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Posted by Elise on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:25 PM

Sometimes I think the sign out front ought to read: EL INDIO: PROUDLY HELPING DRUNKS SOAK UP THE ALCOHOL FOR OVER 30 YEARS!

24-hours a day, this Northridge taco stand buzzes with a steady stream of policemen, students, and blue collar joes. But El Indio really starts hopping after the bars close down. Everyone in the valley knows this is the hotspot for post-party tacos. I secretly enjoy eavesdropping on packs of club-hopping young men drunkenly nursing their bruised egos with a hefty side order of sour grapes, "That chick wasn't even that hot." Personally, I think they're far better off with the carne asada tacos anyways.

When I worked the late shift, I would wander up to the window early in the morning, somewhere between 3am and 6am. At this hour, when restaurants usually stick me with last night's leftovers, El Indio is still willing to freshly cook up anything on the menu. They also patiently put up with my mangled Spanish. (Please understand that all of the conversations I am about to recount here took place in broken Spanish).

The menu has the usual tacos and burritos, along with homemade sopes and gorditas. For fillings, there are the obligatory carnitas, machaca and carne asada, but nothing here is just run-of-the-mill. El Indio's carne asada never has a trace of fat or gristle. The carnitas manage to hit the perfect balance of crispy and moist, but sometimes they can be just a little dry depending on the hour. The machaca, or shredded beef, is served straight up for tacos, and scrambled with eggs for the breakfast selections. I have also found the machaca taco a tad dry at times, but it's nothing smothering them in frijoles wouldn't fix. The Milanesa is a pounded steak, breaded and deep-fried, kind of the chicken-fried steak of tacos. Again, El Indio excels in this department. Their Milanesa is peerless.

Another place where El Indio rises above the herd is with their refried beans. Frijoles are such a humble ingredient, yet such a critical element for building the perfect burrito. One night I was complimenting the cook on the creamy consistency of the frijoles. I mentioned that they must use a lot of manteca. He said, "Without manteca, they're not beans." They cook the frijoles up in the biggest pot in the world.

El Indio, like Michoacan, is a very common name for taquerias. I also frequent an unrelated place called El Indio on Artesia in Redondo Beach. It's almost like saying, "Mom's Place" or "Joe''s Diner". There are three restaurants in the Valley called El Indio. There is an El Indio Azteca on Roscoe off of Tampa and another on Devonshire near Haskell in Granada Hills. Do not be confused by look-alikes. I am specifically talking about the El Indio at 17019 Roscoe Blvd, just East of Balboa. One day I asked one of the workers, "There are three El Indios? With one jefe? One dueno?" He insisted, "There is only ONE El Indio." I asked about the ones on Roscoe and Devonshire. He repeated, a little pissed off, "There is only ONE." I asked, "Solamente?" And he proclaimed, "Solamente!".

El Indio's piece de resistance, the one thing that keeps me coming back 24 hours a day, is the chile relleno burrito (Imagine a choir of angels singing here). A perfectly cooked omelette wraps around the cheese-stuffed chile like a lover's embrace. The creamy fat in the beans makes them so much more than the perfect foil. If this were a Hollywood-style burrito love story, this is the part where the burrito would tell the frijoles, "You complete me." The chiles are not too hot, and there are never any seeds. Many a chile relleno has been ruined by the lazy shortcut of not scraping out the seeds.

On my recent photographic expedition, I asked the cook to cut the burrito in half so I could take a picture of the beautiful inside. I was surprised to find something orange. The chile was orange. I asked the cook about it and he said, "Yeah, it's usually (he tried to think of the color in English and then just pointed at his red shirt). I said, "But it's supposed to be (and pointed at my green sweater). Chiles change color as they ripen, so really, you never can tell. I asked "Pasilla?" and he nodded. I could tell he was just humoring me. He was clearly at the point of, "Look, lady, it's just a chile. Let it go."

Amongst taco connoisseurs, El Indio is known for their fantastic buche, which is something you can't find at just any old taco stand. Buche usually refers to a pig's throat. In spite of the fact that the flavor of organ meats is often too intense for me, I'm willing to try anything once. Buche kind of looks like pig's ears. The meat is neither soft like lengua and sesos, nor tough like cabeza. The taco tastes pretty average at first, like any old taco. As you continue chewing, the sinister gaminess of organ meat slowly rises up and carries you over to the culinary dark side. Compared to other foods I have eaten, I would say it reminded me the most of ox heart. A very pork-y ox heart.

As I was leaving, I stopped to say goodbye at the window. I asked the cook if I could see one of the chiles they use in the rellenos. When he brought out a bell pepper, I was floored. I couldn't believe that all this time it had been sweet bell pepper, not even the semi-wimpy Anaheim green chile. I'm not into sesos or buche, and now I discover that my favorite chile relleno is a stuffed sweet bell pepper?
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Roadfood of the Day: Avalon Diner - Houston, TX
Posted on Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lemonade

Lemons are squeezed to order for this superb lemonade.
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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 7:54 AM

First opened in 1944, Strawn's Eat Shop is one of Shreveport's oldest and most iconic restaurants. They are open for three meals a day, seven days a week. In the morning, locals fill the place for their fluffy pancakes and "build your own" omelets. At lunch and dinner, the daily specials are the way to go. My thick slab of meatloaf with a tangy red gravy came with sides of glazed carrots, real mashed potatoes and flavorful roasted broccoli.

