Where to Find Mexico’s Regional Specialties in L.A.

Each Mexican state has its own distinct dish

All of the articles and photos from our special Immigration Issue are available in the October 2016 issue, on newsstands now.

Oaxaca — Mole Negro Oaxaqueño

A photo posted by Robert Liu (@robert.liu) on

Mole is the headliner at any Oaxacan restaurant but especially at this Koreatown spot. The concoction blends a homemade or imported mole paste with chicken stock and often more than 30 ingredients (dried chiles, chocolate, nuts, spices, aromatic leaves). Order the mole negro—chicken smothered in the viscous sauce and served with rice—for the most authentic experience. » La Morenita Oaxaqueña, 3550 W. 3rd St., Koreatown, 213-365-9201.

RELATED: Hungry Metropolis 

Jalisco — Torta Ahogada


A good “drowned sandwich” from Guadalajara is all about the bread. A hard roll, called a birote, is spread with refried beans, filled with Mexican confit-style pork, and bathed in a sinus-clearing salsa made with a Jaliscan variety of chile de arbol. Keep it classic with carnitas, or try it with shrimp. » Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara, 6042 Santa Fe Ave., Huntington Park, 323-587-3115

Sinaloa — Chilorio


If it’s a Culiacán-style meal you want, head to South Gate for a hearty serving of shredded pork simply seasoned with cumin and garlic, then stewed in lard and dried chile ancho. For a flavor that’s 100 percent Sinaloa, have it wrapped in a flour tortilla, with a side of rich frijoles puercos—refried beans made with pig fat. » Cenaduria Gumacus, 8646 State St., South Gate, 323-566-5522

The state of México and Mexico City — Quesadilla


At the Mercado Olympic, vendors sit behind tables weighed down with traditional stews, delicate squash blossoms, funky huitlacoche (corn smut), spicy chicken, and mushrooms sprinkled with the pungent herb epazote. Watch as the taquero fills a tortilla that he tosses on the griddle, and then top it off with cream, lettuce, salsa, and salty dried cheese. » Mercado Olympic, Olympic Blvd. and Central Ave., downtown

Puebla — Cemita Poblana


Puebla’s esteemed (but not steamed) cemita rolls—lightly sweetened sesame seed buns—are artfully assembled with Oaxacan cheese, a thin chicken or beef milanesa, chipotle or pickled jalapeño peppers, avocado, and a sprig of sharp papalo. The Los Poblanos truck bakes its own bread, which is piled high in perfect proportions. » Los Poblanos, 3520 Whittier Blvd., Boyle Heights, 323-973-9967

Michoacán — Enchilada Estilo Apatzingán


It might not look like an enchilada to you, but this folded tortilla dipped in salsa and stuffed with cheese is the real deal in the Michoacán city of Apatzingán. Add cotija, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, skillet-fried chicken, and fried potatoes, and you’ll never look at an enchilada the same way again. » Birrieria Apatzingan, 10040 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Pacoima, 818-890-6265

Zacatecas — Birría

Jalisco is king when it comes to spicy, pit-roasted goat meat, but Zacatecas is a formidable rival. At Birrieria Chalio, the breakfast classic features slow-cooked chile and spice-rubbed goat, whose flavorful drippings are used to make an accompanying cumin-spiced consommé. » Birrieria Chalio, 3580 E. 1st St., East L.A., 323-268-5349

Colima — Ceviche


In this region of Mexico, ceviche is garnished with finely grated carrots, which is one way to balance the acidity of chopped raw fish cured in lime juice. For a truly regional presentation, use saltines or tostadas to scoop up the mixture at Ostioneria Colima, the strip mall cevichería. » Ostioneria Colima, 1465 W. 3rd St., Westlake, 213-482-4152

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Los Angeles magazine.