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Eat Like Chente: Where to Find Vicente Fernández’s Favorite Mexican Dish Around Los Angeles

5:00 PM PST on December 13, 2021

a plate of carne en su jugo

Before Vicente Fernández was the King of Rancheras, he was a proud Jaliscience. If you know anyone born and raised anywhere around Guadalajara and its surrounding agave-full rural communities, you will know that there is one regional dish that is so delicious that it makes any Tapatío instantly swoon and declare their love for it: Carne en Su Jugo. 

Chente’s adoration for Jalisco’s number one regional dish was not a secret, proclaiming his love for it several times in Spanish-language publications. It is a delicious dish made from shaved beef and beans cooked in a refreshingly tart tomatillo beef broth that is often overshadowed by Jalisco’s other braised powerhouse, birria.  

Carne en su jugo translates to “beef in its own juices,” and it’s the kind of dish you crave when it’s cold out and you need the nourishment that only a steamy, juicy bowl of beef can bring. The filling, comforting dish is the lifeblood of Guadalajara, Mexico’s old capital city in the sunny west-coast state of Jalisco. If you’re ever there, there’s a 99 percent chance you will go to Karne Garibaldi for it, the restaurant that made this dish, known around the world for breaking the Guinness World Record for serving it in 13.5 seconds after ordering. 

The dish is somewhere between pho and a plate of carne asada tacos. It’s a brothy stew of chopped steak and tender beans in an intensely savory beef stock traditionally fortified with Worcestershire and soy sauces, onions, garlic, and tomatillos. (And there is true magic in those tomatillos—they add a layer of delicious tartness that’s dangerously good against the richness of the beef.)

Fernandez was known to get his start as Mexico’s leading crooner in cantinas around Guadalajara. When he wasn’t in his homestate, he was singing in Jalisco-style bars in Mexico City. He loved the bold, spicy, and addicting native flavors of his Jalisco so much, that he even opened a restaurant in his home near Guadalajara to celebrate them. To the surprise of no one, Las 3 Milpas was also known for making strong tequila drinks. Chente was known to occasionally step outside his home and take photos with his adoring fans.  

In Los Angeles, carne en su jugo is relatively hard to find. But here are are some TACO-approved spots around the city drown your sorrow for Chente in a bowl, and honor him at the same time. 

The setup for carne en su jugo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
The setup for carne en su jugo at Taquería Millo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Taquería Millo

There’s a 40-year-old tradition that happens every Monday morning, and only on Mondays, in the unincorporated town of Lennox. Taquería Millo prepares a large steaming pot of listo-pa’-la-chinga carne en su jugo to get their customer base of primarily gardeners and construction workers bellies’ ready to kickstart the week strong. You have to get there early to snag a bowl filled with generous cuts of stewed beef, beans, and topped with crispy bacon before they sell out around noon. Add their caramelized onions (lovingly known as “carne lizard onions” in these parts of web) to the bowl for that added roasted sweetness and pair it with one of their signature “Millo-cheladas” to help wash away any lingering feelings of the weekend behind you (go next door to buy your beer of choice). The original recipe belongs to the now-deceased founder, Emilio “Millo” Becerra, of Tepatitlán, Jalisco. Still, his children and family keep the tradition going strong, including having a different specialty item each day of the week. - Memo Torres

11040 S. Inglewood Ave., Lennox, CA, 90304. Available on Mondays only.

Cañada’s Grill   

This family-owned restaurant in Eastside Long Beach is the definition of a neighbhoorhood gem, known only to local residents who knows what up or to thirsty patrons of the tiki bar across the street. The menu is deceiving, with the Cal-Mex staples like wet burritos and fajitas, but look at it closely and a trained eye will zoom in on a handful of Jalisco-style regional specialities like tortas ahogadas and carne en su jugo. The version at Cañada’s Grill is extra thick and rich with plenty of delicious paper-thin shaved beef.

3721 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA 90804

La Casita Mexicana 

L.A.’s own Jalisco-born chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu of Bell’s legendary Casita Mexicana were one of the first to serve Carne en Su Jugo in Los Angeles. Arvizu tells L.A. TACO they first served it in 2000, just a couple of years after opening their Jalisco-style leaning restaurant. Their customers loved it immediately because what’s not to love about a bean stew with beans and bacon, splashed with lime and eaten with plenty of handmade tortillas? They’ve only served it as a special whenever either of the two co-owning chefs felt like making a big batch, but L.A. TACO has confirmed that they are featuring it as a special every Wednesday for L.A.’s cold weather season—starting this week. This is La Casita Mexicana’s 23rd year in business, so you can rest assured that yes, busting a mission from anywhere to try a bowl will be worth it. 

4030 E Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201. Served on Wednesdays only.

Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez

This restaurant is perhaps the most hard-to-find restaurant in Northeast Los Angeles. You may have driven up or down Pasadena Avenue to avoid the 110 traffic out of downtown into Highland Park 420 times and you still may have never seen or heard of this hole-in-the-wall restaurant boasts a second story that acts as the main dining room. But once you find it, it is a bonafide Jalisquillo paradise right where the rolling hills of Montecito Heights meets Lincoln Heights. It features all the hits: carne asada plates, tacos dorados, tortas ahogadas, and carne en su jugo. All dishes and even drinks are served in traditional Tlaquepaque-style handmade earthenware clay plates and mugs, which we swear makes the food taste better.

La Chiva Loca

3328 Pasadena Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90031

In the song “Guadalajara,” Fernandez proudly belts out a love letter to the beautiful rainy hills of the great city in his home state of Jalisco. To find this same level of love of Guadalajara through food, visit one of La Chiva Loca’s two locations where their menu reads like a mix-tape of Guadalajara’s greatest traditional flavors. A restaurant named after the city’s most prolific soccer team, Las Chivas, is the perfect place to try Chente’s favorite dish any day of the week. Pair their jugo en su carne with a fresh crunchy taco dorado de requesón drowned in that classic tomato-heavy sauce. It’s a robust carne en su jugo. Adding too much of their in-house made Tapatío-like hot sauce might rev up a Mexican Grito from your lungs worthy of being hollered at the end of Chente’s Guadalajara, Guadalajara. - Memo Torres

8157 Firestone Blvd, Downey, CA 90241

5805 Imperial Hwy, South Gate, CA 90280

Editor's note: For a recipe to make a delicious carne en su jugo at home, check out Paola Briseño Gonzalez's recipe for it on 'Food & Wine here.

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