No matter what time of day, most diners finish their meal with pie. I saw tall slices of chocolate and banana pies that looked tempting, but for a first timer, you need to order the strawberry ice box. The homemade whipped cream topping isn't overly sweet and is frothy to the tongue. A generous layer of fresh strawberries are left in wide, half and quarter pieces and are held in a thin, almost cracker-like crust that easily breaks apart when fork pressure is applied. This is a great slice of pie! And if they have peach ice box available (it is seasonal), the juicy nature of this fruit works even better in the pie.

Strawn's spacious back dining has an eye-catching collection of colorful murals that fill every square inch of wall space. These include local high school mascots peacefully sharing a table, an ancient Greek scene and even George Washington declaring his love for Strawn's pie. If you have ever wondered what it would look like if John Wayne, ZZ Top, Gandhi and Marilyn Monroe dined together, here you would have your answer.

One word of warning about parking: if you park in front of the building, you will eventually have to back out onto busy Kings Highway. Unless you have mobility issues, I recommend parking in the back, where there is plenty of room, but it will require you to climb two sets of stairs.

There are two other locations nearby. Strawn's Eat Shop Too is at 1673 E. 70th Street, while Strawn's Eat Shop Also can be found at 2335 Airline Drive in Bossier City.
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Roadfood of the Day: Sea Basket - Wiscasset, ME
Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lobster Stew

Don't let that cheap Styrofoam cup fool you: this is a high-class bowl of lobster stew, rich as Rockefeller.
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Posted by Bill Golladay on Monday, August 4, 2014 8:45 AM

Falls View Restaurant is at a great location for I-75 travelers. It is just a short drive off of the interstate and it is nestled up against a state park that has a cascading waterfall.

Catfish is their specialty and is the most popular choice. Whole catfish is served Southern-style bone-in. If you prefer, you can ask for boneless fillets. Falls View no longer has an “all you can eat” catfish dinner, but they do have a large catfish plate which comes with around 7 to 9 whole fish.

The fish is served with sides of slaw or salad, fries, tasty hushpuppies, and good tarter sauce. If you would prefer a baked potato or onion rings instead of the French fries, ask the waitress. Normally they will allow substitutions for the fries. The onion rings are very tasty and are a good choice. Florida Gulf seafood is available including shrimp and oysters. Other fish on the menu includes flounder, mullet and salmon.

While the waitresses are friendly, they are often very busy. So be forewarned if you are in a hurry, this is not a place where you can eat quickly. Since the entrees are cooked to order, you can snack on the pickle plate that comes with the meal while your food is being cooked.

If your stomach has room, the desserts are definitely worthwhile. The strawberry shortcake has been their specialty since the restaurant opened. There is also a “desert of the day”.

In 2011, Sandra Heath and her granddaughter Cindy Cook took over the management of the Falls View Restaurant. Even though the restaurant has changed hands four times since it opened in 1969, the quality of the food has remained good over the years.

Note: What you see across the street from the Falls View Restaurant is a dam. To see the waterfall, you will need to park in the High Falls State Park as close as possible to the entrance. Then walk back across the street to the Towaliga River Falls Trail. This is a short trail that leads down to an excellent view of the waterfall.
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Roadfood of the Day: Harmon's Lunch - Falmouth, ME
Posted on Monday, August 4, 2014

Cheeseburger

Here's the way we like our Harmon's burger: topped with cheese and fried onions.
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Posted by Marvin Nakashima on Sunday, August 3, 2014 9:09 PM

This barbecue restaurant originated in Syracuse and currently has seven additional locations in Buffalo, Rochester, Troy, Harlem, and Brooklyn, NY, Stamford, CT, and Newark, NJ. Have they managed to recreate their BBQ to these branches? Yes, as far as the Rochester branch is concerned.

Pork ribs is what I always get, but try to save room for their homemade pies, e.g. peanut butter cup (Oreo crust with peanut cream filling topped with sweet dark chocolate panache) and sweet potato/pecan with flaky crust. Suggest that the two sides be shared. Ribs have a nice smoke ring and the BBQ sauce basting penetrates the meat enough that no additional sauce (original, roasted garlic honey, garlic chipotle pepper and devil's duel pepper) is needed.

Great atmosphere created in the old Lehigh Valley train depot in downtown Rochester with additional views out the windows of the Genesee River, which is roaring with spring runoff. You can see an entrance to Rochester's now abandoned subway, just to the left of the restaurant's entrance. The entrance is heavy with graffiti. Western NY is certainly not going to be a BBQ hot spot like KC, Memphis, NC, Texas Hill Country, but Dinosaur BBQ does it right.
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Roadfood of the Day: Van's Pig Stand - Shawnee, OK
Posted on Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ribs

A close view of Van's ribs gives a good sense of their textural delight. The big rib dinner is one full pound -- 5 to 9 ribs. The regular dinner is 3/4 pound and the junior dinner is 1/2 pound -- 2 to 4 ribs. With the meat you get two side dishes and a slab of Texas toast.
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Posted on Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pure Custard

Made the old-fashioned way, Hodgman's custard is smooth, dense, and pure.
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Roadfood of the Day: Red's Eats - Wiscasset, ME
Posted on Friday, August 1, 2014

Lobster Roll

Red's boasts that each lobster roll contains all the meat from a one-pound lobster, and then some. Rolls are served with melted butter (or mayo) on the side for you to drizzle on as desired.
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