When it comes to satisfying hunger pangs throughout the day, Mexico stands out. Here, a multitude of tempting snacks called antojitos, most of which are arranged on vessels of masa, are sold by street vendors in every city, town, and neighborhood. Yet antojitos, which translates to “little whims,” or cravings, are so much more than a snack (botana), tapa, or appetizer. They are substantial enough to fill in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between. In a country with 32 different culinary regions, these popular street snacks unify Mexican food culture, forging a national gastronomic identity with regional specificity.
“Antojitos” is an inclusive term that incorporates la vitamina T: tamales, tacos, tortas, tostadas, tlacoyos, and tlayudas. A subgroup of dishes called garnachas, made of fried masa and typically covered in salsa, cream, shredded lettuce, and dry cheese, are at times used interchangeably with antojitos. An example might be the deep-fried Mexico City-style quesadillas filled with a guisado, which is both a garnacha and antojito. While Chilangos (people from Mexico City, also called CDMX) will continue to debate the definition of a garnacha, tempting regional antojitos are found in every Mexican state.
“The main difference between antojitos and garnachas are that garnachas are street foods, and antojitos are foods that are found also in restaurants,” says Lalo Villar, who founded the wildly popular Youtube channel La Ruta de la Garnacha nine years ago, creating a visual homage to oft-maligned street vendors and their delicious foods, which are sometimes looked down upon by the Mexican elite.
In Los Angeles, our antojitos come from the second-largest Oaxaqueño population in the world, as well as Sinaloenses, Jalisciences, Nayaritas, Mexiquenses, Chilangos, and around half of Mexico’s states, not to mention Chicanos. And just as in Mexico, it’s essential to Mexican cultural life in Los Angeles. “It’s an approachable meal when we can’t go home — on our way to school, to work, to play. We have amazing street foods that are meals unto themselves,” says Villar.
Los Angeles is a taco town, and there’s no other place in the United States, or Mexico, that contains more regional taco specialists, from Mazatlán’s chorreadas to Tijuana-style birria de res to barbacoa, from multiple Mexican states to LA’s famous Boyle Heights tacos de camarón trucks to those serving crispy lenten tacos from San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco.
But Mexico’s antojitos extend far beyond taco culture. In Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, garnachas istmeñas are thick, fried corn tortillas topped with shredded beef, a sprinkle of dried cheese, and salsa. They’re served with a pickled salad and often attract a crowd at street stands in Istmo de Tehuantepec. A hearty torta de tamal, or guajolota, is the go-to breakfast on the go in CDMX, and in Chihuahua, locals wake up early on weekends for plates covered in beef barbacoa tacos. On Thursday evenings in Acapulco, Guerrero — el jueves pozolero (pozole Thursdays) — white and green pozoles at cenadurías and street stands come with la botana especial, a plate of snacks: chicharrones, limes, sliced radishes, cheese, tacos dorados, chopped onions, and avocado wedges, enough ballast to displace a panga boat. Pozole, swimming with large, nixtamalized corn, is a soup that’s an antojito.
Here is Eater LA’s guide to the food trucks, stands, and restaurants from which to explore many of the iconic foods that define Mexican cuisine. Note that provincial antojitos are a big part of Spanish-speaking countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean as well.
Oaxaca’s most celebrated antojito from the Valles Centrales region consists of a large, thin corn tortilla known as a tlayuda that’s basted with unrefined lard, a spread of black beans flavored with avocado leaves, wispy strands of quesillo, and shredded cabbage. The tlayuda is then folded over and cooked over mesquite, and served with cesina (pork in adobo), tasajo (beef jerky), or chorizo, and is a nighttime tradition at stands and fondas in Oaxaca City. The dish is named after the tortilla.
