The Brains are Back in Town

Photo: Hadley Tomicki

Brains…Braaaaains! After a few dark and gloomy years off the radar following FDA bans on senior cows being harvested for the contents of their minds, zombie food is creeping back onto L.A. menus.

There was a time when local institutions like King Taco and Tacos Gavilan were noted for their brain preparations, or the much more palatable “sesos,” as they are called in most restaurants. Since these restaurants have ditched that type of meat for now, we humped to Reseda’s Carnitas Michoacan at the corners of Reseda and Victory Blvds., where we’ve heard the brains are back in town.

What better way to spend a sunny Sunday than to hit the cauldron-like climes of the San Fernando Valley to eat a “food” that should probably be kept inside of a jar, if not discarded quietly whilst removing short ribs and filet. There’s a market here for bovine gray matter though, and L.A.’s best butchers seldom deny the people what they crave.

Carnitas Michoacan has a great selection of standards and specialties. It would take a keen eye to even spot that sesos are featured, as full-color shots of gorditas, birria, and assorted tacos take up a whole side of the hovering menu. We ordered our sesos without much ceremony and sat clutching two Styrofoam cups of pineapple aguas frescas, in nervous anticipation of our brain food.

The tacos hit the table in about two minutes, not giving us as much time as we’d hoped to placate our palates. It’d been a few years since we’d munched some brains, and we hadn’t recalled them looking quite so much like that heavy round object we’d touched one day in biology class. It almost looked like the last scene of Taxi Driver had fallen onto our paper plates and landed between two tortillas. The slightly complex taste and smooth texture erased any doubt though; Sesos are flavorful, with a soft, smoosh-in-the-mouth feel that one might expect from a purple potato, but not from a rubbery brain.

Mad Cow’s Disease, or BSE, begins in people who eat the brain or nervous system of an infected cow, but with up to five decades for incubation, it might take a while to figure out whether eating sesos was the final act that floated us over to Crazyland or not.

Using MenuPages’ “Find-A-Food” feature as our immediate J. Gold substitute, we see that Nicaraguan favorite El Nido also has a sesos stew preparation on their menu that uses both the words for brain and bull testicles, allowing their diners a Bourdain-esque experience in one meal.

So as eateries scramble their brains to get sesos back on their menus, we suggest hitting this great spot if a Valley trip is too damn hot this time of year. If anything else, it will quiet your friends down when bragging about their rattlesnake and rabbit sausages at Wurstkutche.

Related: Brains Are Back [Deep End Dining]

The Brains are Back in Town