Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Subway Ride to Squash Blossom Quesadillas - Video Review

Ride the Squash Blossom Quesadilla Special from Little Tokyo to Mariachi Plaza with The 99 Cent Chef as your culinary guide.

East L.A. Subway & La Cabanas Restaurant - Video

Play it here. The video runs 6 minutes.

The Chef and his wife rode the rails on opening day, Sunday, for the Gold Line subway extension into East L.A. We got to the train yard on 1st and Alvarado by 10am and easily boarded the gleaming train cars for a ride to the end of the line.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina was at the East L.A. Civic Center for a ribbon cutting, and right up the hill in the same park was the East L.A. Farmers Market in full swing, alongside a row of white tented food stalls with maddening aromas, and tempting free samples including: fresh roasted peanuts and skewers of Korean BBQ chicken and beef.

After a few samples, the Chef and his wife were ready for a real meal, and we headed to Mariachi Plaza Station on East 1st Street -- it's a Latin restaurant row. We passed bandstands teeming with horn, violin and guitar players belting out passionate Mexican ballads, stalls ladling sweet cups of horchata, and local artisans selling Mexican skull and beer cap boxes along with life-sized skeletons. Quite an eye and earful.

The L.A. Times published a great subway stop restaurant listing in its Wednesday Food Section, so we had a lot to choose from. You can see the listing online here. Goat stew at Birriera Jalisco? No way the Chef's wife would go for that; that's a future solo trip. Upscale classic Mexican cuisine at La Serenata de Garibaldi? Too expensive for this chintzy chef. Squash blossom quesadillas and sheep tacos at hole-in-the-wall Taqueria Las Cabanas? Bingo!

Located two blocks away from Mariachi Plaza at 1908 3/4 E. 1st Street, Taqueria Las Cabanas Restaurant is a small red room with about 10 tables, and no menu was offered. On the wall are food entree pictures and a list of their specialties, including quesadillas served in handmade fresh pressed corn tortillas. These tender yellow-hued corn discs are thicker and larger than store bought, but somehow taste lighter. The fresh grilled flavor is subtle, like tamale masa.

The Times article recommended squash blossom quesadillas and we bit. Boy, were they fantastic, and well worth $3 apiece. The delicate squash blossoms paired perfectly with melty cheese and soft fresh corn tortillas. Squash is not subtle -- the blossoms are. Our waitress, Maria, says her family has a garden and picks them fresh.

Along with the quesadillas, we ordered Sheep Tacos for $1.75. The rich, earthy meat is shredded but still chunky, slow-cooked tender, and almost sweet -- simply delicious to this mutton-loving Chef. The taco is topped with chopped onion and cilantro; spicy red and green chile sauce is set out on the tables. Maria and her mother, Juana, were kind enough to allow the Chef into their kitchen to see the tortillas rolled, pressed and grilled -- Juana makes quick work of it -- and the kitchen is filled with intoxicating smells of grilling meat and simmering soups. This Chef will soon return for more.

The Chef and his wife have been to all the free subway/train first day rides on each opening day. Underground from Hollywood to Downtown L.A. in 1999; above ground from Union Station, through Chinatown, to Pasadena in 2003; and now underground and above, from Little Tokyo to East L.A., this past Sunday. The future of our great metropolis depends on all manner of mass transit. (And for a peak into the past, here is a great pictorial of L.A.'s first subway station built in 1925! Just click here to see it.)

Was it too expensive to build, yes; is it clean, quick and comfortable, yes -- does it disrupt neighborhoods and fall short, yes; does it allow for convenient connectivity to disparate communities, yes -- and finally, to this citywide-neighborhood-exploring Chef, is it the right thing to do? It is. I can't wait until the Downtown to Culver City Metro Line, with a stop just 5 city blocks from my front step, is completed; you can be sure we will be riding it on opening day, and that I'll be prepping a personal 99 Cent Chef Neighborhood Dining Guide for the occasion!

Taqueria Las Cabanas Restaurant
1908 3/4 E. 1st St.
Boyle Heights, CA.
Squash Blossom Quesadilla: $3
Sheep Taco: $1.75

Al & Bea's Mexican Food is nearby serving cheap old school burritos: 
2025 East 1st Street
Boyle Heights, CA. 90038
(323) 267-8810
Video review, click here

Click here to view or embed from youtube.

6 comments:

Ellen Bloom said...

LOVE the video and story, Mr. Chef! My hubs and I got on the Red Line near LACC...We started our journey a little too late in the day to actually ride the new Gold Line. Read our story here:
http://ellenbloom.blogspot.com/2009/11/gold-line.html#links

Hi to Amy!

Christian said...

Such a great story. I love seeing the city through other people's eyes.

tagskie said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day! http://kantahanan.blogspot.com/

InternetOMG.com said...

Found you via LAObserved.com. Hopefully this line will be eventually extended farther east to Whittier, providing another way to access the city for those coming from the IE, SGV, and OC.

Tuttle said...

Hiya, 99 (can I call you 99?),
Glad to see you highlighting public transportation.

You mention its construction was "too expensive" and I confess I don't follow LA current affairs, but with Boston's Big Dig coming in at over a million dollars per *foot*, expensive is relative.

Besides, we Americans have this mindset that public transportation must pay for itself, while we have no such expectation of roads and highways, or even airports.

Living in Seoul, I can attest that one of the best things a government can do for the quality of life of its people is to provide a reasonable alternative to car ownership and traffic jams!

Anyway, if you're ever in Seoul, drop me a line, I'll treat you to samgyupsal and soju!

Billy Vasquez said...

Hi Tuttle, I'm all for our subway - it should be much further along, but local politicos keep delaying it. And I'll look you up when I visit Korea -- I'll hook you up with a Kogi Korean BBQ taco when you are in L.A.!

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