LA's 4 Hidden Places You Need to Check Out

 By: Jose Morales

The city of Los Angeles is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities that is reflected in the places we go and eat. There’s no other city that can give you a unique experience like going out to eat Korean barbeque in Koreatown, make a drive for ramen in Little Tokyo,  And eat some tamales and pupusas in a mom-and-pop shop in Pico Union all within the span of an afternoon.

The luxury we have however of a near-infinite number of cuisines, makes it really easy to over-look the other great restaurants that deserve more attention. The four places here on this list are restaurants that represent four countries with cuisines that are overlooked and underrepresented.

El Katracho

14838 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks 91411       

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Among Central American restaurants the most familiar ones tend to be the ones serving  Salvadorian, and Guatemalan food. It’s normal to think that Honduran food would also be well-known but that’s not the case. Located in Sherman Oaks. El Katracho has been highly praised by the locals and has a lively atmosphere for the whole family on the weekends. Owned by two sisters, Merlin, and Roxana, their store has been around for the last 15 years and has been able to serve the fairly large, and overlooked Honduran population in the San Fernando Valley, when the store first opened.

For first timer’s trying to make the most of their experience, a Baleada is a perfect entry point. It’s a tortilla folded in half packed with mashed fried red beans, cheese, and sour cream, which then can be added with meat, eggs and avocado. Another, one of their signature dishes is their fried chicken with tajadas which are fried green bananas fried with oil, and contains no salt. For those who don’t enjoy spicy food, rejoice. One of the unique qualities of Honduran food and restaurants, including El Katracho, is that all the dishes that they serve contains no spicy food whatsoever, but can be included with condiments on the side to add spice to your Baleada or fried chicken with tajadas.

El Hatuchay

12853 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, 91605

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El Hatuchay was one of the first restaurants that brought Peruvian food to the San Fernando Valley twenty-five-years-ago, steak), which is Peru’s version of Italian noodles that includes a pesto-like sauce made from both spinach, basil, and queso fresco cheese, and tastes just as good as what you would expect from a regular spaghetti with steak. Although their special sauce gives a distinct, and creamy flavor that not only makes it delicious, but makes this dish a favorite within the restaurant. Lomo Saltado is another signature dish, which is a stir-fry that combined marinated sirloin strips with onions, tomatoes, and french fries. For appetizers, papa huracania is a popular choice among Peruvians, and customers here which has boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce called Huancaina sauce.
when  store owner, Jeanette Velasquez decided to continue what she was doing back home in Peru, when she was already running a small restaurant before moving to the United States. Grabbing its name from the ancient Peruvian language of Quechua, El Hatuchay was the typical name of a place to eat after work during ancient times which is the theme that this place tries to replicate. What makes this restaurant so special? They have 100-plus home-style dishes on their menu, which includes a special menu that has most of their signature dishes for about ten dollars. Their food is served up with bread instead of tortillas and they have a great variety of seafood, as well. Here you will find signature Peruvian dishes like tallarines verde con bistek (green spaghetti with

Meson Criollo restaurant

15713 Vanowen Street, Van Nuys, 91406

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Continuing the theme of South American food is this place located in Van Nuys, which is a hotbed for Colombian food, since opening its doors 15 years ago. Another restaurant on this list that is also family owned, I spoke to Tania, the store owners daughter who manages the store in her place. She tells me that despite working here, she still comes during her off days to eat with her family, which say’s a lot of how good the food here is. Their most popular, and In my opinion their most delicious platter meal is their Bandeja Paisa which is their staple Colombian dish that includes ground beef with beans, pork, rice, arepa (Colombian style bread) etc, all in one huge plate that’s enough to fill you up for the entire day as well as leaving you extremely satisfied. If your more into soup, the sancocho de cola (Oxtail Colombian Soup) will be able to fill your needs. This soup is packed full of flavor and has the perfect mix of meat and vegetables like oxtail, onions, green plantains, and corn on the cob to not only leave you satisfied, but also make you want to come back and eat again a second time when you come back to Meson Criollo. Although their oxtail soup is twelve dollars, and their bandeja paisa is thirteen dollars respectively, you’re getting your bang for your buck since their meals come in huge portions. When eating the bandeja paisa, I was surprised about not only how good the pork, rice, and avocado tasted, but how big the plate was, feeling near-endless no matter how much I dug into the food before finally eating everything.

 

Tracey's Belizean Restaurant

3810 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, 90062

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Of all the restaurants on this list, this is the most unique one of them all. While Belizian food exists in Los Angeles, there are few restaurants that cater to the small population of Belizian locals that live here. What is it about Belizian food that makes it unique? While it still has a couple of traditional Central American dishes, they also incorporated  seafood, and fish drawing inspiration from their neighbors Jamaica, and Barbados  creating this fusion of delicious Caribbean food with your typical rice and beans, setting Belize apart from the rest of Central America, and their food is a proud reflection of that. Tracey’s stands out among the few other places you’ll find in the city for their great customer service, great menu choices, and even better food, making this truly a hidden gem among the plethora of  places to go eat in the city. Despite being such a small place, Tracey’s brings a good amount of people, especially during breakfast time. Their dish of choice is beans, eggs, and fry jack, Belize’s substitute for tortilla which is a deep-fried dough served with all their breakfast dishes. Creole bread is another rare, but delicious, item on the menu which is like plain white bread, but made with coconut milk, giving it a very sweet and distinct flavor. Tracey’s also has their own homemade tamales with the main difference being that they add an entire whole chicken piece inside instead of shredding it making their tamales twice as big, a trait that is shared along all other Central American tamales, while adding to the presentation and appeal of the dish. Saturday is especially popular here as customers come to reserve their boil up which is among Tracey’s best selling items. This boil up is a single dish which includes eggs with plantain, yams, pig tail, and cassava. But come prepared if you’re ready to indulge in this tasty meal because their boil up, along with their crab soup are only available on Saturday afternoons and goes for about 15 dollars each. It’s worth noting that both these entrees come included with rice, and beans and your choice of salad and fried plantain making these meals worth every penny. Mostly everything else on the menu varies between the ten, to fourteen dollar range so be sure to have some spare change on the side.

 

 

Jose Morales