Tag Archives: Mexican

Cook’s Tortas: Where the Westside Meets East LA

Though many of my Westside-centric friends believe East LA begins in Silver Lake, they are woefully wrong.  They speak proudly of venturing as far east as Echo Park, where all the hipster bars and new age restaurants are opening.

But true Los Angelinos know that East LA really begins off the 60 highway, encompassing Boyle Heights, Montebello, and Monterey Park.  While authentic ethnic food abounds in these neighborhoods, few would ever venture to describe the dining scene here as anything resembling hipster.  With the opening of Cook’s Tortas in  spring 2008, however, things have started to change on a formerly sleepy stretch of Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park’s main drag.

Many reviews of Cook’s Tortas have noted that it is more reminiscent of Westside eateries, with its daily-changing chalkboard menu, bright mint green walls, gourmet ingredients, and upscale flavor combinations.  I agree, but where I think Cook’s has succeeded the most is upgrading a classic Mexican sandwich while keeping prices down and flavors accessible to the general public.  This success is apparent in the never-ending lunch lines at the restaurant, the crowd a mix of East LA College students, neighboring firefighters & police, office workers, and adventurous foodies (like myself).

Cook’s menu features over 20 rotating varieties of tortas, each one with a unique flavor profile.  There are heaping entree salads and an array of sides as well.  I ordered the Ranchito torta ($7.39), filled with chorizo, carne asada, nopalitos (cactus) salad, queso fresco, and guacamole, with a side of sweet potato fries.  The Ranchito is not for the faint of heart.  Though smoky and rich from the steak and chorizo, the intensity was balanced by the slightly acidic nopalitos and creaminess of the cheese and guac.  The best part of the torta to me, however, was the bread–made fresh in-house everyday.  Porous and light, but still dense and chewy enough to stand up to the fillings, it was truly a feat of engineering genius.

To wash down the torta, I ordered a melon agua fresca.  Aguas frescas, a popular Mexican beverage made by infusing water with fresh fruits, grains, or flowers, are also made daily in house and are available in rotating flavors.  The melon agua fresca was refreshing and not too sweet–a perfect compliment to the intense flavors of the torta.

I found the desserts at Cook’s to be a bit disappointing.  Grandmother’s corn cake, topped with raspberry preserves, had a slightly goopey texture that was off-putting.  And while the chocolate chip cookie was large enough to share, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

The stars at Cook’s Tortas really are the tortas.  Fresh, innovative, and affordable, these tortas are definitely worth the drive and may even lure insular Westsiders further east than Echo Park.


Cook’s Tortas
1944 South Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(323) 278-3536

Cook's Tortas on Urbanspoon

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Ode to Baja Fish Tacos

One of the things that I miss most about Southern California is fish tacos.  Before leaving the West Coast, I thought fish tacos could be found everywhere in the US, or at least on the East Coast as well.  But, after countless fruitless searches, I soon realized that fish tacos were a purely SoCal specialty, and on every trip home to Los Angeles,I  have made sure to satisfy my craving.

I’ve always been a faithful Senor Fish girl, but when my boyfriend mentioned that he’d found an even better fish taco place in Santa Ana, I hesitantly decided to try it.  Since then, fish tacos have never been the same for me.

Baja Fish Tacos is located in a strip mall, just down the street from South Coast Plaza.  This unassuming spot always has a line out front, no matter what time of day.  And yet, service is always friendly and efficient, as a seemingly endless number of diners place their orders at the counter.

After placing your order, take a seat either in the surprisingly spacious indoor seating area, or if it’s a sunny day, at one of the outdoor tables.  While you’re waiting, help yourself to the fresh salsa bar, featuring 3 different types of salsa, sliced limes, peppers, and onions.

It doesn’t take long for the food to come out, always served hot and fresh off the grill.  My go-to order at Baja Fish Tacos is the two taco combo ($7.60), with one carne asada taco, one blackened fish taco, rice, and black beans.  The carne asada taco is excellent: tender steak cooked lovingly on the grill, topped with freshly chopped romaine lettuce and pico de gallo salsa.

