With simple exteriors and decadent plates of food, Mexican restaurants in Northeast Los Angeles can be easy to overlook. With block after block of sprawled out streets in Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, and Highland Park, the Mexican restaurants in this pocket of the city also tend to dabble with other Latin cuisines, with a smattering of Salvadoran and Colombian dishes sprinkled throughout. If anything that only makes them more interesting, as regional favorites can be found buried beneath the usual run of every Mexican favorites. In short, it means there’s always something new to discover.
Some of the treasures you might find at one of these family-owned businesses might be a platter of crisp chilaquiles or a warm bed of homemade tortillas drenched in mole. Because serving the community is an essential part of operating a successful business here, the prices tend to be quite budget-friendly. From a mix of sweet and salty Mexican street snacks to Salvadoran breakfasts, here are some hidden gems spread across Northeast Los Angeles.
1 La Esquina
This corner meat market comes with a menu filled with just about every kind of of Mexican and Salvadoran food imaginable. Each menu category offers several different renditions of one plate, from huevos served a la ranchero style and beyond, to a variety of pupusas, desserts, as well as hearty Salvadoran breakfasts teeming with savory fried plantains and fresh cheeses.
2 Restaurante Tierra Caliente
This tiny four-table Cypress Park restaurant greets customers with quaint simplicity. The chalkboard menu advises customers to choose between a few different classic dishes of enchiladas and chilaquiles, but pick from several different rich sauces to drench them in. All come served with a hearty helping of rice and beans. You can also grab other fast food favorites like burritos and quesadillas or experiment with a particularly interesting set of meats like guilotas (quail).
3 Kailey’s Restaurant
Kailey’s sits in the middle of a sleepy stretch of Lincoln Heights, tucked into what looks like a former house. The Salvadoran and Mexican eatery inside provides a small side dining room, with a single-stove kitchen that cooks each meal to order. Expect to wait a while, but know that the pupusas are worth it.
4 El Huarachito
El Huarachito stands proud in the cluster of small Mexican businesses along Broadawy, its side wall painted with a glorious mural for the restaurant. The hospitable, fast-paced restaurant specializes in breakfast, and the café de olla needs no sugar to boost the cinnamon-heavy experience. And as a bonus: if you sit down to eat, it’s likely that your dish will get served with some soup and chips with thick, smoky salsa.
5 Delia’s Mexican Restaurant
Delia’s Restaurant in Highland Park is a family-owned place on York that’s been around for fourteen years, offering $5 breakfast burritos to students and a warm sunny patio on which to enjoy them. Plates come stacked with hearty eggs and grilled meats atop fried tortilla dishes like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros.
6 El Huarache Azteca
El Huarache Azteca is a Highland Park staple, bustling with neighborhood regulars throughout the day. Specializing in huaraches, this spot offers several toppings of meat that you can add to your dish as it sits on a bed of queso fresco, crema, and red and green salsa. Don’t forget to choose from a massive array of sweet agua frescas flavors like cucumber and cactus.
7 Mama Churro y Mas
This El Sereno spot is an all-encompassing Mexican snack and dessert haven. Devour churros several different ways, either with fillings like condensed milk or as part of a sandwich or sundae. You can still grab something heartier here like tortas and fried chicken while sipping on a fresh raspado as well.
8 La Abeja Restaurant
This Eastside hideaway prides itself on making quality mole, which means the food sometimes takes a bit longer to come out. Still, the stacked plates of traditional seasoned meat makes the wait completely worth it, especially if you spend your down time sipping on a rich, thick champurrado.
9 My Taco
Highland Park’s My Taco earns a very honorable mention for its wide variety of meats and jam-packed tacos, including their specialty, lamb barbacoa. Take a seat inside this crayon box-colored space to also enjoy their grandmother’s secret recipe for hard shell potato tacos and a seafood cocktail, while other dishes like enchiladas and carne asada fries stand out as well.
10 Rambo’s Tacos
Folks have been trekking east to Rambo’s Tacos truck for years. The colorful wagon sits along Eagle Rock Boulevard and serves a hearty menu of late night classics, best eaten warm and right on the street. Don’t skip on the awesome salsa here, either.