Tamales Elena Y Antojitos is permanently closed
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Tamales Elena Y Antojitos
To put it simply, there isn’t another restaurant in town doing what Tamales Elena Y Antojitos is doing. For one, it’s literally the only Afro-Mexican restaurant in LA—and possibly the country. Secondly, its Guerrero-style menu is filled with some of the most exciting and delicious food we’ve eaten anywhere in LA.
Guerrero is a state in Mexico on the Pacific Coast, north of Oaxaca, and home to a large Afro-Mexican population—and an extensive culinary history of its own. This is where chef Maria Elena Lorenzo and her family are from, and where the recipes that can now be found on Tamales Elena’s menu were originally born. Think pozoles, pork tamales and beef tongue guisado, but the highlight of the menu, are the crispy fish tacos called pescadillas. These thin, crispy tacos come filled with perfectly stewed fish, and we recommend getting at least three orders—one for you now, one for you in five minutes, and one for five minutes after that. You don’t need to worry about reservations (because they don’t take them), and outside of a few peak hours on the weekends, you’ll always be able to find an open table or two on the tiny, wrap-around patio. On most days, the restaurant closes at 4pm, so if you're in the mood to experience the soul-penetrating scent of pozole, you'll have to plan a trip here during the day. Maybe you’re planning a lunch date or hoping to show out-of-towners a version of LA they don’t see on reality TV. Either way, nothing beats a sunny morning or afternoon at Tamales Elena.
These hard-shelled fish tacos sit pretty inconspicuously at the bottom of the taco section, but they are not to be ignored. In fact, they should be ordered in bulk. Thin, crispy, and filled with perfectly stewed fish, this is easily a top-ten taco in LA already, and one of many reasons you need to get in your car right now and drive to Tamales Elena.
Tamales Elena serves a few different kinds of pozole throughout the week (red, green, and white, plus a vegan elopozole), but just know that whichever is on the menu the day you go, it’s going to be incredible. Made from pork head stock and cooked with hominy, this fragrant soup comes garnished with everything from avocado to shredded cabbage to dried oregano and chile flakes. Also, come on Thursdays for el jueves pozolero, where each type of pozole is served.
Instead of fighting with yourself over whether to get the pork in red salsa or the chicken in green salsa, just order both and walk away thrilled. The tamales themselves are light, moist, and not so big that you can’t eat two in one sitting.
Lengua Con Platano Macho Guisado
If you’re going to get one thing off the guisado section of the menu, make sure it’s the beef tongue with plantains. The tongue itself is fantastic with a mild, slightly rich flavor that balances perfectly with the sweetness of the plantains.