Alfonso “Poncho” Martinez, a traditional zapoteco chef from the Sierra Norte, takes liberties with his version of the tlayuda, which yields delicious results on the strength of his homemade blood sausage, a recipe given to him by his mother-in-law from Zoogocho. Martinez sources his tlayudas from a family in Oaxaca, but makes his own asientos (unrefined lard), and prepares his own meats, including a more-tender tasajo to appeal to Angelenos, as well as his signature blood sausage. Tlayudas are extra-plump here, loaded with crumbled chorizo inside the tlayuda, a regional unorthodoxy that might ruffle some camisas bordadas of Valles Centrales Zapotecos, but such tasty innovation is welcome in Oaxacalifornia. 4318 S. Main Street, South Central, (213) 359-0264, Friday nights only
Casa de La Clayuda Oaxaqueña
Also from the Sierra Norte, Francisca “Panchita” Aquino Montellano’s Koreatown tlayuderia offers popular Oaxacan guisados to go. It’s also a celebration of Oaxaca’s most famous dish: The high-quality tlayudas, typical of the Valles Centrales region, are doubled over and toasted on a comal, with cesina, tasajo, and chorizo on the side, plus the tlayuda house sells Zoogocho-style moronga (blood sausage) crafted by Alfonso Martinez of Poncho’s Tlayudas to add a taste from home. 752 S. Vermont Avenue, Koreatown, (213) 263-2425
La Cenaduría Oaxaqueña Donaji
Efrain and Antonia Toledo’s backyard Oaxacan cenaduría is a fiesta of late-night antojitos from Valles Centrales, like quesadillas filled with cheese and fresh epazote, memelas, and tamales de mole. It’s worth the drive to Riverside for their fried-to-order molotes covered in black bean sauce, avocado sauce, and crumbled cheese, and stuffed with potatoes and Oaxacan chorizo, not to mention their traditional tlayudas, which come with pipicha, pápalo, and add-ons like roasted chile de agua — your choice of tasajo, cesina, or chorizo — that are folded and cooked over mesquite. 1608 E. La Cadena Drive, Riverside, (951) 204-9472
In Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca (in addition to several other states), molotes are deep-fried, torpedo-shaped corn masa pastries filled with a number of regional recipes, and dressed with shredded lettuce, crumbled cheese, and salsas. In Veracruz, quesadilla-shaped molotes are filled with shredded chicken or potato and cheese, while in Puebla, a flakier dough results from adding a fair portion of wheat flour, for stuffing with tinga, potato and longaniza, or goat cheese. In Oaxaca’s Valles Centrales, plump molotes full of a mixture of potato and Oaxacan chorizo are bathed in black bean and avocado sauces with crumbled cheese on top.
On a quiet street in a Mid-City residential backyard festooned with papel picado, a 76-year-old traditional cook, Doña Hortensia “Tenchita’’ Melchor, runs one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the United States, offering a rotating menu of handcrafted zapoteco moles, homey stews, Oaxaca breakfast dishes like higaditos, and antojitos from Tlacolula de Matamoros. Tenchita’s molotes are drowned in black bean sauce and topped with dried, crumbled cheese and shredded lettuce. The two-bite wonders, packed with sauteed potato cubes and broken bits of spicy chorizo, make an ideal afternoon snack. 2124 S. Cloverdale Avenue, Mid-City, (323) 932-1560
Since 1997, Westsiders have enjoyed one of LA’s only Valles Centrales restaurants with a full liquor license serving tlayudas and moles paired with zapoteco pyramid-molded rice, alongside flashy molcajetes (mortars made of volcanic rock) full of roasted meats, cheese, and vegetables partially submerged in bubbling salsa. Start with an order of delicious, crispy molotes, covered in silky black beans, shredded cabbage, and a flavorful red salsa, resting atop a bright-green romaine lettuce leaf to go with your margaritas. 11929 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles, (310) 444-7736
Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla
The molotes at this family-run Boyle Heights food truck hail from Puebla. “We mix the masa with a little flour so they are flaky, plus we don’t put beans on top like in Oaxaca, instead green, red, or bandera with crumbled cheese and cream,” says Arely Villegas, one of the family members who help runs the truck. Additionally, various regional fillings like tinga de pollo, requesón (ricotta cheese), and potatoes and cheese are served at this truck, known for its stellar tacos árabes. 3600 E. Olympic Boulevard, Boyle Heights, (213) 453-0193
Los Dorados LA
Estiven Torres has elevated the humble flauta, an antojito standard throughout Mexico, into long, slender, crispy pipes of rolled and fried corn tortillas, delicately lacquered with cream and salsas, then dressed in precise sprinklings of dry cheese that sticks to its savory, colorful layers. Lamb barbacoa comes with a dark, nutty salsa, while potato, shredded chicken, and potato and chorizo are coated in guacamole sauce, with a line of mild red salsa down the middle. 5373 Alhambra Avenue, El Sereno
Restaurant Las Margaritas “El Ñañas”
The taquitos dorados made San Juan de los Lagos-style at this well-worn fonda, painted a rosewater hue with burnt orange panels, are the ultimate deli-tray rendition of rolled, deep-fried snacks, where the thin, unfilled taquitos are a crunchy chaser to the bountiful spread of meats. The plate consists of a pile of cured pork loin and foot, plus pickled pig’s feet, pickled jalapenos, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and a delicate layer of Mexican cream. 2914 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles, East LA, (323) 268-6902
Since 1934, Aurora Guerrero’s crispy taquitos, served with a runny avocado salsa, have drawn both local and international visitors to Olvera Street to taste Chicano perfection. The beef-filled taquitos can be used to mop up the folkloric salsa; any leftovers are slurped out of the paper serving boats. It’s the closest thing to a mole in Mexican American cuisine. 23 Olvera Street, Chinatown, (213) 687-4391
Chalupas poblanas are a representative street food dish from Puebla, but other regional versions are popular in Oaxaca, Hidalgo, and other states. Green, red, and chile pasilla salsas or the emblematic mole poblano are spread over small, thick fried corn tortillas flecked with a bit of chopped onion and thin strips of shredded chicken.
