at the LA Farmers Market
6333 W 3rd St (@ Fairfax)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve got myself under control, trying not to overload my writing with whining, sarcasm, cynicism, and well, colorfully snarkarrific commentary about pretty damn near everything with which I come in contact. Trust me, what you read is “under control.” You should see what spews forth from my fingers in rough draft form when the wine hasn’t gotten a hold of my senses and my snarkiness is not under control. Not pretty.
So before I start taking weak little jabs at the sagging graph that is my traffic stats (sagging!), the looming pile of posts I have yet to publish (looming!), then following that with a very feeble attempt at an upper-cut to my non-existent social life (non-existent!), I am cutting it all off at the pass with Loteria Grill. Nothing about Loteria Grill in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax will let me spew any sort of negativity whatsoever.
Okay, “nothing” really means “except for one thing.” Barring the fact that the Farmers’ market is well, well, well outside my driving radius, I have a none-too-quiet hatred of the siutation that the shopping center jokingly calls “parking.” Parking for the Grove and adjacent consumer playgrounds, you see, is meant for a high-volume, high-traffic, high-turnover shopping and entertainment mega destination, and yet the two ground lots and attached structure only accommodate the equivalent of oh, say seven cars. Maybe eight. Nine, if every single person drives a Mini. Throw in a Hummer that belongs to the one person who needs to go to the big container-like store for things to organize the rest of the obnoxious excess in her life, and parking is fuct up.
(Incidentally, if I could actually afford a Hummer, I would drive one. Yeah, I have no integrity.)
Even after reading nothing but positive things about the place on blogs, messageboards, and msm for months and months and months, I would never have made it out to Loteria Grill. However, the fabulously fabulous Santos, lured me out of my blatant ban on the entire block surrounded by Fairfax, 3rd, Beverly, and whatever street it is over there on the east side with the Scent of Green Bananas. She’s intoxicating like that.
Yes, parking was, in no uncertain terms, a bitch. I got over it. Barely.
Let’s face it. The Farmers’ Market is a good general dining destination for a large group with a wide spectrum of preferences because it’s basically a Mall Food Court without Hot Dog on a Stick. The space, though crowded with people, is open and can accommodate a large group, even if it is in a somewhat disjointed way. We did our best to shove together a couple of empty tables, then non-chalantly lurked around occupied tables that appeared to be in the final stages of the dining process. Once the guests collected all of their trash onto the requisite trays with a purposefully meticulous attention to detail motivated by our obvious hovering, and finally vacated with a glare, one of us immediately swooped down to stake a claim. Our final banquet table was cobbled together in the space between Loteria Grill and the neighboring bar.
Oh yes. I said "neighboring bar." I ordered a glass of wine and gave up complete decision-making control to Santos and her crew, except for a request for "nopales," of which I have recently become enamored. Loteria Grill's menu is simple in that there are only a few different types of things - salads, tacos, etc. - but the options of what goes inside those few things outnumber my ability to count. I think my wine was red; maybe it was white. We were about to eat Mexican food. I don't think it matters if I remember.
The nopales in a chopped salad form had the characteristic slimy exterior with a strangely squeaky, taut texture. It is a feel that I would expect if a bell pepper had been softly pickled, though it tastes nothing at all like a bell pepper. It tastes rather like a broad-leafed succulent. Oh yeah, it's a cactus.
Santos' ordering one or two of each type of taco seems like it could have left us in a food coma, but the tacos are small. Had I been carrying my tool purse instead of my usual girl purse, I would have pulled out a measuring tape, but I think it's safe to estimate that the corn tortillas at Loteria Grill are no bigger than about 4" in diameter. That's about a 12.56" circumference, if we're getting semi-techmatical. We had a variet
y of beef, pork, chicken, as well as different types of vegetables. Literally, it was a rainbow of food flavors on the tiny squares of colored paper on which the tacos were presented.
Most people tend to swoon over the carne asada and other such braised meatiness, but I thought they were nothing special. Mushroom was also not particularly noteworthy, and it seemed odd and overly carbnoxious to see mashed potatoes inside a tiny tortilla. To me, that's like serving risotto on top of fettuccine. Or something.
We also had an order of what looked like nachos - tortilla chips sprinkled with queso fresco, shredded lettuce, and a lovingly long squirt of cream - and while I appreciate that Loteria Grill's nachos are probably more "authentic" than anything offered from Baja Fresh, La Salsa or, gofferbid, Taco Bell, there really is no such thing as "authentic nachos" anyway. I think chips suffocating under melted yellow cheese and barely holding their crisp under the weight of salsa, guacamole, and sour scream are authentically from Texas.
Obviously, it behooved the Scent of Green Bananas to order the banana dessert. The idea of softly sweet sliced bananas sauteed in butter and served with crema is fabulous, but the aesthetic is so totally unappealing I could hardly ignore the blackish brown spots, the odd presentation of the slices as if they were checkers on an unmarked board, and the worm-like drizzle of cream. I think I ateone out of respect for the banana, but it didn't actually taste all the great. I am so superficial.
Yeah, so maybe Loteria Grill's bananas were a little negative. But they were definitely better than the parking.
Who Else Hit the Jackpot at Loteria Grill?
Tuna Toast~ Food of the Gods: Loteria Grill, Farmers Market (Oct 2006)
Eating LA~ Farmers Market: Loteria Grill (Jun 2006)
David Lebovitz~ LA is a Helluva Place (December 2005)
Rate-a-Restaurant~ #56 in a Series, Loteria Grill (Dec 2004)
** a year ago today, i like ham that's good to the last drop. of stock **