Growing up in Southern California my love for Mexican food started at a really early age. My mom used to substitute teach on Fridays so we would go out to dinner every Friday night and the usual spot was El Toro - a door in a wall that opened into a dark restaurant filled with red booths topped with candles in little mesh sweaters, over which my brother and I would weld massive structures out of the cocktail straws while inhaling tortilla chips. My dad would be inhaling the bowl of spicy carrots and chilis that they brought to him non-stop. My mom would enjoy her margarita.
Friday night was something I really looked forward to, not only because we were going to get weld straws and eat chips, but because it was fun to hang out as a family.
These days I love going to eat Mexican food with friends and while I have my favorite places, I am always looking out for something new.
Recently my friend Stephanie turned me on YXTA! - pronounced eeks-tah, the caps and the exclamation point are mine - they're actually much more lower case about it all.
After First Friday we went over to Yxta for a late dinner and found it completely full. Note to self make a reservation when going back on the weekend. It's a beautiful space with high ceilings, concrete floors and rustic wooden tables that give it a feeling of airiness combined with warmth. The music is good, rock en espanol and the light fixtures are rad.
We had to wait for some tables to turn so we ordered Jamaica margaritas and lurked around the long communal high table next to the bar. We had just slid into some seats there when our table came up so off we went. Our server was the most patient and lovely man, all four of us are "on the side" orderers, not substitutions so much as the desire to have options. I ordered the taco dorado appetizer (mashed potato taco - mmmmmm), ceviche and a cup of Pozole because they had it.
I have this thing for Posole. It's a stew/soup made with pork and chili and hominy, topped with cabbage and sometime avocado and crema. It's hard to find on the menu because it's one of those long, slow cooking kind of dishes that your grandmother would make on Sundays. In fact, the only other place I've ever found Pozole is La Super Rica in Santa Barbara and they only have it on Sundays. I have driven there solely to eat the Pozole.
So now I've found a place where I can get Pozole everyday. Stephanie, who hails from New Mexico says it's some of the best that she's had and I do not disagree. The first visit I ordered Carnitas Estilo Michoacan, slow cooked pork with guacamole and home made tortillas.......along with Posole. It was delicious and such a large portion that I had it for lunch the next day. The entree portion are large here, it would be fun to split stuff and try lots of items. I will probably stick to the specialties of the house rather than going for the tacos and enchiladas because, my sense is that they do them very well.
I'm sad to say that I don't really remember much about the ceviche or the taco dorado because the Jamaica margarita came and I got a tipsy fast, most likely because we were eating at 9:00pm and my stomach had been empty - except for 1/2 a Makers Mark ice cream sandwich, since noon. And because I'm a light weight who rarely drinks liquor.
Ahhhh, the Jamaica margarita. If you've never had Jamaica, or Hibiscus Flower juice, you really should try it. I first had it down in Mazatlan many years ago. It was 90 degrees outside with 95% humidity and there was a little shop that served cups the size of Big Gulps filled with shaved ice and the juice of your choice. My friend who lived down there advised that I try the Jamaica because it was refreshing and not too sweet. He was so right. So now imagine this ruby colored, very refreshing sort of floral berry tasting beverage (high in vitamin C and antioxidants) added to tequila and ice and garnished with a lime.
Yes! Best sip ever! I can only imagine how good that will taste when it's warm outside.
Turns out I never even took a bite of the Pozole on Friday night, but it came home with me and made a wonderful breakfast.
I'm going back next week and I promise not to get drunk and to pay attention to other food besides the Pozole, but seriously that Pozole and the margarita are worth the trip downtown. Although I cannot honestly speak to the food, I can say the the experience is a fun one to be shared with friends and family on a Friday night.
601 S. Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90021