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Colorful uni-topped ceviche tostada on a white plate with colorful tablecloth.
Kanpachi and uni tostada from Holbox.
Farley Elliott

9 Great LA Spots for Vibrant, Colorful Yucatecan Food

Mexico’s southern peninsula is a melting pot of culinary traditions, including Mayan, European, and Middle Eastern influences

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Kanpachi and uni tostada from Holbox.
| Farley Elliott

The Yucatán peninsula features some of the oldest culinary traditions in Mexican cuisine. Known as the ancestral home of the Mayans, this southern region’s food culture is heavily influenced by the rich diversity of its ingredients, and its long, winding history. Following the Spanish conquest, Yucatecan food blended with European influences as well as future waves of immigrants from the Middle East, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.

Yucatecan food can often be, but is not exclusively, tart and vibrant due to its emphasis on citrus flavors. On the protein side, Mayan cooking techniques have for ages focused on slowly roasting meats until they’re extremely tender, with tangy notes of lima agria, achiote, and habanero chiles. The result is a delightful combination of spice, acid, and rich, deep flavors. Here are just some of the best places to enjoy cochinita pibil and other flavorful Yucatecan dishes right here in Los Angeles.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Yuca’s is a James Beard Award-winning stand that’s been serving excellent cochinita pibil tacos and Yucatán-stye tamales to its community for the past 45 years. Now with a second location in Pasadena, this family-owned operation still makes their shredded pork stew that’s moist and dripping with achiote and citrus flavors. Instead of the usual pickled red onion on the cochinita pibil, Yuca piles on a pico de gallo salsa for added brightness against the rich pork. The tamales arrive stuffed with minced pork filling and bright tomato sauce, the soft masa covered by ladles of an acidic tomato-onion mixture.

El Zarape

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This East Hollywood spot is a great neighborhood taquería offering everything from tinga to chorizo, tripa, asada, and more. Some highlights include the excellent tacos de cabeza full of wonderful bits of buttery fat and a cochinita pibil that has become a local favorite. This Yucatecan recipe has the earthiness from the achiote paste, some warmth from its sweet/savory spice blend, and a nice tartness from its citrus juice. Order El Zarape’s cochinita as a taco or a torta that comes on a fluffy telera roll that’s slathered with refried beans and a tangy chipotle cream sauce that packs a decent amount of heat.

Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico

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Located a stone’s throw away from Downtown’s Union Station, Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico (or Chiguacle for simplicity’s sake) is LA’s answer to a traditional Mexican cantina with its excellent bar and varied menu of southern Mexican specialties. Besides its delicious cochinita pibil, Chiguacle serves a wonderful mixiote de borrego, slow-cooked lamb in a thick marinade made from Yucatecan staples like allspice, oregano, chiles, annatto, and garlic. The creamy sauce burns low and slow and straddles heat, sweetness, and a savory smokiness. The whole dish is enjoyed with handmade tortillas that have nopales mixed into the masa.

La Flor De Yucatan

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This Pico-Union spot is a one-stop-shop for all things Yucatán, including pastries, desserts, and some very juicy turkey. For those interested in a sweet treat, try the bakery’s atropellados, flakey turnovers filled with either rich coconut cream or a mixture of sweet yams and coconut. These dessert empanadas can come either golden brown or covered in powdered sugar, with the floral notes of star anise lingering in each bite. Wild turkey is a staple in this part of Mexico, and La Flor de Yucatán prepares an excellent garlic roasted turkey that’s shredded and sautéed with tons of sweet onion and fruity banana peppers.

Yucatortas

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It’s all about the cochinita pibil at this roving mostly eastern San Gabriel Valley pop-up. Yucatortas serves its version spicy, with tons of pickled red onion and habanero chiles, and customers can choose whether they want their pulled pork in a taco, torta, or yucalita — an open-faced taco with shredded cheese. The tortas come in a soft bolillo that’s filled to the brim with shredded pork before it gets a spoonful of the stew’s broth. Besides pickled escabeche for added acidity, the sandwich is very flavorful with just its meat filling as the tart achiote paste’s flavors and coloring seep into the bread roll.

