99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Boyle Heights

Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita

photo by Danny Liao

There are times when you want not just a sandwich but a very particular type of sandwich: something less intense than the #19 at Langer’s, say, but with a bit more bite than a torta. In which case, you’re likely craving a cemita, the sandwich from Puebla, Mexico, that’s the specialty of Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita in Boyle Heights. The cemita will have slices of brilliantly green avocado, a web of hand-pulled string cheese called quesillo, terrific smoky chipotle chiles and your pick of meat, though everyone seems to pick the milanesa, a piece of veal that’s been pounded thin, breaded and perfectly fried. Everything will be improbably crammed into a toasted seeded roll that’s softer than its crunchy exterior would suggest. The sandwich is filling on its own, but you may also want to grab a taco arabe, filled with shredded pork rolled in a soft tortilla, for good measure. In any case, your craving will be supremely satisfied.

-- Tien Nguyen

Guisados

photo by Anne Fishbein

If there’s a better way to spend $6.95 in the city of Los Angeles than Guisados’ taco sampler, we’ve yet to discover it. The owners of the taco joint wisely figured that for many people, trying to decide between their tinga de pollo, cochinita pibil and chicharrón tacos would prove too difficult. Each stewed, meaty variation, cradled in soft, handmade tortillas, simply has too much allure. Thus the sampler was born: six smaller tacos, a collection of greatest hits that touches on all the smoky, spicy, saucy goodness this place has to offer. Each vibrant meat gets its own thoughtful topping — a dab of avocado here, a draping of pickled onion there. It’s a thing of true beauty. Since beginning in Boyle Heights, Guisados has since spawned a second location in Echo Park. And in a town with a huge variety of tacos, they both sit at the very tippy top of our list of favorites.

-- Besha Rodell