Essential T: Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo’s Flautas

One of Mexico’s greatest dishes arrives in an unlikely place: the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall’s food court

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for the opening of Flautas ever since chef Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo first mentioned the concept to me—flautas are next to impossible to find in L.A. Yes, we have taquitos, which are awesome. But even when menus say flautas, you often get taquitos, a Mexican-American dish frequently served in combo plates. Taquitos are usually filled with meat and in the shape of ladyfingers; flautas are longer, like flutes (flauta means flute), and served with ample salsa, vegetables like onions or lettuce, cream, and dry cheese crumbled on top. Flautas are plated as a stand-alone dish, no rice and beans, and are a classic of Mexico’s antojitos genus.

When I stopped by Flautas at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw food court this weekend, Arvizu and Martin del Campo were up to their old tricks, educating a new market on traditional Mexican cuisine—when they opened La Casita Mexicana back in 1998, it was the local Mexican-American population that needed schooling.

“We’ve had the core menu items up, but people are only ordering the flautas that have pictures,” Arvizu says of his new shopping-mall stand. Picture-based ordering is something we see here in L.A., mostly at Asian restaurants. But in Baldwin Hills, traditional Mexican dishes like flautas are foreign, so Arvizu and Martin del Campo will be adding images of all 14 of their flautas.

The El Mercado flauta, inspired by Arvizu and Martin del Campo’s visits to the Mercado Corona in Guadalajara, Jalisco, is a classic presentation: boiled and shredded chicken is fried in a corn tortilla dressed with a tomatillo sauce, Mexican cream, and cotija cheese. Flautas are rolled tacos dorados, or golden fried tacos that exist somewhere in between an enchilada and a taco but are part of the taco family. In addition to the more conventional flautas, the Baldwin Hills stand has original creations like a spicy shrimp flauta in a creamy chipotle sauce. Either way, count on the true Mexican flavors we’ve come to expect from the two gentlemen chefs from Jalisco.

redarrow Flautas at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw, 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Los Angeles, 323-299-9314