Cemitas Poblanas Mi Magdalena
Besides having an extensive menu of cemitas poblanas, this popular East LA sit-down restaurant is a place to delve into the antojitos of Puebla. A plate of assorted chalupas, fried tortillas dressed in red or green salsas and a heaping spoonful of dried cheese, hits the spot for poblanos and fans of the cuisine. 401 S Indiana Street, East LA, (323) 266-6068
Cemitas Poblanas El Sapito
Boyle Heights and East LA, where El Sapito (meaning little frog) is located, are the LA neighborhoods where you’ll find cemitas poblanas, tacos árabes, and other antojitos poblano. On the menu are molotes, memelas, and chalupas covered in red or green salsa, crumbled cheese, and a slice of avocado for garnish, a special touch added to most antojitos at this restaurant serving the community for more than two decades. 3010 1st Street, Boyle Heights, (323) 881-0428
Founded in 1994, the year of the Oaxacan restaurant in Los Angeles. Koreatown’s Oaxacan institution, with a full bar including fine mezcal, is the only Valles Centrales restaurant serving Oaxacan chalupas on its extensive menu of traditional cuisine, which includes lots of antojitos. Chalupas come as thick, fried corn tortillas slathered in salsa de chile guajillo, queso fresco, and a bunch of shredded cabbage along with a side of guacamole. 3014 W. Olympic Boulevard, Koreatown, (213) 427-0608
One of the most common ways to enjoy guisados, pickled foods, roasted meats, or seafood in Mexico is on a commercially made, fried, crunchy corn tortilla. Every street vendor and seafood cart in Mexico buys locally produced tostadas, like the thick, frisbee-sized, extra-coarse tostadas raspadas from Jalisco, while others are more delicate. Antojitos vendors in central Mexico offer toppings of pickled pig’s feet, pickled pork skin, or cured pork loin on a thin spread of refried beans blanketed in tomato slices, shredded lettuce, onion slivers, and grated, aged cheese. In Mexico City, tostadas are piled with guisados like tinga, salpicón, and even potato salad, while on Mexico’s Pacific beaches, a bounty of fresh-caught fish and shellfish are deftly balanced with chopped tomato, purple onion, and cucumber atop prefab tostadas.
