded with sesame seeds. The hearty roll is typically stuffed with a healthy dose of quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), milanesa (breaded beef), or other meats, jalapeños, avocado, onions, chipotle salsa and some herbacious pápalo leaves. While milanesa is the most popular meat option for cemitas, places like Cemitas Poblanas cater to carnivores who like to stack their cemitas tall with the addition of other proteins such as: cueritos (pork skin); ham; pork shoulder; cecina and barbacoa to name a few. You simply cannot go wrong washing down a warm satisfying cemita loaded with crispy, savory cuts of meat, smoky salsa, pickled jalapeño and quesillo paired with an ice cold Sol.
401 S. Indiana St, CityTerrace, CA 90063 Hours:9am-11p ~ Mon-Fri/10am-9pmSat& Sun

Camarones a la diabla at Coni'Seafood: It's difficult to name a more iconic duo than perfectly cooked shrimp drenched in a spicy, peppery, smoky salsa served with a giant refreshing michelada. In addition to its insanely delicious shrimp aguachile, Coni'Seafood also offers this warm, comforting dish to contrast its bright and acidic flash-cured counterpart. Talk about the perfect meal -- tender, garlicky head-on shrimp (for maximum flavor) bathed in a rich, velvety salsa that makes you wish they sold it by the gallon. The only thing better than mopping up the spicy shrimp and caramelized onions with a warm corn tortilla is a swig of cold beer to wash it all down and start the cycle all over again. Just as important as what any of these lesser known dishes may offer, sharing them and making memories with friends and family at a large table with good conversation and cold beer is what truly matters.
3544 W. Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, CA 90303 Hours: 10am-8pm Sun-Thurs / 10am- 9pm Fri & Sat
4532 S. Centinela Ave Los Angeles, CA 90066 (2nd location) 11am-8pm Sun-Thurs / 11am-9pm Fri & Sat

We hope you’ve enjoyed this list-- one thing we should mention is that we’re just scratching the surface here, Los Angeles is full of places to explore and foods you may not have tried. Pro tip-- try these dishes with Sol, an authentic beer that was brewed two centuries ago. Its crisp and refreshing taste pairs perfectly with all kinds of Mexican food. This list should be the start of your own journey, not the end. What Mexican recipes and spots did we miss? Please let us know in the comments!

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