Chichen Itza

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Located inside Mercado La Paloma, this staple vendor is all about Yucatecan classics like cochinita pibil, the famed shredded pork dish that’s marinated in tangy achiote paste and citrus juice. Find it here as its own standalone plate, in a taco, or stuffed inside a soft baguette to create an intensely flavorful torta. The meat is tender and balanced between sour, sweet, and mildly spicy, with pickled red onion rounding out the flavors. The poc-chuc, another marinated pork dish that’s grilled rather than stewed, makes for a great alternative here.

Holbox is another staple inside Mercado La Paloma (and also owned by Gilberto Cetina), serving some of the best Mexican mariscos in town. The stall incorporates flavors from across Mexico but specializes in Cetina’s native Yucatán. Holbox’s kanpachi and uni tostada is a decadent bite of seafood we’ve come across and consists of a homemade tostada with Baja-style kanpachi ceviche and Santa Barbara uni that’s topped off with avocado puree and a smoky arbol and guajillo salsa. The charred octopus is also a hit, served with an almond pipian sauce that’s sweet but with an earthy finish that complements the grilled pulpo.

Bomba! Yucateco Delicacy

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Bomba! is a roving pop-up that serves regional specialties like the Yucatecan version of Lebanese kibbeh (a result of waves of Middle Eastern immigrants dating back to the early 20th century) and crunchy panuchos with spicy habanero salsa. The kibbeh, a beef and bulgur wheat mixture, gets an extra dose of moisture and tang from pickled red onion and a punchy habanero salsa that is dangerously hot and tasty. Bomba’s panuchos are also a must-try, with a fried tortilla base coming out nicely crisped but with enough bend to hold its black bean filling. These bean and tortilla discs taste even better with the stand’s tender and smoky cochinita pibil and some more of that habanero salsa. Find them across LA, including at spots like Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood.

Balam Mexican Kitchen

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Balam Mexican Kitchen does not simply offer a typical taquería experience. The menu at this Lynwood destination pulls influences from across Mexico (and other even communities in Los Angeles), with options like a Korean carne asada taco pulling attention. The restaurant’s specifically Yucatecan dishes include a very good keek’en taco, which consists of slowly rehydrated chicharron in salsa verde, the spicy and slightly sour stew pairing well with the taco’s white onion, chopped cilantro, and creamy black beans.

Yuca's

Yuca’s is a James Beard Award-winning stand that’s been serving excellent cochinita pibil tacos and Yucatán-stye tamales to its community for the past 45 years. Now with a second location in Pasadena, this family-owned operation still makes their shredded pork stew that’s moist and dripping with achiote and citrus flavors. Instead of the usual pickled red onion on the cochinita pibil, Yuca piles on a pico de gallo salsa for added brightness against the rich pork. The tamales arrive stuffed with minced pork filling and bright tomato sauce, the soft masa covered by ladles of an acidic tomato-onion mixture.

El Zarape

This East Hollywood spot is a great neighborhood taquería offering everything from tinga to chorizo, tripa, asada, and more. Some highlights include the excellent tacos de cabeza full of wonderful bits of buttery fat and a cochinita pibil that has become a local favorite. This Yucatecan recipe has the earthiness from the achiote paste, some warmth from its sweet/savory spice blend, and a nice tartness from its citrus juice. Order El Zarape’s cochinita as a taco or a torta that comes on a fluffy telera roll that’s slathered with refried beans and a tangy chipotle cream sauce that packs a decent amount of heat.

Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico

Located a stone’s throw away from Downtown’s Union Station, Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico (or Chiguacle for simplicity’s sake) is LA’s answer to a traditional Mexican cantina with its excellent bar and varied menu of southern Mexican specialties. Besides its delicious cochinita pibil, Chiguacle serves a wonderful mixiote de borrego, slow-cooked lamb in a thick marinade made from Yucatecan staples like allspice, oregano, chiles, annatto, and garlic. The creamy sauce burns low and slow and straddles heat, sweetness, and a savory smokiness. The whole dish is enjoyed with handmade tortillas that have nopales mixed into the masa.

La Flor De Yucatan

This Pico-Union spot is a one-stop-shop for all things Yucatán, including pastries, desserts, and some very juicy turkey. For those interested in a sweet treat, try the bakery’s atropellados, flakey turnovers filled with either rich coconut cream or a mixture of sweet yams and coconut. These dessert empanadas can come either golden brown or covered in powdered sugar, with the floral notes of star anise lingering in each bite. Wild turkey is a staple in this part of Mexico, and La Flor de Yucatán prepares an excellent garlic roasted turkey that’s shredded and sautéed with tons of sweet onion and fruity banana peppers.

Yucatortas

It’s all about the cochinita pibil at this roving mostly eastern San Gabriel Valley pop-up. Yucatortas serves its version spicy, with tons of pickled red onion and habanero chiles, and customers can choose whether they want their pulled pork in a taco, torta, or yucalita — an open-faced taco with shredded cheese. The tortas come in a soft bolillo that’s filled to the brim with shredded pork before it gets a spoonful of the stew’s broth. Besides pickled escabeche for added acidity, the sandwich is very flavorful with just its meat filling as the tart achiote paste’s flavors and coloring seep into the bread roll.

Chichen Itza

Located inside Mercado La Paloma, this staple vendor is all about Yucatecan classics like cochinita pibil, the famed shredded pork dish that’s marinated in tangy achiote paste and citrus juice. Find it here as its own standalone plate, in a taco, or stuffed inside a soft baguette to create an intensely flavorful torta. The meat is tender and balanced between sour, sweet, and mildly spicy, with pickled red onion rounding out the flavors. The poc-chuc, another marinated pork dish that’s grilled rather than stewed, makes for a great alternative here.

Holbox

Holbox is another staple inside Mercado La Paloma (and also owned by Gilberto Cetina), serving some of the best Mexican mariscos in town. The stall incorporates flavors from across Mexico but specializes in Cetina’s native Yucatán. Holbox’s kanpachi and uni tostada is a decadent bite of seafood we’ve come across and consists of a homemade tostada with Baja-style kanpachi ceviche and Santa Barbara uni that’s topped off with avocado puree and a smoky arbol and guajillo salsa. The charred octopus is also a hit, served with an almond pipian sauce that’s sweet but with an earthy finish that complements the grilled pulpo.

Bomba! Yucateco Delicacy

Bomba! is a roving pop-up that serves regional specialties like the Yucatecan version of Lebanese kibbeh (a result of waves of Middle Eastern immigrants dating back to the early 20th century) and crunchy panuchos with spicy habanero salsa. The kibbeh, a beef and bulgur wheat mixture, gets an extra dose of moisture and tang from pickled red onion and a punchy habanero salsa that is dangerously hot and tasty. Bomba’s panuchos are also a must-try, with a fried tortilla base coming out nicely crisped but with enough bend to hold its black bean filling. These bean and tortilla discs taste even better with the stand’s tender and smoky cochinita pibil and some more of that habanero salsa. Find them across LA, including at spots like Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood.

Balam Mexican Kitchen

Balam Mexican Kitchen does not simply offer a typical taquería experience. The menu at this Lynwood destination pulls influences from across Mexico (and other even communities in Los Angeles), with options like a Korean carne asada taco pulling attention. The restaurant’s specifically Yucatecan dishes include a very good keek’en taco, which consists of slowly rehydrated chicharron in salsa verde, the spicy and slightly sour stew pairing well with the taco’s white onion, chopped cilantro, and creamy black beans.

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