Tortas Ahogadas Ameca
Gerardo and Maria Davila’s East LA cenaduría is an antojito-lover’s paradise, focused on the popular supper house classics of Ameca, Jalisco, like tacos dorados, enchiladas, pozole, and delicious Guadalajara-style tortas ahogadas. There is no better place in town to devour tostadas de tinga de pollo, or spicy chicken, layered with shredded lettuce, onions, a slice of tomato, and a generous dusting of queso cotija. 747 S. Atlantic Boulevard, East LA, (323) 268-6636
Antojitos Los Cuates
If you’ve been fortunate to have stopped by Ciudad Guzmán, nicknamed the “Athens of Jalisco” after its many native-born intellectuals, for an evening stroll, many would be easily persuaded by your rhetoric on the virtue of tostadas de pata, cueritos, and pork loin. Fernando Gonzalez Zuniga imports large tostadas raspadas from Ciudad Guzmán and cures his own pork skin, pig’s feet, and pork loin to top his formidable tostadas brushed with refried beans. The tostada is then decked with finely shredded cabbage, purple onions, tomato slices, and a light sprinkle of salty dried cheese straight from Ciudad Guzmán. 1811 N. Long Beach Boulevard, Compton, (562) 469-9944
Mariscos El Faro
In Highland Park, Ana Victoria “Viky” Ibañez, a traditional ceviche cook from Mazatlán, prepares southern Sinaloan seafood tostadas free of the more ostentatiously dressed dishes of Culiacán or Los Mochis. The house-cured callo de lobina (bass) is spread out over a thick tostada, dressed with chopped cucumber, purple onion, and tomato, tomato juice, and as much crushed chile chiltepín as you can handle. The exquisite callo de hacha (pen shell clam) gets the same treatment; the fine-chopped Pacific sierra tostada, its filling blended with grated carrots for a hint of sweetness, is a thing of beauty. It’s one of the few places in LA serving quality fish ceviche. 6139 N. Figueroa Street, Unit 6113, Highland Park, (323) 359-3814
Throughout the tristate region in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, this ubiquitous pair of beloved antojitos yucatecos are unique to Maya culture and also found in Belize’s Maya cuisine. Salbutes are fried, puffed corn tortillas topped with shredded turkey, chicken, or cochinita pibil, served with slices of tomato, avocado, cucumber, and pickled red onions. Also fried in lard are panuchos, corn tortillas filled with refried black beans and layered with grilled chicken, cochinita pibil, relleno negro, or lechón, and a salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and pickled red onion. Neither is complete without chiles habaneros to chase each bite.
In the antojitos section of this iconic Mercado la Paloma stand is a nice collection of antojitos from the Yucatán peninsula, founded in 2001 by Gilberto Cetina Sr., with his wife Blanca, and Gilberto Cetina Jr., who currently runs the family business now that his parents have retired to Mérida. Panuchos, made with thick handmade corn tortillas, are stuffed with well-seasoned black beans and topped with tender turkey, fresh lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, and a slice of avocado. Airy salbutes, a fried puffed corn tortilla dressed the same way, are a light, crispy taste of the Yucatán. 3655 S Grand Avenue c6, Historic South Central, (213) 741-1075
Chef Juan Chan’s pop-up, featuring regional Yucatán cuisine based on his mom Elsa’s recipes, has a small, rotating menu of celebrated classics, like cochinita pibil, relleno negro, and queso relleno. Chan’s panucho is a bright bouquet of Yucatán ingredients: tender shredded chicken stained orange by recaudo rojo (achiote paste), impossibly bright pickled purple onions, the freshest green lettuce, and avocado slices. @ekbalamyucatancuisine
La Flor de Yucatán
There’s an inherent beauty in the loose construction of antojitos yucatecos covered in pale, ripped pieces of iceberg lettuce; frail pickled purple onion strands that stick to the masa, and slices of tomato slowly wilting in the tropical heat. The closest thing we have to an afternoon in a Mérida antojería is the inside table at Pico-Union’s La Flor de Yucatán on a hot day, where the only relief is cooling beads of sweat induced by eating raw habaneros. The salbutes, puffy deep-fried tortillas covered in shredded chicken boiled in recaudo rojo, served alongside a salad dressed in creamy avocado salsa prepared by the Burgos family, are simple, delicious, and just like back home. 1800 Hoover Street, Pico-Union, (213) 748-6090
One of the purest expressions of Indigenous corn masa culture is the tlacoyo, a thick, diamond-shaped stuffed masa containing fava beans, refried beans, cheese, or chicharrón that’s shaped by hand and then flattened in a tortilla press. In Puebla, Estado de México, Tlaxcala, and Hidalgo, among others, nixtamalized heirloom corn is essential to this dish, whose size varies by region. In any iteration, the focal point is the tortilla, which is lightly dressed with nopales salad, onions, and salsa.
All-day barbacoa — traditionally a weekend-only Mexican breakfast — is a tough business, and this family-run Boyle Heights restaurant has managed to put together a full traditional menu of dishes from their native Hidalgo that has given the business longevity. Besides having excellent barbacoa, their tlacoyos, filled with refried beans, potatoes, or cheese and doused with green salsa, cream, and a bit of dried cheese, always satisfy. 2510 E. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Boyle Heights, (323) 264-1451
On the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Kohler Street, the quieter side of the Mercado Olympic’s busy ensemble of markets and street vendors, is a family from Puebla that cranks out quesadillas, gorditas, huaraches, and tlacoyos. Pure elongated masa diamonds are filled with either requesón or refried black beans, then customers can head to the condiment stand to add shredded lettuce, cream, and queso cotija, and choose from a variety of salsas, varying in level of spice.
