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Boyle Heights

East LA Food to C’Rave For! ~ East LA and Boyle Heights

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck

One thing I love about the Assistant Organizers of my dining group, Pleasure Palate, is that they are truly passionate about exploring LA's culinary landscape. This past Saturday, 7 of us went with one of my AOs, Cecilia, on her East LA Foodie C'Rave. C'Rave by the way is short for Culinary Rave and I can only rave about the fun we had, as we hit 7 foodie destinations in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights. Our first stop was at Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Elvirita

While waiting for the rest of the group, a few of us early birds shared a Taco Abaje with pork and chipotle. It seemed more like a thinly rolled burrito than a taco. I liked the kick of the chipotle sauce and a squeeze of lime added a tart freshness to the pork.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Elvirita

Once everyone arrived, we ended up sharing 3 different Cemitas. Since we weren't sure of everyone's heat tolerance, we ordered the chipotle on the side, which I thought was a good idea, because it gave me a chance to taste the meat by itself before adding the spice to my sandwich. My favorite was the Milanesa. I really enjoyed the beef's crispy battered coating. I liked the Barbacoa second, although I found the lamb to be a bit dry on its own. The addition of the chipotle sauce fixed that right away. Unfortunately, I thought the Carnitas Cemitas was a little too salty for my taste. For all three, I really enjoyed the bread, which was crusty and not overly thick.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Elvirita
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Elvirita
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Elvirita

After finishing off our Cemitas, we headed to Birreria Chalio. Walking in, I was quite surprised to see all the deer heads on the wall, especially since I don't recall seeing venison on the menu.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Birrieria Chalio
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Birrieria Chalio

Our stop here was all about the goat tacos, which this restaurant is known for. Even before our goat fixin's arrived, I have to admit to being enthralled with their corn tortillas, which were the biggest I've ever seen. They were big and fluffy and I could have easily just eaten that spread with butter and dipped into salsa.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Birrieria Chalio

Finally, our goat meat arrived and with it the goat consomme. After tearing off a small piece of the tortilla, I topped it with goat meat, some goat consomme, cilantro, onions and a squeeze of lime, wrapped it up and took a bite. Although there was good flavor to the goat meat, it was a bit dry and while the consomme added moisture, it didn't add much in the way of flavor. The salsa on the other hand gave it the boost it needed. This is actually my second time having the Birreria Chalio's goat, with my first experience being at the East LA Meets Napa event last year. In this case, my first taste was a tad better with the goat being the star on its own.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Birrieria Chalio
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Birrieria Chalio

After goat tacos, it was time to head out to the Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck. While this truck sells a variety of Mexican foods, what they're known for is their Pescuesos de Pollo, better known as Chicken Necks. Let me tell you, those chicken necks are addicting. They're deep fried to the point that the skin around the neck puffs up to a crispy and crunchy goodness. It's hard to eat just one and I didn't even bother with the tortillas. It was all about those chicken necks.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck

Our small group also ordered a couple of other items that were also appreciated like the tongue taco and the al pastor taco.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck

By the way, I really wanted to take a picture of the Al Pastor, which was inside the truck and the cooks were kind enough to let me step in, take some photos and then jump back out. How nice is that.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck

We've already done quite a bit of feasting, but that didn't stop us from going to our next stop, which was Nina's, who won this year's 2010 LA Vendy Awards. I've actually been eating Nina's food off and on since my first visit in 2007 and she's rarely disappointed. One of things I always try to get when stopping by Nina's is one of her agua frescas, which are never overly sweet. My favorite is the Melon, which is made with cantaloupe.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's

I also like the variety of salsas that she offers and if you want to try something different, you have to try the salsa de semillas, which is made up of peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chile de arbol and peanut oil. You can see a great close up of that salsa on top of the flautas that our group ordered.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's

Our East LA C'Ravers also shared Nina's Pambazo (which was her winning entry at the LA Vendy Awards). The pambazo is bread dipped in a red guajillo red chile sauce with a chorizo and potato filling and then grilled. This is definitely a must order, if you hit up Nina's. You won't be disappointed. We also shared a wonderfully cheesy squash blossom quesadilla.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Nina's

Next to Nina's was Lupe's Pancakes and her specialty is cream cheesed filled pancakes (or crepes) topped with your choice of fruit topping.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes

It was fun to watch her at work. With just a ladle, she was able to pour out an almost perfect circle of batter on the griddle and once it was cooked, she flipped it with her fingers. Yikes! I can't even imagine how hot that would be. Next, she added the cream cheese, let it melt for a bit, rolled it up, placed it on a plate and added the fruit topping.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes

For my pancake, I asked her to add both the blackberry preserves and fresh blackberries. While the preserves were a tad sweet, it balanced well with the pancake and the cream cheese which weren't too sweet at all and the fresh blackberries which added that nice hit of tart. Someone else in our group opted for the blueberry topping for her pancake, which included whole blueberries.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Lupe's Pancakes

By now, you're probably thinking we were down and out, but nope, we headed to Tacos Baja Ensenada next, where we either ordered our own or shared both fish and shrimp tacos. This was my second visit to Tacos Baja Ensenada and I have to say that I wasn't that impressed with the fish tacos the first time around. Second time was definitely the charm. This time, I asked for the sour cream and red sauce to be on the side and somehow that made a big difference. Overall, I just liked the quality of the fish and the batter much better without that red sauce and sour cream drenching the entire taco.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Tacos Baja
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  Tacos Baja Ensenada

Now we definitely were starting to reach our limit so we headed off to our final stop, La Monarca Bakery, so that we could sit awhile and enjoy some coffee and dessert before heading off home.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery

We shared a variety of sweets from ice cream and pastries to cookies and cake. My favorite dessert at La Monarca was the Tres Leches Cake. It was so moist and delicious that it was hard to share it. I also got a second taste of their Chorizo Empanadas, which I also had for the first time at the East LA Meets Napa Event last year. It was definitely just as good now as it was then.

East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery
East LA Foodie C'Rave aka Crawl:  La Monarca Bakery

So ends this 5 hour C'Rave and wow, it was definitely a fun experience. It gave me some new food experiences, but also gave me a chance to re-visit foods I've had before as a way to see if a second chance would change my opinion about them and as you read, it was definitely hit and miss. Overall, this was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday and I count myself lucky that I was able to spend it with people who truly appreciate food and its many pleasures.

Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita
3010 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 881-0428

Birrieria Chalio
3580 East 1st Street
Los Angelese, CA 90063
(323) 268-5349

Santa Rita, Jalisco Taco Truck
3900 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 261-2738

Nina's Food
Breed Street and E. Caesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90033

Lupe's Pancakes
Breed Street and E. Caesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90033

Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 887-1980

La Monarca Bakery
5700 E. Whittier Blvd
Commerce, CA 90022
(323) 869-8800

If you’d like to read more about my tasty travels around town, click here or if you'd like to join my dining group, Pleasure Palate, click here!

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