Celebrating National Salsa Month: 5 Places to Salsa
LA Weekly Flickr pool/R. E. ~ Mexicali Taco & Co.'s salsa fresca
It's May, which means it's National Salsa Month, (it's also National Hamburger Month, but we already pre-celebrated in our original burger round-up in February). Apparently, this commemorative holiday comes courtesy Pace Foods, which invented the modern salsa.*
In May 1997, the Texas company celebrated its 50th anniversary of the date David Pace developed "the spicy sauce he named 'picante'" and received what must be a food company's equivalent of gold anniversary gift: a food holiday.
Thankfully, we live in L.A. and do not have to rely on a bottle of Thick & Chunky for our salsa fix. In no particular order, here are 5 of our favorite places to salsa:
5. Mexicali Taco & Company: Mexicali Taco & Company no doubt clinched the title of "LA's Favorite Taco" in LA Taco's Taco Madness 2011 thanks in part to the quad of salsas sitting innocuously next to the smoky grill. You really can't go wrong with any of the four - habanero and tomato, chipotle, fresca, and guacamole - but if we had to single one out, we'd complete our carne asada taco or vampiro with a generous helping of that habanero salsa.
4. Tacos Por Favor: The Westside isn't necessarily known for its tacos, so Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica helps fills the void nicely. Everything on the menu is made without lard or trans-fat, so the excellent salsa selection is just icing on the trans-fat cake. The salsa verde in particular, with its tangy, almost sour zip from the tomatillos, adds a spicy kick to your chorizo and cheese taco or chile relleno burrito.
3. Nina's Foods: Nina Garcia, last year's Vendy Awards winner, can be found under a tent of hand-strung lights across the street from an abandoned church on Breed Street at Cesar Chavez Boulevard on Friday and Saturday nights. On those nights, you can order one or two or three antojitos and top it/them off with a variety of available salsas. While all the salsas are tasty, the standout is the salsa de semillas. This dry salsa, made of chile de arbol and toasted seeds (pumpkin, peanuts, sesame), sneaks up on you slowly; once you start to feel the burn, you'll already be addicted.
T. Nguyen Nina's salsa de semillas
2. Homeboy Industries: Consider this your supermarket alternative to Pace's Picante. In its 19 year history, Homeboy Industries has assisted and rehabilitated some 12,000 gang-affiliated youths. In an effort to stay financially solvent, the non-profit organization recently launched its very own line of chips and salsa, available at local Ralphs across the city. Your purchase helps support the organization provide its many counseling and job assistance services. For those of us who are not Jack Nicholson and thus will be relegated to watching this week's NBA playoff games from home, the morita salsa is the one you'll want to pick up for the showdown between the Lakers and Mavericks.
1. Carnitas Michoacan: King Taco's salsa roja has its many fans, but a worthy contender is the red sauce at Carnitas Michoacan, a stand a few miles north of Chinatown in Lincoln Heights. Order, say, nachos, a carne asada burrito with rice and beans or, if you're feeling particularly carnivorous, an all-meat burrito. When your order is brown bagged, two little red gems of salsa in Solo condiment cups will be tossed in so casually that you'd think you just were getting some extra napkins. Once you pop that lid open, the smokiness of the salsa hits you right at the top of your throat. The only thing better than the salsa is the fact that Carnitas Michoacan is open 24 hours a day - perfect for those late-night salsa munchies.
T. Nguyen Carnita Michoacan's burrito and salsa roja
* That's sarcasm, guys.