The BF made chilaquiles last night. Usually he uses leftover home-made salsa that I made. This time, we had no salsa on hand, so he made his own with roasted tomatillos and lots of hot peppers. The salsa was tart, spicy, and just the right amount of sweet. Okay, maybe too spicy because my stomach was complaining the next day. But the chilaqiules were great with the freshly fried tortilla chips. Too bad we forgot to put in some avocado.
Cook’s Tortas has been open for a year, but I haven’t had a chance to visit until this weekend. It’s in the same spot that used to be Paul’s Kitchen, for you old school Monterey Park residents. When I walked in, I was faced with a huge chalkboard full of all sorts of wonderful torta combinations. The restaurant boasts of handmade bread baked every morning and fresh ingredients, which is one reason why I was excited to try it. It also seems vegan and vegetarian friendly, always a plus in my book.
I ordered the ‘mojito’ torta, which contains roasted pork, garlic mojo, and slow cooked onions ($7). The pork was tender and fell apart easily. The garlic mojo was light and if I didn’t know it was there, I wouldn’t have noticed. It isn’t a punch-in-the-face amount of garlic, which is nice sometimes. The onions were soft and sweet, but don’t expect carmelized onions because they’re not.
The star of the torta was the bread. It had a slightly crispy exterior which gave way to a chewy, delicious interior. It was the perfect texture for a torta.
The BF ordered a modified grilled veggie torta ($7). It usually has mayonnaise and cheese on it, but he just asked them to leave it out. The resulting torta had garlic mojo, tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. I had a bite of this and thought it was pretty good as far as grilled veggie sandwiches go. It would have been better with a healthy smear of veganaise on each side of the bread. And maybe an avocado or a grilled portabello mushroom. Despite that, I think the BF was pleased with his sandwich.
Each sandwich also comes with a side which you can choose from in a glass display case by the cash register. The only vegan side seems to be the mixed fruit. I picked the potato salad, which was better than I expected. It was mixed unevenly so that there were some dry parts, but an extra dollop of mayo would have made it a pretty decent salad.
Cook’s Tortas is located in a convenient location right off of Atlantic Blvd. The food tastes fresh, the people are friendly, and their watermelon agua fresca (about $4 for a huge cup) is such a nice treat on a hot day. The prices may seem high compared to the other Mexican places around, but I’m willing to pay the extra buck for a place that has a vegan option.
I finally took the BF’s Mexican street food cherry. I can’t believe he’s lived so long in LA without eating any street food. It must be hard for a vegan to eat food from a cart on the street that doesn’t contain animal products. Until now!
The Quesadilla Lady is a lady with a cart, some fast hands, and the tastiest quesadilla I’ve ever had. She sets up her stand on the sidewalk on Echo Park Blvd., just a few steps south of Sunset. When I spotted her, there was already a handful of people crowded around her cart.
For $3, you get a fresh, handmade blue corn quesadilla with your choice of filling. I asked her to fill mine with cheese and huitlacoche, also known as corn smut, also known as corn fungus. It may sound gross, but boy was it tasty. It had a smooth, almost slimy texture, and a sweet, subtle taste not unlike corn itself.
In front of the flat grill, there’s also a variety of toppings which can be put on the quesadilla, free of charge. I recommend the pickled cactus, pico de gallo, and red salsa. But use the red salsa sparingly! Even though I was told it was very mild, it actually has a lot of kick to it — a delicious but painful kick.
The best part about the Quesadilla Lady is that she has vegetarian and even vegan (we hope!) options. When I asked if the quesadilla contained lard, the answer was no, just corn oil. The BF, curious to try Mexican street food, asked for a quesadilla filled with huitlacoche and squash blossoms. The squash blossoms gave the quesadilla a nice change of texture. I may have to get some of those next time.
A group of people in front of us, who must be street food pros, brought their own plates and utensils! Considering I live so close and will most likely visit the Quesadilla Lady again, this sounds like something I should be doing too. Next on my list of fillings to try are the chicharrones and potato filling.