Casa Del Tlacoyo
Los Angeles’s only food truck dedicated to the Indigenous tlacoyo is a mobile amusement park for lovers of these oval-shaped masa cakes, stuffed with either traditional fillings or other stews more common on huaraches like squash blossoms, sauteed mushrooms, and chicharrón. Try the tlacoyo filled with refried beans, lettuce, and cactus salad on top, or top simply with salsa and cream at this unconventional food truck. @casadeltlacoyo
The extended LA Latin American tamal season begins at Thanksgiving, when Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries stock up for tamales to serve alongside roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. The tamal frenzy begins to slow down after Día de la Candelaria (February 2), but a variety of tamales, sweet and savory, with a multitude of fillings from our many communities can be found in Eater’s Essential Tamales guide.
In the category of Mexican tortas, we are blessed with outstanding tortas ahogadas, spicy drowned sandwiches from Guadalajara, not to mention trucks and restaurants specializing in cemitas poblanas, the unique torta from the city of Puebla, using special sesame seed buns (cemitas), many of them made at Cemitero Poblano or by independent Pueblan bakers. Chilangos visiting the City of Angels would be pleased to find tortas cubanas served in crunchy telera rolls, along with many of the stand combos served on the streets of CDMX. Look no further than our comprehensive torta guide to find the best in the city.
Spicy and messy, this relative of the torta consists of bread dipped in a brick-red chile guajillo salsa, which is then well-toasted on a comal and packed with choripapas (fried chorizo and potato), shredded lettuce, crumbled queso fresco, and cool squirts of Mexican cream on a light bread of refried beans. It’s found in Mexico City, Estado de Mexico, Hidalgo; in Querétaro, it’s called a guajolote and has several fillings, while in Veracruz, a pambazo is a plain round bun with a floury crust that’s filled with refried beans and chorizo.
El Sazón de Mary
On the Instagram account for her busy takeout service, Silver Lake’s Maribel Manjarrez, born and raised in Mexico City’s Azcapotzalco delegation, often claims to prepare the best pambazo in Los Angeles. She certainly can back that up. “Everything we make is homemade,” says Manzarrez, including her bright-red chorizo blended with cubed potatoes, stuffed into a salsa de chile guajillo-soaked bread roll, then toasted on the comal and cooled by fresh lettuce and artisanal Mexican cream. 546 N. Virgil Avenue, Silver Lake
El Huarache de Doña Chela
In the heart of El Monte, a narrow, bright green and yellow cafe is home to an array of Mexico City-style antojitos from sopes to quesadillas to enchiladas. Its traditional, plump pambazos filled with potato and chorizo are cooked to retain a beautiful red color on the bread, with added cream on top and the option of hard-cooked egg inside the sandwich. 10956 Main Street, El Monte, (626) 454-4024
Primo’s Taco Truck
This food truck survived the great antojitos wars of 2008, when Nina’s Food, Antojitos Carmen, and others competed side-by-side at the Breed Street Food Fair, an event where LA food writers and bloggers learned about pambazos, CDMX-style quesadillas, and huaraches covered in salsa de semillas (dried chiles and seeds salsa). Still located in the Avalos Bros and Tires parking lot (it was not affected by the heartbreaking shutdown of LA’s first viral night market in 2009), this truck makes solid, messy potato and chorizo pambazos that still carry the spirit of the long-forgotten street food fair. 2235 1st Street, Boyle Heights, (323) 401-9847
Masa Boats & Pockets: Quesadillas, Huaraches, Gorditas, Sopes, Memelas
Whether from the comal or a deep fryer, antojitos stands in Mexico City offer a variety of masa-based shapes of different sizes, depending on your appetite, stuffed and topped with sauteed mushrooms, stewed squash blossoms. huitlacoche cooked with epazote, chicharrón prensado, and requesón, to name just a few. Sopes are small, round masa discs with crimped edges, overlaid with roasted meats, beans and cheese, or stews, depending on the region. Memelas, pellizcadas, and picaditas are similar to sopes and known by different names in their respective provinces.
Quesadillas in southern Mexico are folded corn tortillas wrapped around guisados; gorditas, thin masa pockets made from corn or flour, are filled with chicharrón prensado in CDMX and savory stews in central and northern Mexico, then toasted on a comal. Huaraches, large oval masa boats known for filling the bellies of hungry workers, are unique to CDMX and some states near the Mexican capital. In CDMX, these tasty, substantial bites are dressed with shredded lettuce, crumbled cheese, Mexican cream, and salsa.
