Gorditas Lupita, Pacoima.
As we seem to be open to the glorious backyard operations of our neighbors here in Los Angeles, I wanted to share a recent visit to a place I hope you can all visit soon…
If people are asked to describe heaven, the usual answers involve lots of fluffy clouds and people wearing white, happiness and joy abound. But maybe heaven really is a shaded backyard in Pacoima serving gorditas stuffed with guisados from old recipes with an origin in Aguascalientes. That is the setting of Gorditas Lupita, open on Saturdays and Sundays from 09:00 to 14:00.
From the street, there is nothing to indicate something going on in the back besides the bit of music and conversation that is audible, but make your way under the covered driveway and find yourself in the scene above. The permanent wooden structure hints to having been around a while, and indeed they have been the open secret of Pacoima for five years now.
Pots of menuda and birria.
In addition to the main space, another white tent is set up further back in the yard and makes for an even more bright place to eat. Either way, there is plenty of room to keep out the cold and wet elements during winter and the hot and bright during summer.
The namesake gorditas are the draw, but two pots are also ready each morning with menudo and birria. Overheard while a couple from Aguascalientes came for takeout, the family here is from the small neighborhood of Colonia del Carmen in the center of the city of Aguascalientes that shares its name with the state in México. This small, central state is less represented in Los Angeles than its southern neighbor Jalisco and Zacatecas, which wraps around the rest.
From some initial tastes of the guisados here at Lupita, it is a state not to be taken lightly. At 10:30 in the morning a few Saturdays ago, a couple groups had merged in conversation and were enjoying beers and micheladas after finishing their meals. Without interrupting them to ask, they all just had the feeling of folks that saw each other here on many weekends throughout the year.
As football plays on the flatscreen television, a must for weekends, step up to Sra. Lupita and see what is cooking. Some of her guisados are visible in ceramic bowls (below), while others require her to open the steam table trays. Pick your poison, grab a seat, and prepare yourself for a big meal.
They make a wonderful lemonade ($2.50, above) that is filled with chia seeds if you come early and are not ready to start partying.
Each gordita ($2.75 each, below) is made from a freshly pressed thick and fluffy tortilla, carefully sliced open to fill with ingredients. The resulting pocket of goodness stands up to the fillings and time very well, holding its shape and integrity even until the end.
On top of the three above is chicharrón en salsa roja, a spicy guisado that was amazing and may have been the star of this meal. A bit brighter red was the carne en chile rojo, even spicier and lovely. You can choose whether you want cheese with any filling, and this one went well with it.
To get a good view of the rajas con queso (below), pull up the thin side of the gordita. This is the mildest of the bunch and might require some of their salsa for those wanting heat, but is still quite delicious.
To the side of the cooking area, a circular tray is filled with cooking oil and surrounded by potatoes and chopped up cactus leaves. This was learned to be the enchiladas stand.
Their version, seen below, is served as a plate. The tortillas are dipped into a chile rojo oil before frying, then wrapped around both cheese and onion. The potatoes and cactus are placed on top of the cooked enchiladas and everything is blanketed by a layer of crumbled cheese.
It is also a pleasure to eat all of the food off of their lovely plates, such a better experience than disposable.
When this meal ended and it was time to leave, the group that was enjoying themselves at the beginning was still there talking together and to the hosts. It showed no sign of ending anytime soon, a good indication of a better way to plan your day when you come to visit.
The gates of heaven.