Strip Search

Strip Search: Pico-Union

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

You’re driving on Pico Blvd., heading east towards Downtown. You’re straddled somewhere between King Taco and El Parian. You’re hungry and need a cheap bite, but maybe you don’t do goat or have some form of taco ennui. These streets are rich with roadside cooking and various options for homey Mexican and Central American cuisine. Where do you go to grab a bite in this great cheap eats area? Here are three excellent suggestions for varied eating while in the neighborhood. Check ‘em out!

Restaurante Flor Blanca #3

Ooey-gooey pupusas with beans, cheese, meat, and loroco come hot out of the kitchen at Flor Blanca #3, where the walls even boast a beach towel depicting women making pupusas (they’re for sale, shoppers!), right aside bouquets of fake vegetables hanging from the ceiling. In addition to the excellent Salvadoran staples, there are chile rellenos, empanadas stuffed with plantains, and straight sides of caramelized plantains that go down well coated with fresh cream. But you cannot miss the fried yucca here, which emerge bronzed and crispy, before falling apart in buttery shards when they meet your mouth. Highly crush-able and possibly the best thing you get here.

Restaurante Flor Blanca #3 1705 W Pico Blvd. Pico Union. 213-386-9422.

Adelita Food Co.

Driving east to the end of the block, you’ll hit the corner of Pico and Union and run right into Adelita on your left. Named for the busty, bullet-bandoliered beauty of Mexican Revolution folklore, this bakery is one of the sweetest spots in town and worth coming in just for a smell or to spy the rows of table-sized fryers gurgling with hot oil behind the counter. This massive panaderia comes stocked with fresh breads, cakes, and various pastries, with a stack of clear plastic cubbies filled with pan dulce, conchas, tartes, and a killer tres leches cake. Connected to the bakery is a slim restaurant of long lines, selling food from different Central American countries, with dishes like mojarra frita, pupusas, and tamales from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as a scattering of the usual suspects. A must-see! 1287 S Union Ave. 213-487-0176.

Adelita Food Co. 1287 South Union Ave. Pico-Union. 213-487-0176.

Pollo Campero

Taking a left off of Pico and heading up Union, you’ll soon smack into Pollo Campero at the corner of Olympic Blvd. At the SLS Hotel last Saturday, regional food guru Michael Stern spoke about finding great local eats through smell alone. Campero is one of those places you’ll likely smell before you see. Housed in an Aztec-themed corporate office building, entering the restaurant around lunchtime takes you to an alternate fast food universe. It appears you’re standing in the most popular corporate chain you might have never heard of (though there are locations scattered throughout the world). Some days it feels like half the city is standing in line. They are here for the juicy, crisp, smoothed-skinned, spiced Guatemalan fried chicken, the hue of which nearly defines the color gold, with a taste and texture that will bring you back to that line again and again. It also comes grilled if fried is off your to-do list. A two-piece meal is priced at just $4.99, with two sides. Flan for dessert is less than two bucks.

Pollo Campero, 1605 W. Olympic Blvd. 213-251-8594.

Earlier: Strip Search: Washington Blvd. to Washington Place [Grub Street]

Strip Search: Pico-Union