Most Central American cuisine in Los Angeles has existed under the radar, with restaurants catering to their respective communities and the handful of adventurous L.A. diners who have only tried a few dishes; pupusas on Beverly Bl., nacatamales at La 27, and maybe the antojitos plate at Amalia’s come to mind. But lately it’s young, inspired Guatemalan restaurateurs leading the charge with new concepts like Garnachas and Beer, Puchica Guatemalan Bar and Grill, chef Cristian Guzmán’s El Shuko Truck, and, now, Café Tamal.
Café Tamal, located in Van Nuys, is a contemporary strip mall coffee shop where Stumptown coffee nitro cold brews and kombucha are served from a tap to enjoy with Guatemalan tamales, enchiladas, Salvadoran pupusas, and mixtas, which are Guatemalan hot dog tacos. There are shucos, too, but like the few American items on the menu: hamburgers, chicken burgers, and croissants stuffed with ham, cheese, and egg, the bread is ordinary and mismatched with their otherwise thoughtfully plated Guatemalan cuisine and high end coffee. Mixtas are the ticket here.
The mixtas at Café Tamal come on thick Guatemalan corn tortillas brushed with a a generous spread of guacamol, then crowned with a grilled dog, boiled cabbage, and a lattice of mustard, mayo, and ketchup. Having a single origin drip with eggs Benedict here makes it easy to forget where you are. But with the recent surge in Guatemalan restaurants, catching up on the news with snacking on a mixta chased by a glass of Morning Glory kombucha tea feels like just another morning in Los Angeles.
Café Tamal, 16045 Sherman Way Ste. F, Van Nuys, (818) 855-1319