South L.A. | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

South L.A.

Bludso’s

photo by Anne Fishbein

Bludso’s has been the definitive standard for Texas-style barbecue in L.A. for years now, mainly on account of its meltingly tender brisket, which when fresh out of the smoker is nothing but pure, meaty bliss. Earlier this year, Bludso’s knocked down a wall to expand its ordering and waiting area, meaning we all have a bit more elbow room as we wait in line and ponder which proteins and sides to get as part of the two-meat dinner combo. Whatever you order, it will arrive steaming in a take-out box with slices of bread thoughtfully wrapped in paper towels. You can feast on it at one of the patio tables near the smokers in the back or you can, as most folks do, get back into your car and hurry home to eat. That is, if you do actually wait to get home to eat: Even folks with the strongest of wills are unable to drive back up the 710 without sneaking in a few bites from the box warming the passenger seat. Pro tip: Bludso’s usually tosses in a Handi Wipe or two with each order, for times such as this. —Tien Nguyen

Chichén Itzá

photo by Anne Fishbein

If there’s a greater source of piggy pleasure in L.A. than the glorious pile of cochinita pibil at Chichén Itzá, we’ve yet to come across it. Think of all the clichés that attach themselves to descriptions of good meat — tender, juicy, dripping with flavor — and then apply it in your mind to a mound of shredded, slow-cooked pork, topped with magenta pickled red onion and nestled against fluffy white rice and hearty frijoles negros. The stand in the back of Mercado la Paloma in Historic South-Central is undoubtedly the most celebrated L.A. establishment serving Yucatecan cuisine, and for good reason. Owner Gilberto Cetina literally wrote the book on the food of the region (Sabores Yucatecos: A Culinary Tour of the Yucatán, which you can buy at the restaurant), and Chichén Itzá serves up some specialties here that are hard to find anywhere else. Get a feel for the mixed heritage of the Yucatán with the Lebanese-tinged kibi, or try the agua de chaya, made from the leafy green chaya plant. Enjoying all this in the bustling, colorful Mercado is a plus, and makes for one of L.A.’s great dining experiences.— Besha Rodell

La Casita Mexicana

photo by Anne Fishbein

As with many Mexican restaurants, you are greeted by a basket of tortilla chips when you sit down at La Casita Mexicana. But these are far from ordinary: Three luscious moles — red, green and a sweetish negro — drizzled on top hint at what lies in store at Bell’s beloved, 15-year-old gem. Whether it’s a plate of flautas showered in cotija cheese, platters of grilled cactus and chipotle-smeared steak, or delicate filete de pescado steamed in corn husks, chefs Jaime Martín del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu’s cooking boasts remarkable depth that even seasoned veterans of Latino cuisine will find stunning. Part art gallery, part banquet space, it’s hard not to be transfixed by the colorful and traditional decor lining the walls. But rest assured, it’s the soulful flavors in each regional Mexican dish that will haunt your memory for days afterward.— Garrett Snyder

Surati Farsan Mart

photo by Danny Liao

Any kid who grew up making weekend trips to Pioneer Boulevard will fondly recall dragging their parents into Surati Farsan Mart, the enormously popular Gujarati shop that has been serving all manners of sweets and treats in Artesia since 1986. Because how could that front counter, filled with all sorts of multicolored goodies, such as the sweet tal papri and cubes of barfi, not attract every sweets-loving kid on the block? But before sweets, as many a parent has said at Surati, eat a few things of substance from the long menu of chaat and snacks. Maybe a dosa, which is as long as a wizard’s wand and can be ordered plain or filled with onions and potatoes. Or the delicate shells filled with beans and potatoes called pani puri, which explode with flavor when eaten, and the crunchy rice puff mix known as bhel puri. And then, yes, kids: It’ll be time for dessert. —Tien Nguyen