Side-stepping strollers through the crowd, all boxed into a narrow walkway flanked by piñata, food stores, and ambulant vendors, one can find a path through this bustling market to CMDX-style quesadillas, huaraches, gorditas, and sopes filled with huitlacoche, flor de calabaza, and tinga de pollo. Count on El Sazón Guerrerense, Rico Antojitos y Guisados Mexicanos, and others at LA’s antojitos Mecca. Olympic Boulevard/Central Avenue; weekend mornings and afternoons are best
Las 7 Regiones de Oaxaca
Thick and wide Oaxacan memelas come with chorizo, tasajo, or cecina and spicy salsa roja at Lidia Chavarria’s Pico-Union restaurant founded in 1996, serving Valles Centrales cuisine from San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya. Rich with layers of warm asientos and a puree of black beans scented with anise-flavored avocado leaf, this dish also includes stringy swirls of quesillo and salsas that add complexity, making it a meal unto itself. 2648 W. Pico Boulevard, Pico-Union, (213) 385-7458
In 2018, Javier and Arlae Chio began to do pop-ups and catering jobs, perfecting their recipes for gorditas laguneras, flour tortilla pockets stuffed with guisados. In January 2023 they opened Los Angeles’s only Coahuila-style gordita shop. The Chios have brightened up the small Lakewood mall space with bone white walls, adding cactus green trim proudly representing Comarca Lagunera’s dessert and naturally, an abundance of succulents and cacti. Guisos include bistec ranchero, huevo en salsa verde, picadillo, and puerco en salsa roja based on recipes from Javier Chio’s family in Torreón, Coahuila, which are spooned into fluffy handmade flour tortilla pockets literally full of nostalgia. 5835 Bellflower Boulevard C, Lakewood, (562) 202-9638
Although Central America, Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, and South America are more familiar when it comes to empanadas, Mexico has a variety of regional savory and sweet empanadas made with flour dough or corn masa. Fruit-filled, oven baked empanadas, coastal fried seafood empanadas, mole-filled folded Oaxacan corn tortillas, and flaky pastes in Hidalgo are among the many versions enjoyed throughout Mexico.
Mil Hojas Pastes
In 2020, Lucia Hernandez opened her empanada trailer in Northridge, serving Pachuca, Hidalgo-style pastes from a menu of 20-plus sweet and savory glossy pastries. Flaky triangular pastes are filled with mole rojo and made with a blend of five dried chiles while a pumpkin seed-based uses mole verde. Classics such as tinga de pollo, choriqueso, salchicha con queso, and weenies and cheese are among the spicy treats served from a modified stock trailer. A stop at this trailer wouldn’t be complete without a dessert of arroz con leche, fresh fruit, or Nutella pastes, all made from scratch by Hernandez, who offers a rare Mexican antojito experience in the San Fernando Valley. 9167 Reseda Boulevard, Northridge, (818) 671-9090
The lone U.S. outlet of a popular Culiacán-based barra fria, barra caliente — or cold and hot bar — serves some of the best ceviches, seafood tacos, and coctéles prepared with imported seafood from Sinaloa. Among chef Luis Vásquez’s tempting menu of shrimp and fish tacos, many of them complemented by melted or fried cheese, are a pair of crispy seafood empanadas dressed with streaks of chipotle mayo and served alongside a light slaw. Diners can choose from sauteed Mexican shrimp and melted cheese or stewed smoked marlin with melted cheese for an appetizing starter at this seafood star set inside a Downey strip mall. 8659 Florence Avenue, Downey (562) 746-0025
Árbol Del Tule
A newcomer to LA’s ever-expanding Oaxacan restaurant community has opened a cafe inside of the Brookhurst Center mall in Anaheim, named after the famed ahuehuete tree that’s been in Santa María del Tule for more than a thousand years. The extensive menu is full of moles, as well as plenty of Oaxacan antojitos like molotes, tlayudas, memelas, and large half-moon-shaped empanadas made with corn masa. Griddled empanadas de amarillo are doubled corn tortillas filled with a thick, fragrant mole with a base of chile guajillo that’s sealed and toasted on a comal. Ground hierba santa, parsley, tomatillos, and serrano chiles give empanadas de verde their verdant layers. 710 N. Brookhurst Street, Anaheim.
