Antojitos Carmen was the first disappointment of the list. Maybe we were expecting too much, or different, or our idea of “authentic” is wrong. But what sounded so magical in Jonathan Gold’s review ended up being unsatisfying and fried, fried, fried.
We wanted to finally try something Mexican from the list, so I was excited to head to East LA to find some really delicious, authentic regional Mexican food. We also needed really cheap, and someplace that took credit cards, so we settled on Antojitos Carmen.
We headed down Olympic over to Boyle Heights, a part of town that is not far from us but where neither of us had ever been. We found the place easily, and there was parking right out front.
When we walked in, the first thing I noticed, besides the fact that it was much, much smaller than I expected, was that there was only one Hispanic couple there. Everyone else was white. Actually, everyone else was a young, white hipster. There was a small group of a twenty-something girl and two guys, and a group of dudes who looked like a band. I thought this might be a good sign, that it was a good Eastside secret spot. E and I are not Eastsiders. E’s friends all live over on that side of town. I have a couple friends who live over there. We are the lone Westside holdouts. So we know pretty much nothing about the Eastside except for Intelligentsia and Malo. So I figured, hey, maybe these people know what they’re doing here.
I had checked the place out on Yelp before we came, and previewed the menu (which I do for every place we go to, obsessively). I had already decided that we should just get one of each item Gold mentioned in his review, so we did: one huarache with the black corn fungus Gold mentions, one gordita with the special of the day – goat, one fried quesadilla with beef tongue as Gold mentions in the review, and we also got two crunchy potato tacos, because they came highly rated on Yelp. Yes, I trust Yelp. I ordered a Mexican Coke, the highlight of any night of Mexican food. E objected to ordering the quesadilla fried, but that is what Gold recommends in his review. So that’s how we ordered it.
We started out with chips and a selection from the salsa bar, a red salsa and a green salsa, and what was labeled the habanero salsa, but I am still skeptical – it was really a bunch of spicy, pickled vegetables. This so-called “devil” salsa Gold mentioned in his review seemed nowhere to be found. I had also read rave reviews of the chiltepil spice mix on Yelp and wanted to try it, plus Gold mentions it as the salsa des semillas in his review, but it was $5 for a large cup of it, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
The other salsas were good. Great, actually. We gorged on chips waiting for our food. And then the food came.
The quesadilla. Man, was it fried. They weren’t kidding. Gold describes them as “stuffed” but really, I barely tasted any cheese. The tongue was good. Not my favorite, but not absolutely horrifying either. But, why is there so much lettuce on top?
The huarache. This was probably the item with the most flavor out of everything, and it was still disappointing. Really, there was lettuce on EVERYTHING. And fried. Fried, fried, fried. I love fried as much as the next girl but at a certain point everything starts to taste the same. And not a delicious the same.
The gordita was pretty good. The goat was delicious. But again, most of what you could taste was just fried. And more lettuce.
The potato tacos came out first and we downed them because we were so hungry, so I didn’t catch any photos. Don’t worry, they were fried too. They had more filling than anything else we ordered, but really, they were just filled with potato, so it wasn’t anything exciting.
Everyone else around us seemed to be loving it, but E and I just didn’t get it. All we got was lettuce, sad tomato slices, and a general fried yellow tone to everything. The little bit of filling we did get was good, but not so amazing. Maybe we are spoiled by the taco truck near our apartment. That is some delicious Mexican food. Still, this whole meal only cost us $18. Not too much damage done.
But, there are many more Mexican places on the list over on the Eastside, and many more chances to be impressed. Boyle Heights, consider yourself challenged!