Cheap Eats: Central & South American


Icon by Peter Hoey

The interior of this Salvadoran landmark, a former residence on the fringes of East Hollywood, is as frumpy as Grandma’s house. The cooking, fortunately, is just as homey. Pupusas—the stuffed corn patties that are the national comfort food of El Salvador—are heavy here, big sloppy disks of oozing cheese and fried maize dough. For more oomph, order them spiked with loroco, the caper-ish Central American flower bud. Cash only. » 301 N. Berendo St., L.A., 323-663-1404.

Café Brasil
A Brazilian breakfast of scrambled eggs, collard greens, and Brazilian cheese is served all day in the canvas-enclosed patio dining room. At $7.95, lunch includes grilled meat, fish, or vegetables with rice, black beans, and fried plantains. The yucca fries just might change your life. » 10831 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-837-8957; 11736 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-391-1216.

El Baron de Centro America
Food is the draw here, but with colorful jerseys and flat-screen TVs on the walls, soccer vies for equal attention. Highlights of the pan-Latin menu are Salvadoran: Bean and cheese pupusas are lovely melty morsels. The fans who gather to cheer their teams snack on fried yucca root, brittle and earthy, or thin bistec covered in onions. All are consumed with big frosty bottles of Regia beer. » 4212 W. Pico Blvd., Mid City, 323-954-1384.

Los Balcones del Perú
Of all the great dishes at this stronghold of Peruvian cuisine—like the warm, hominy-studded, chile-spiked shrimp ceviche known as camarones a la piedra—the greatest may be the one that sounds the least tempting: chicharrones de pollo, which is to say, nuggets of chicken fried so vigorously they resemble pork rinds. But these dark, thin curls of flesh are infused with an almost carnal intensity. » 1360 Vine St., Hollywood, 323-871-9600.

Pollo a la Brasa
More woodpile than restaurant, this weathered Peruvian-style chicken stand serves the smokiest bird in L.A. The pit of crackling logs and embers behind the take-out window greets customers. Nine bucks gets you half a rotisserie chicken, blistered on the outside, juicy underneath, plus a couple of sides and a few ounces of fiery green aji sauce. » 764 S. Western Ave., Koreatown, 213-382-4090.