You can’t throw a stone* in LA without hitting a Mexican place that someone happens to call their favorite. It could be a shack, a hole in the wall or even an old-fashioned sit down restaurant. The variety seems only limited by the amount of physical space in LA and those damn zoning laws. As I’ve eaten my way through the city, I’ve creativity galore and more Mexican foods than I knew existed growing up on Taco Bell in Michigan. Some have been delicious, while others have failed me. On my latest foray into someone’s favorite Mexican place, I ended up at El Abajeno in Culver City.
El Abajeno shares its building with a liquor store and works with a counter-style ordering system. The menu is vast, but after a short stare down with it, I found the perfect unvegan fit – the Fiesta Burrito. I’ve always wanted a party in my mouth, and this burrito seemed to want to start it. This thing was filled with pork, beef, rice and beans, then topped with cheese guacamole and red sauce in a wet burrito style. But I didn’t stop there. I had heard their taquitos with carnitas were delicious, so I ordered one of those as well, with cheese and avocado on top.
When they were finished, I was astonished to find the Fiesta Burrito in unique form. Rather than dousing the whole thing with guac, red sauce and cheese, they had been spaced out in thirds. If only they had carved out an eagle shape in cheese, the burrito would have been the spitting image of the Mexican flag, but instead I was wondering why a burrito would display an Italian flag. These people were certainly patriotic (for the enemy), but I hoped that this strange distribution would make for good eating.
After a few bites, I completely forgot about my concerns. This was one packed, greasy and delicious wet burrito. The blend of steak and pork made for a nice mix and rather than being filler, the rice and beans made a nice addition to temper the onslaught of meat. And it tasted fantastic as well. As for that wet stuff on top, I definitely would have liked it better of they had been distributed evenly across the burrito, but the Mexican flag was a damn nice touch. Also, I found the guacamole to be a little disappointing. It was much wetter than your average guac and completely lost its texture in the process. The taste was still there, but this was more of an avocado sauce than what I would consider guacamole.
Then, there was the taquito, which was actually bigger than most authentic full-sized tacos I’ve encountered. The double tortilla was greasier than a watermelon, but the carnitas and avocado that filled it in were a delight. In surprising contrast to the tortilla, the carnitas were not greasy, but simple, delicious pulled pork.
So did El Abajeno become my new favorite Mexican joint? Not quite…that honor still belongs to La Paz down in El Segundo, but El Abajeno is certainly a worthy contender. It’s just that I felt the taquito was greasy just for the sake of being greasy and the guac could have used a little work. Yet, there is no question that I will be back to El Abajeno, for despite its minor flaws, its strengths are unquestionable.
*Please don’t throw stones at Mexican restaurants.