But the real star of the show is the blackened fish taco.  Marinated in a killer spice rub, the fish is bold yet subtle, slowly building up heat in your mouth.  As the heat builds, take a bite of the fresh cabbage on top to cool you off.  Or, if you’re a spice addict like me, add some more salsa and Cholula hot sauce for a more fiery effect.  Either way, it’s delicious, and better than any fish taco I’ve eaten before.

With fresh ingredients, affordable prices, and a friendly atmosphere, it’s no wonder why Baja Fish Tacos is so popular, and has people singing its praises all over town.


Baja Fish Tacos
3664 South Bristol St.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 641-4836
Other locations throughout Orange County, CA

Baja Fish Tacos on Urbanspoon

Good Eats in Alexandria

Readers–I am so sorry for the recent lack of posts! With the gloomy weather and big life decisions facing me this past week, I just wasn’t in the blogging mood. But enough of my excuses; I am ready and raring to blog now.

Weather in D.C. is supposed to hit a whopping 80 degrees this weekend, and for those of you who want to spend time outside (and away from the crowds on the Mall), I have the perfect idea. Head over to Alexandria, VA, where charming brick buildings, waterfront views, and restaurants galore await. Though only a short metro ride away, walking around Alexandria gave me a much needed respite from fast-paced D.C. life.

I visited two neighborhoods in Alexandria. The first, Del Ray, is the more funky and artsy part of town where eclectic shops, and of course restaurants, line the main street. My boyfriend and I had a tough time deciding between Taqueria Poblano and Evening Star Cafe, but the former lured us in with its fish tacos.

As a SoCal native, I grew up eating the freshest fish tacos possible. I took for granted the accessibility and variety that could easily be found in LA, with Senor Fish, Wahoos, Rubios, and taco stands all just a short drive away. Which is why when I arrived in D.C., I went into serious fish taco withdrawal. I was ecstatic–almost giddy–to find that Taqueria Poblano serves fish tacos.

I ordered 1 Baja fish taco ($4.25 each) and 1 L.A. Style adobo-seasoned pork taco ($3.75). Though the tacos appeared small when they arrived, looks can be deceiving. Each taco was filled to the brim with tasty cabbage, salsa, and of course, fish and pork. The fish taco certainly satisfied my craving: the fish was fried to a light crisp and was delicious with a bit of the tomatillo salsa. The pork was also well-seasoned and not too greasy.

My boyfriend ordered the green chili pork burrito al arriba ($11.25). The photo does not do the burrito nearly enough justice: it was MASSIVE. Though I was skeptical at first (I’m not a fan of dishes that are doused in sauce), the ranchero sauce actually gave the burrito a nice boost in flavor. The guacamole was also a pleasant surprise: fresh and creamy, with just a hint of citrus.

Needless to say, we were stuffed after our meal. But that did not stop us from heading next door to The Dairy Godmother for some dessert.

The Dairy Godmother’s specialty is Wisconsin-style frozen custard, a not-so-distant relative of ice cream. Frozen custard is much creamier and richer due to the higher percentage of butterfat and egg yolks, and it’s made in a special machine that looks like a frozen yogurt soft-serve machine. The shop features 3 flavors of frozen custard per day, ranging from good ol’ vanilla and chocolate to more creative flavors like muddy sneakers and carrot cake.

The Dairy Godmother also offers a wide variety of sorbets and baked treats. Since my boyfriend and I were so full from lunch, we opted for the sorbets. I ordered the apricot saffron pistachio sorbet, which had an unusual flavor profile (and I mean unusual in a good way). Each bite added a new element: on some, I could only taste the fruity sweetness of the apricot. On others, I tasted more of the aromatic, floral saffron notes. And every now and then, I would get a spoonful of pistachios, which added a surprising crunch and earthiness. In short, the sorbet was a revelation and a refreshing end to a heavy meal.

After our eating adventures in Del Ray, we made our way over to Old Town Alexandria. Though Old Town is much more touristy than Del Ray, it is still a super cute neighborhood that is worth checking out. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along King St. and ended our stroll at the docks, where we watched the sun set over the water.

For those DCers looking for a quick weekend getaway, or for some cheap good eats, check out Alexandria!

Taqueria Poblano

2400-B Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-548-8226

Taqueria Poblano on Urbanspoon

The Dairy Godmother

2310 Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-683-7767

Dairy Godmother on Urbanspoon