On the east side of L.A. is the small town El Monte, California, where early Spanish settlers said the soil was so rich that anything could be grown. During your stay in the friendly, growing city, venture out into one of the many undiscovered hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Here are 10 great local dining spots to get you started.
For a truly flavorful taste of Mexico, try the tasty burritos and the spicy fresh seafood dishes at El Pescado Bar & Grill. Come in for dinner to end your night in the fun and festive atmosphere. A specialty El Pescador margarita pairs perfectly with the music of the energetic Mariachi band that plays throughout the weekend nights. It may take a while to read through the 26-page drinks list, so start with the diablo tamarin de margarita, a margarita with a rim dusted in chili powder to give you that extra kick.
Try the classic French dip sandwich at an El Monte local staple, Jolly Jug. A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a sandwich of thin-sliced roast beef served hot on a baguette. The sandwich is presented au jus, with a dipping dish on the side filled with a meaty, thick gravy. The American sandwich was said to be invented in L.A. in the early 1900s. Jolly Jug’s award-winning French dip is the most popular in El Monte, and it has been served in the community since the 1940s. If the sound of the French dip doesn’t excite you, Jolly Jug has a wide selection of other sandwiches.
Find large portions of delicious, fresh Vietnamese food at Viet Huong Restaurant. The restaurant is always buzzing with customers, and the service deals with the high volume with friendly attentiveness. From the seeminly endless menu, try the shrimp and pork spring rolls, wrapped up in a perfectly crispy rice paper. For your main dish, try out the bún bò huê, a classic Vietnamese spicy beef soup served with pork hock, pork blood cakes, and rice noodles spiced with chili and lemongrass oil.
El Patio has perfected the Mexican restaurant experience. The menu lists dishes originating from all over Mexico and prepared with the freshest and tastiest ingredients. El Patio is little more pricy than the average Tex-Mex restaurant, but the quick, friendly service and the expertly made food will make your experience well worth the extra cash. Try the pork chops served with a pistachio mole, an authentic paste of ground spices and dried chilies commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Save room for dessert because you won’t want to miss the espresso flan.
For the area’s best-tasting pho — a Vietnamese noodle soup of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat — step into Pho Huynh. The no-frills menu offers pho almost exclusively, so come prepared to attempt to eat a bowl full of soup with chop sticks. The most popular item on the menu is the filet mignon pho. The beef, which cooks in the hot, flavorful broth, will be perfectly tender. Try an iced Vietnamese coffee — espresso with condensed milk served over ice — to kickstart your afternoon buzz. Pho Huynh is a popular lunchtime spot, and because the pho is painstakingly cooked to perfection every time, you may want to take a long lunch.
Your go to Cuban establishment in El Monte is Havana Club Restaurant & Bar. This family restaurant has warm and friendly service and generous portion sizes. The pleasant atmosphere, a contrast to its hole-in-the-wall exterior look, makes Havana Club Restaurant a wonderful place to have a relaxing long lunch. Try the ropa vieja, a Cuban beef stew made with fresh vegetables. Every entrée is also served with rice, beans, and plantains. Get in the true Cuban spirit and order a mojito with your meal to reach ultimate relaxation status.
La Barca, a small Californian chain, uses the freshest ingredients and true-to-its-roots Mexican cooking techniques to prepare delicious, authentic Mexican cuisine. Find something for everyone to enjoy on the widely varied menu, which features a selection of freshly tossed salads, spicy fajitas, fresh-caught seafood, classic burgers, and even a selection of breakfast foods. Although La Barca is a growing chain restaurant, it all runs back to a small family business. The restaurant gets its name from the name of the small town in Mexico where this family restaurant got its start.
This classic American diner serves the best local breakfast. Founded in 1966, Flo’s small and unassuming restaurant is beloved by the locals. Try the chicken fried steak with a biscuit and gravy or home fries, or order the sweet French toast — a toasted crispy outside with a warm and soft center. Whatever you order, you’ll be filled up with a generous portion of home-cooked comfort food. Flo’s friendly servers make it obvious that they want your time and experience in their restaurant to be the best it can be.
El Taco Man is more of a stand than a restaurant, but even in a city full of Mexican restaurants, the food stands out. The specialty dish here is fried quesadillas — thick and doughy but crispy on the outside, and topped with lettuce, sour cream, and cheese. Aside from the namesake tacos, the carne asada,seared beef steak, is another firm favorite. The food is great value for money, and though the service can be slow, it pays to see your food made right in front of you. Despite its lack of a full restaurant, El Taco Man does provide some outdoor seating.
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice, this small, quaint Vietnamese restaurant serves all vegetarian food. The small venue fills fast with local fans of the consistently great food. Minty-fresh and meat-free, Thien Tam’s menu has all of the Vietnamese favorites at low prices. Try an order of pho, stir fry noodles, or banh xeo (a Veitnamese crêpe). Even meat lovers won’t be able to complain about the healthy and filling portions at Thien Tam. Before you leave, make sure you check out the freshly baked dessert selection.