Under $10: Huarache Azteca (Highland Park)
With rave reviews in notable publications like the LA TIMES, the LA WEEKLY, and Los Angeles Magazine, just to name a few, it’s no wonder I eagerly looked forward to trying the “Huaraches” at my neighbourhood “gem” of the same moniker, ’Huarache Azteca Restaurants’ in Highland Park. At the risk of disagreeing with the pseudo culinary expertise of YELPers far and wide, this brick pile is a 2.5 star joint, AT BEST.
Maybe I am being too hard on this place because I grew up eating Mexican food, or maybe all the praise and hype I heard about it falsely raised my expectations. Whatever it was, I can honestly say that I gave it the ol’ college try. I once read an article about the rules to writing food reviews which included a list of do’s and dont’s. I found the list redundant and obvious, but one rule that seemed logical was that in order to review a restaurant fairly, one had to try it more than once, and that is just what I did.
I sampled the famous huarache, a torta and a taco de suadero. Everything aside, I will say that the price was right! With the drink included, I barely broke 10 bucks, but as the popular adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” I was not impressed by the elongated deep fried sope-like tostada that is the huarache. It’s deep fried and deceptively chewy, not crunchy as you would expect it to be. The asada meat lacked flavor, and the crema cheese that was poured over it was runny and thin. The torta was just okay, and the suadero was absolutely terrible. (For a good torta go to My Taco on York, also in Highland Park, and for the best suadero, Taco Zone in Echo Park. I’ts a truck parked on Alvarado right by VONS.)
< -- That shiny pool over in the top corner of the plate is...yummy grease!
This time I went with something different: two sopes and a burrito. AGAIN, the meat needed flavor and the sopes were a greasy fried crunchy mess. As a rule I always order burritos “sin arroz/without rice” because that way you get the most meat. This pathetic little burrito was full of dry beans and unsavory meat. (For good sopes try Senor Fish or King Taco, there are several locations in and around Los Angeles. As for the asada, my personal favorite cheap, meaty, two-hand burrito is @ Estrella, open 24 hours, located on Figueroa Blvd in Highland Park. Ask for the red sauce, it’s the BEST!)
The first time I ordered my food to go; the second time I ate in-house. The place was packed with an authentic cross-section of the community, with an eclectic mix of characters filling the living room-sized restaurant while lethargic flies hovered in and around the patrons’ faces and food. Ummm, sanitary.
In the end, it really is of no consequence how good or bad their sorry ass “chanclas” are because this place is inexpensive. As much as I disliked the food, I may entertain the idea of going back to try the chilaquiles…and maybe one of those aguas frescas they boast about (which, I must admit, looked very refreshing). I had the horchata during round two. I find that one can gauge the quality of the food in a Mexican restaurant by how good the horchata is. This one was just okay; too much ice, not sweet enough. On second thought, I’m not going back to that shit pile, I make some excellent chilaquiles…
Huarache Azteca Restaurante
5225 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042