The most popular Mexican street snack on the planet is a roasted or boiled ear of corn brushed with mayo, Parkay, butter, or Mexican cream — or a combination of these fats — then quickly dusted with chile powder, queso cotija or local cheese, and a final squeeze of lime. Different varieties of corn are used all over Mexico and at elotes stands in the United States; the recipe is also used for corn in a cup, known as esquites.
Residents of Lincoln Heights have spent more than three decades gnawing on lusciously dressed elotes and esquites fashioned by Timoteo, called simply the “corn man” by outsiders willing to drive to the Eastside for Mexico’s coveted street snack. Timoteo’s fats of choice are mayo and Parkay squeeze-bottle margarine, to lather up elotes coated with dried Parmesan cheese, chile powder, and a squeeze of lime — the same formula goes for plates of esquites, or cups of loose corn. There’s always a line, which is part of the familial atmosphere and tradition in Lincoln Heights. 2338 Workman Street, Lincoln Heights
Elotes Asados El Charro
Delve into contemporary elote and esquite culture at the Avenue 26 Night Market stand that offers esquites and elotes, plus Maruchaesquites, a cup of Maruchan ramen filled with corn and served with a topping of ground Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, as well as extra snacks on the side like pickled jalapeños, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos covered in nacho cheese. Additionally, there are Takiesquites, prepared in individual bags of Takis, and duros, large, rectangular wheat-based chicharrones topped with shredded lettuce, cream, and a heap of corn, among other wild creations. @ave26familynightmarket
For sit-down elotes and esquites, Inglewood’s Latino community visits this Mexican snack shop dedicated to popular snacks such as raspados, tortas, bionicos, and fresh juices. Esquites are prepared with mayo, margarine, dried cheese, chile powder, and lime, while elotes come in standard form or with a dusting of ground Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. 310 E. Florence Avenue, Inglewood, (310) 680-9554
One of Mexico’s iconic dishes, a star of the cenaduría (supper house), is full of nixtamalized cacahuazintle corn, or hominy, which is why this caldo qualifies as an antojito, served in the color of the Mexican flag: red, white, and green, plus a range of regional styles. Guerrero-style pozole reigns above all with multiple versions and elaborate condiments, but each of Mexico’s 32 regions has its own pozoles.
Tamales Elena y Antojitos
Doña Maria Elena Lorenzo makes the best pozole in Los Angeles, with white pozole and nutty, green pozole flavored by Lorenzo’s green pumpkin seed mole being her specialties, both packed with al dente hominy and made from a rich stock made from whole hog’s head. Warm bowls overflowing with tacos dorados, cheese, avocado slices, thin rounds of radish, shredded cabbage, chicharrones, and more add substance to this coveted Afromexicano tradition from Costa Chica de Guerrero at this Watts food truck, one of the greatest regional Mexican restaurants in the country. Wilmington Avenue and E. 110th Street, Watts, (920) 203-2744, @tamaleselenayantojitos
Antojitos Los Cuates
For a simpler, utterly rich bowl of white pozole from Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, Fernando Gonzalez Zuniga’s version, plainly garnished with shredded cabbage, thin-sliced radishes, diced purple onions, salsa de chile de árbol, and a squeeze of lime, is the way to go. Zuniga prepares his own nixtamal, cooks a hog’s head for the meat and stock, and serves the dish with imported raspadas (coarse tostadas) from his hometown. 1811 N. Long Beach Boulevard, Compton, (562) 469-9944
Oaxaca is a land of impressive culinary traditions created by its many Indigenous groups, but pozole is not one of the first plates one thinks of when planning a trip to Mexico’s most famous southern state. On an evening stroll in Oaxaca City you’ll find antojitos carts offering red pozole, as is the case at Dominga Velasco Rodriguez’s Oaxacan restaurant in Koreatown. Rodriguez makes a homey red pozole on the weekends, served with shredded cabbage, radishes, and plenty of limes to add a little acid. 3337 1/2 W 8th Street, Koreatown, (213) 427-3508
In Mexican cuisine, enchiladas are rolled or folded corn tortillas dipped or covered in red, green, or smoked chile salsa, then lightly fried on a comal. Shredded chicken or cheese on the inside adds flavor, but the star of the dish is often the salsa, complemented with finishing touches of minced raw onions, Mexican cream, and crumbled cheese. In central and southern Mexico, red enchiladas can come with whole pieces of chicken plus diced carrots and potatoes fried in the same salsa. In all 32 regions, enchiladas are different in their chiles, cheese, and tortillas; there are also enchiladas suizas that are baked, in addition to other creative local iterations.
