Let’s face it, even with the high cost of living, residing in southern California definitely has its perks. We have mild weather, beautiful beaches, mountains, Vegas within driving distance, and last, but certainly not least, the best Mexican food, hands down, that you can find in the nation. Many would agree with me that there is absolutely nothing that compares to the flavor of perfectly grilled carne asada in taco form with cilantro and onions, all to be washed down with a margarita (or Corona… Coronarita, anyone?) on a warm summer night. Am I right, or am I right?
Now, I am aware of the fact that Mexican food is highly subjective and that there are plenty of opinions about where to find the “best” Mexican food. Over the years, I have asked where the best can be found, and as I listened to everyone’s lists, there was an overwhelming amount of results; some coinciding with others. At the end of those lists, I would calmly ask them, “Have you ever heard of a place called, ‘Carnitas Los Reyes?’” As soon as I had asked that question, about 80% had a look of shock, excitement, and disbelief that I knew. I knew their secret. And I knew where they ate last Summer. I introduce to you, my local hidden gem where you can eat like royalty: Carnitas Los Reyes.
Located right off of the 55 and Chapman, at the end of a small strip mall with a cramped parking lot and only lit up by a small sign, this restaurant is extremely easy to miss. Much like the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the appearance from the outside does not seem like much. But, once you step inside and become one with the small dining area, long lines, and various murals on the walls that make you reminisce of simpler times, you will realize that you have chosen wisely.
Enough about location, let’s get to the meat, shall we? As you stand in line waiting for your turn to order, you will notice that they have a staff member constantly chopping up new meat that will inevitably end up on your plate. It is very rare that they ever have a pan of meat just sitting there in a warmer (always a great sign). The chicken and chile verde burritos (pictured above) are my personal favorites and have been since I was a child. They are rather substantial in size and are also filled with 75-80% meat so you know you are in for a treat. The usual complements to these burritos are cheese, cilantro, onions, and refried beans and enough juice from the meat to fill a small pool. Modifications to the food are welcome.
Now, to the real deal: the tacos. At $1.69 per taco, you can eat like royalty with just $10. Each taco (al pastor, carnitas, carne asada pictured above) is necessarily double wrapped in a corn tortilla (remember that juice?) and topped off with cilantro and onions. Nothing more, nothing less. Out of all of the tacos, the reigning champion, in my opinion, is their al pastor (pork marinated in chiles, spices, and pineapple). I mean, when your friend, who is from Mexico and who also happens to be allergic to pineapple, says “I’ll fight through it,” and devours a few al pastor tacos as if it was his last meal (I mean, it could have been but it wasn’t, thankfully), the legitimacy speaks for itself.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a Mexican restaurant with no frills, authentic taste, and quality flavor, there is only one place you should go: Mexico. But, if you do not want to drive all the way down there, I highly recommend Carnitas Los Reyes.
See you next Wednesday!