Essential T: Tlacoyos (aka the Mother of all Antojitos) at the Mercado Olympic

The best snack for truly savoring the joys and pure flavor of masa

The very best Mexican foods start with the letter T—tacos, tortas, tlayudas. Here we showcase the tastiest “T” bites from the streets of L.A.

On the list of Mexcican comfort foods that begin with the letter T, there’s a special place in my stomach for tlacoyos—thick, elongated, oval-shaped tortillas (blue or yellow corn) stuffed with refried beans, fava beans,requesón (like a Mexican ricotta), and other optional goodies, which are then topped with nopales (cactus), cheese, and salsa.

Tlacoyos are found in many parts of Mexico, especially northern Veracruz, Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, Puebla, southern Michoacán, and northern Oaxaca. And in our own downtown Los Angeles street food mecca—known as the Mercado Olympic—we‘re lucky enough to have a thriving tlacoyo scene driven by Pueblans, Chilangos (people from Mexico City), and Michoacanans.

On the northeast corner of Olympic Blvd. and Kohler St., you’ll find a family of Pueblan street vendors all by themselves, away from the Saturday and Sunday piñata district shopping. Here, at Antojitos Poblanos, the matriarch of the family moves masa from tortilla press to griddle like a one-woman crew team: one hand rows and the other serves as coxswain. It’s mesmerizing.

Her tlacoyos come either filled with salty, medium-dry, refried beans—the most traditional—or with creamy requesón flavored with one of Mexico’s finest herbs: epazote. Order it “con todo” (“with everything”) and you’ll get a heap of non-traditional toppings like shredded lettuce, cotija cheese, Mexican crema, and salsa. Or you can also just ask for salsa and cheese, and put some nopales on yourself; either way is delicious.

Tlacoyos aren’t just special because they’re rich in flavor; they’re also rich in history. They purportedly date back to the first major civilization of Mexico—the Olmecs—and carried into the Mayan and Aztec kingdoms, ultimately giving birth to the huarache, the sope, and other masa-based snacks. For me, tlacoyos are the best antojito (snack) to enjoy if you want to truly savor the joys and pure flavor of masa—a taste of the old empire right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

Antojitos Poblanos, at the northeast corner of E Olympic Blvd. and Kohler St.
Saturdays and Sundays only, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.