Boyle Heights | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Boyle Heights

Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita

photo by Danny Liao

A sedate little dining hall in Boyle Heights, located across from one of L.A.’s oldest and largest cemeteries, has for years been the answer to the question: Where can you find the greatest cemita poblana in town? Admittedly, competition is stiffer these days, with a growing number of Pueblan taco trucks slinging the signature two-fisted sesame roll sandwich, stacked with avocado, chipotle peppers, soft quesillo cheese and a paper-thin sheet of breaded steak. Yet when you arrive at Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita at the height of the weekend rush, right as the roving ranchera band starts to play, and tuck into a hulking, decadent, slightly oily cemita de milanesa, you’ll understand why the title belt has yet to change hands. —Garrett Snyder

Flor del Rio

photo by Anne Fishbein

You come to Flor del Rio, a quaint, family-run birrieria in Boyle Heights, for one thing. The solitary dish sold is Zacatecas-style birria, made from whole slabs of roast goat tamed in the oven and roughly chopped, served with a searing dried-chile salsa, onions, cilantro and thick corn tortillas patted out to order. The tender hunks of goat are wonderful, but the small cup of consommé served alongside is a minor miracle, a wildly gamey, marrow-thickened stock touched with allspice and clove. As any birrieria should, Flor del Rio ladles out this precious, soul-stirring liquid in unlimited quantities, or at least until you’ve gorged yourself on pillowy tortillas, stripped every succulent bone clean and soothed away whichever of life’s troubles you walked in with. That’s the power of birria. —Garrett Snyder

Guisados

photo by Anne Fishbein

The little Boyle Heights taco shop that could just never seems to lose steam: After expanding in 2013 to Echo Park, Guisados also has opened a storefront downtown on the Spring Street side of the Spring Arcade Building, serving beautiful tacos on handmade tortillas. It also has added Sunday breakfast to all three locations, and is perhaps in the process of perfecting a truly L.A.-style breakfast taco. But the star of the show at any time of day remains the guisados, and in particular the sampler plate, on which you get six mini tacos, each with a different meat — tinga de pollo, cochinita pibil, chicharrón and more — and each adorned with the perfect garnish. It is perhaps the world’s cheapest tasting menu, and we’d take it over the soignée kind most days of the week.— Besha Rodell