LA's Latin American Cuisine Beyond Mexican
Mexican food dominates the Latin American cuisine scene in Los Angeles. And rightfully so. But LA is home to a wealth of culinary delights from other Latin American countries too. Let’s have a taste of a few.
Drawing influences from indigenous Incas and migration to Peru from Asia, Africa, and Europe, Peruvian cuisine has captured taste buds across the world. Potatoes, corn, and rice make it into many of the recipes, while ceviche is Peru's national dish. Pork, chicken, and lamb often get some zest from aji chili peppers.
- Top LA Restaurants: With locations in Woodland Hills and Van Nuys, Chios Peruvian Grill has some of the best ceviches in town. Pablito's Kitchen in Burbank gets points for its tofu saltado, while Rosty in Downtown LA offers homestyle traditional fare.
- Cheap Eats: Look out for the food trucks Peruvian King LA and Mikhuna.
A medley of Caribbean flavors mix with Spanish and African influences on the island of Cuba. Rice, beans, and meat make up the Holy Trinity of Cuban cuisine, often accompanied by root vegetables including yucca, malanga, and white sweet potatoes. Dishes are often slow cooked over low flames and seasoned with sofrito: a puree of peppers, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic.
- Top LA Restaurants: El Colmao has been satisfying diners on Pico Boulevard since 1969 (try the pierna con mojo). La Cubana in Glendale excels in rabo encendido (oxtail stew), while Florida in Downey is famed for its chicken-fried steak.
- Cheap Eats: Go for some Cuban deli at Silverlake's El Cochinito, home to a legendary Cuban sandwich.
If you're into Argentinian food you're probably into beef; barbecue is something of a national obsession for Argentinians. And you probably savor that grilled steak with a generous dollop of chimichurri, a garlic-and-herb sauce that no Argentinian restaurant would be without. Meals usually conclude with dulce de leche, a sweet paste often served over ice cream.
- Top LA Restaurants: Just about everyone who strolls Melrose Ave passes Lala’s Argentine Grill, a casual-cool spot that's been specializing in steaks since 1995. Malbec Cuisine brings the best of Buenos Aires to locations in Pasadena and Eagle Rock.
- Cheap Eats: A pop-up stand in Highland Park, Empanadas Chimi offers fried Argentine-style empanadas, stuffed with chicken, beef, and other delights.
Colombian cuisine varies by region and is therefore difficult to encapsulate. But the array of Colombian dishes does, however, share some commonalities; they eschew chilies and hot spices for smokier, earthier flavors, favoring herbs and drawing on indigenous, Spanish, and Arabian influences. Perhaps the best-known Colombian dish is bandeja paisa, a big combo plate of red beans, rice, sausage, ground beef, and the popular fried pork rind chicharrón.
- Top LA Restaurants: For massive, overstuffed Colombian-style tamales head to Sabor Colombiano in the Pico-Union neighborhood. La Fonda Antioqueña serves casual Colombian fare in East Hollywood, while Escala in Koreatown offers an Asian-fusion spin.
- Cheap Eats: La Chiva Colombian Lonchera, a Colombian joint in Long Beach, has gone mobile with a food truck. Sus Arepas offers affordable Colombian fare from a food truck that frequents Glendale.
Another country with food that varies greatly by region, Brazil owes its overall culinary heritage to indigenous Amerindians, Africa, and Europe. Lots of dishes incorporate tropical fruits including mangos, papayas, and guavas, as well as root vegetables. One of Brazil's most popular dishes is feijoada, black bean stew with a variety of smoked meats, simmered with garlic, onions, and spices.
- Top LA Restaurants: Going strong since 2008, Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant in Thousand Oaks has satisfied nearly countless diners with its moqueca capixaba, seafood stew. Cruise down to Redondo Beach and drop by Panelas Brazil Cuisine for some carne de panela (beef stew) and signature virado à paulista (a whole-meal combo loaded with goodies).
- Cheap Eats: Head to West LA for prime cuts of churrasco at Brazilian BBQ.
Any talk of food from El Salvador leads to one word: pupusas. It's hard to overstate the popularity of these stuffed tortilla cakes, found simmering on flat-top grills on just about every street in the Central American country. And the massive Salvadoran population in LA means you can get some of the world's best pupusas in Los Angeles.
- Top LA Restaurants: La Pupusa Urban Eatery in Pico-Union puts a decadent Mexican spin on pupusas with steak, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cotija cheese. Or try a purple corn pupusa at La Numero Uno in Hollywood.
- Cheap Eats: Pull up a stool; the pupusas served by Sarita's Pupuseria at Grand Central Market are legendary. The food truck Drive Thru Pupusas says what it is—and delivers!
True, Mexican food in LA may be beyond compare, but Peruvian restaurants in Los Angeles, Cuban food, and Colombian cuisine are also sure to satisfy.
Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.