Eat This Now: Quesadillas at Quesadillas Lupita
T. Nguyen A carne asada quesadilla at Quesadillas Lupita
Los Angeles is blessed with having a great number of places where one can nosh on one of the simplest of curbside foods: the homey quesadilla. Your neighborhood (non-gourmet) food truck probably has a decent version; Mexicali's garlic-infused vampiro feeds a late night downtown crowd; and the unnamed woman identified only by her cart supplies Echo Park with her cheesy creations homemade from blue corn tortillas. Outside L.A. proper, in North Hollywood, is another wonderful spot for your quesadilla fix: Quesadillas Lupita.
You'll probably smell the cart it before you see it: that distinctive LA aroma of bacon-wrapped hot dogs, offered alongside the cart's namesake quesadillas, wafts past all that grit and smog and through your vents when your motor is within sniffing distance. Following your nose, you'll find the Quesadillas Lupita cart, a cross between your typical taco truck and a food stand, stationed right off of busy Lankershim Boulevard next to a perpetually crowded Superior Grocers.
Its location means that on any given day, you're just as likely to run into a backpacked student from one of the nearby professional trade schools as you are to run into a woman weighed down by a heavy purse and heavier bags of groceries, or a construction worker with a utility belt of tools and whatnots slung around his dusty, thick jeans.
The stand is remarkably efficient: on one side, a sink and faucet; on the other, a grill, almost a dozen different condiments overflowing in metal tins arranged like an ice cube tray, and a tiny counter just big enough to hold a cutting board and a tortilla press. The press fulfills Quesadillas Lupitas' promise, displayed proudly on its sign, of "tortillas hechas a mano." These fresh pressed tortillas are reason enough to order the quesadillas instead of, or in addition to, the juicy bacon-wrapped hot dog that you initially thought was all you needed.
As soon as you submit your order, a ball of masa is immediately squashed in the press. The resulting tortilla is slightly thicker than most, just sturdy enough to do its job of handling its future fillings. It's tossed on the grill; cheese melts into the flattened dough while your choice of meat sizzles. The carne asada is particularly good. When the asada is ready, it's folded into your tortilla and left to crisp up on both sides.
The best part, other than watching your tortillas formed, warmed, and crisped before your very eyes, is the DIY condiment bar. You can unfold your quesadilla and stuff it full of salsas, crema, grilled onions, and so on, until your heart is content. Or, you can top off your quesadilla with any of the above, as a few do. Or have them on the side, as still others do.
Then, do what everyone does: drop whatever it is you're carrying, plunk down on any one of the chairs scattered about, and, with the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders for just a few precious minutes, eat.
T. Nguyen Quesadillas Lupita's cart