El Faisan y El Venado | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

El Faisan y El Venado

photo by Besha Rodell

People throw around the term “mom-and-pop” a lot for the small, family-owned restaurants that make up the heart and soul of dining in L.A., but El Faisan y El Venado is the real deal. The cheerful Highland Park restaurant specializing in the food of the Yucatán is run by Angel and Maria Eugenia Contreras de Campos, a husband-and-wife team who are generally the only people working there, he in the dining room and she in the kitchen. From that kitchen comes moist, luscious, long-simmered cochinita pibil, but also zesty escabeche oriental, a vinegar-stewed turkey leg swathed in mounds of cooked onions, and panuchos and salbutes, variations on fried tortillas topped with meat, refried beans, avocado, lettuce and pickled onions. Angel is one of the most welcoming and enthusiastic hosts around, and he’ll walk you through the menu if you’re feeling unsure. He may also offer his services as a handyman — we can’t vouch for that side of the business, but if his painting and repairs are as good as his wife’s cooking, then you won’t be disappointed. —Besha Rodell