One of LA’s OG Sinaloan cenadurías has held onto its traditional recipes created by Maria Martinez, who combined her youthful memories of Guamuchil, Mazatlán, and Culiacán into the restaurant’s name. Bright-red corn tortillas are filled with chicken, cheese, or beef, then are flattened into rectangles and covered in fried cheese and squirts of cream with pickled purple shredded lettuce on the side. Orders come in a combo with rice and beans, or try the enchiladas de suelo, a special, and the off-menu open-faced enchilada topped with crumbled chorizo. 8646 State Street, South Gate, (323) 566-5522
La Casita Mexicana
The city of Bell hosts the famed kitchen operated by Mexican celebrity chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo, who have designated Wednesdays as enchiladas and entomatadas day, where there are specials on their signature dishes, plus occasional surprises. Dine in their new Mexican courtyard surrounded by kitsch and plants or in the main dining area for chicken or cheese enchiladas covered with moles, chipotle cream sauce, and green or red salsa. Their legendary tres moles, consisting of a trio of enchiladas doused in scratch-made mole Poblano, red pipián, and green pipián, make a stunning plate of enmoladas. 4030 E. Gage Avenue, Bell, (323) 773-1898
Rinconcito Michoacano Donaby
For a true taste of La Ruana, Michoacán, street vendor Abigail Villanueva buys her chiles guajillos from Mexico and imports artisanal cecina, beef jerky directly from Michoacán. For the last year, Villanueva has garnered an audience for her Tierra Caliente regional plates like morisqueta (rice and beans with salsa), tacos dorados, and enchiladas con cecina. The key to Villanueva’s beloved enchiladas is the savory fruit salsa that’s used for dipping the tortillas and is also poured over the plate. Chile guajillo dipped tortillas are lightly fried in oil, filled with queso seco, folded in half, dressed with shredded cabbage, and then more salsa roja, salsa verde. It’s finished with a flurry of queso seco. Fried potatoes, sliced fresh tomatoes, and thin cuts of fried cecina come on the side, just like back in Villanueva’s hometown of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. 4947 Patata Street, Cudahy (714) 395-9133.
Enfrijoladas, entomatadas, enmoladas
These enchiladas are folded, lightly fried corn tortillas soused with bean puree (enfrijoladas), tomato sauce (entomatadas), or mole (enmoladas). All of these are found throughout Mexico, living on the menus of comedores and market stalls in Oaxaca and Puebla, as well as Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles, especially enmoladas from the two states most famous for their moles. Enfrijoladas are prepared with black beans in Oaxaca, southern Mexico, and in LA’s Oaxacan restaurants, and in the north, they can be made with Peruvian bayo beans. In all cases, a few slices of raw onion, crumbled cheese, and Mexican cream complete the dish.
Traditional zapoteca cook and barbacoa master Maria Ramos, alongside her husband, David Ramos, runs one of the best Valles Centrales restaurants in the United States, known for Maria’s barbacoa enchilada, moles, and an extensive menu of Oaxacan breakfast items like entomatadas. Maria makes a delicious tomato sauce for dipping lightly fried corn tortillas then submerging them in the sauce. Herbed with epazote and paired with chorizo, cecina, or tasajo, the bite tastes like a morning in Tlacolula. 4163 W. Washington Boulevard, Arlington Heights, (323) 737-5050
Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen
Ever cheerful, Los Angeles’s Diosa de Los Moles, or goddess of moles, chef Rocio Camacho, continues to explore traditional moles of her native Oaxaca, national moles, and creations of her own at her charming Bell Gardens restaurant. Enmoladas, Camacho’s cheese or chicken enchiladas covered with mole are best with her award-winning mole negro oaxaqueño or mole poblano; still, there are more options like manchamanteles (tablecloth-stainer mole), pipian (pumpkin seed mole), or her original pistachio-mint mole. Try them all, and appease the goddess. 7891 Garfield Avenue, Bell Gardens, (562) 659-7800
The best mezcal bar in the world, owned by zapoteco Ivan Vasquez, also has one an underrated brunch menu of Oaxacan dishes. Get the enfrijoladas, a stack of lightly fried corn tortillas drowned in a smooth black puree, beautifully spread out across a wide ceramic plate with a shallow ridge and decked with slivers of white onion, cream, a garnish of cilantro, plus two glistening sunny side up eggs. 801 N. Fairfax Avenue, Unit 101, West Hollywood, (323) 850-8518, three locations