Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza used to be a place ruled by the tireless mariachis that hung about the plaza waiting for a gig (mariachis are among the only musicians on the planet that wait around for a job that hasn’t been booked yet). For food, this space has always been a dead spot in the otherwise vibrant Boyle Heights scene with a few uninteresting restaurants, mariachi apparel shops, and the ever fading La Serenata de Garibaldi. In the last couple of years that’s changed with the Boyle Heights Farmer’s Market on Fridays, the super chido (cool) Eastside Luv Bar, and the new Tuesday night all-star food truck pairing of Carnitas El Momo and Vaka Burgers.
The Vaka Burger truck led by chef Aaron J. Perez, a Cordon Bleu graduate and champion on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, has been doing pop-ups at Glassell Park’s Tested.LA before parking at the Mariachi Plaza two weeks ago. These grass-fed burgers are rather chef-y, which may raise the noses of some burger aficionados, but wait until you try them. I had a truffle burger–yes, there’s truffle oil, but sneering at truffle oil is so 2010–with bacon jam, arugula, fontina cheese, and Stout braised onions. This is the only grass-fed burger I’ve had to date that delivers bold, meaty flavors.
Just around the corner at Pennsylvania Ave. And Bailey St., the fast rising street food star, Carnitas El Momo–the best carnitas in the U.S.–has joined Vaka Burger on Tuesday nights with their signature cuts of pork cooked low and slow in a copper cazo by 53-year carnitas master, Romulo “El Momo” Acosta from Guanajuato. Looks like Tuesday nights at Mariachi Plaza is the place to be to recover from Meatless Mondays.
Carnitas El Momo and Vaka Burger at Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, Tuesdays from 5p.m. to midnight