Old San Juan, Los Angeles.

7 Jan

old-san-juan-la-exteriorA few months ago, a friend of Ervin’s mentioned he was opening a real Puerto Rican restaurant in LA. This is important because, while there are a bazillion places to get a decent taco, there are zero places to get authentic Puerto Rican food.

Which is a bummer if you’re my boyfriend, and you’re fresh(ish) off the island. He is quick to tell you any other place in LA, claiming authenticity, is really “New Yor-icans f****** it up.” So. The bar was set high. Go-go-gadget-monkey-bars high.

old-san-juan-la-skirtWe snuck in without reservations for the soft opening in Atwater Village on Sunday, and were warmly welcomed with loud hellos and hugs. This is not the LA I know! These people seem glad that we’re here. What the —

Ervin greeted a bunch of friends, and I took in the lime green walls, painted all up in palm trees. “This is very Puerto Rico” Ervin said, as we made our way through the best dressed people this side of La Cienega Blvd. My eyes darted between leopard heels, hot pink capris, mini dresses and big ole jangly earrings. These are my people. If only I could speak Spanish to them. Aye dios mio.

The girl in the photo up top, was tall and creamy skinned, wearing this sweet pink skirt with a feminine flowered top and black pumps. Her hair was in one of those ponytails in “The Rum Diary”. I wanted to ask her if I could take her photo, but I lost my courage. Instead I took a picture of her bum. In my defense, it’s also a picture of the bums next to her.

Butt, back to the food.
old-san-juan-la-plateWhen visiting a Puerto Rican restaurant, it’s important to arrive empty-stomached, and then eat as if you will never eat again. Even just trying little bits of everything, we had to take breaks. Our favs were the pork with caramelized onions (ate a good 50 lbs of that), pastelón – which is like meat lasagna but with plantains instead of noodles, cod fritters, and octopus salad (almost like octo-ceviche, with avocado mixed in). Super duper delicious.

And then someone brought coquito to the table. It’s like eggnog, but with coconut cream and milk. And a lot of Don Q rum. I am affectionately renaming it El Diablo Blanco. The white devil.

old-san-juan-la-coquitoSatisfied that we had tried some of the best food we had tasted in a long time, we left a teeeeeny bit of space for dessert. I will admit, I had to use portions of my lungs to pack all of this in.

Flan.

I have my high school Spanish I and II classes to thank for crushing any desire to ever taste flan – ever, in my life. Vivid memories of awkward, pimple-skinned classmates, carrying slimy, shivering specimens in too big casserole dishes, swimming with juices, swirled in my head.

Ervin took a fork-full and went to Heaven. Then so did our friends Crystal and Scott. Great. Now I had to try it.

old-san-juan-la-flan-de-quesoA-maaaaa-ziiiing graaaaaace, how sweeeeeeet the souuuuuund. You guys. What I didn’t know, is that there are TWO kinds of flan! 1: Gross Spanish-class vanilla flan and 2. F*** ME AMAZING FLAN DE QUESO. Like a creamy, sweet cheesecake brulee.

You’ll lose your mind.ervin-thumbs-upOld San Juan Restaurant opens officially on January 18. They plan pig roasts on the weekends, a lush and lively back patio when the weather warms up, live music, imported Medalla Lite (beer of Puerto Rican champions) and hammocks (YES) out front between the palms.

We left, feeling like we’d just been to a party with friends. “That’s RIGHT!!” Ervin slapped his knee. It’s PUERTO RICO in Los Angeles! Arrrrriba! (<– That might be Mexican)

XX,

L

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9 Responses to “Old San Juan, Los Angeles.”

  1. tinykitchenstories January 8, 2013 at 2:46 PM #

    Oh dear lord. I want to eat all of it. I’m especially intrigued by the pastelon, because it sounds delicious and falls in my silly paleo eating style. I think I’ll google it right now….and hope to convince my husband to go to Atwater Village someday to try it out. OK, now I’m hungry….!

    • Lauren Bair January 10, 2013 at 11:15 AM #

      If you trek up here, you better tell me! Hahaha. How is paleo eating going for you?? I’m curious about it because of how many people who are into fitness, are into paleo right now. Sometimes I feel like it’s a lot of meat. I guess it’s more about what works for each of us! I’m going to start an ice cream only diet.

      • tinykitchenstories January 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM #

        Paleo is going well for me, mainly in the department of even blood sugar (no more wanting to punch people because I missed a meal) and getting rid of cellulite, believe it or not! I mean, if I’d ever had any….right? It seems all Crossfit people are paleo, which is also stupid popular right now. My lactose intolerance will not support your ice cream-only diet, sadly. Although the coconut-milk ice creams are awesome…!? Hey, how’s no Facebook? And YES if I’m in LA I’ll let you know!

  2. jwynnyk January 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM #

    Wow, I want to come to LA and try this place…great post!

    • Lauren Bair January 10, 2013 at 11:16 AM #

      Thanks J! I wish you guys could pop down for dinner ;) If only there were teletransportation, we could be there tonite!

  3. Rene May 3, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

    Thank you for your post. I’ve been looking for a Puerto Rican Restaurant in LA for a long time and this one is about 5 miles away from my house. After reading your post, I’m definitely going to hit this place up this weekend. Thank you. By the way, I love the way your write.

    • Lauren Bair May 3, 2013 at 12:04 PM #

      Thanks so much Rene! I appreciate the sweet words AND I’d love to hear what you think of the place! I would guess that with all this warm weather, and summer coming up, that back patio is gonna be rockin ;) XO

  4. CC October 4, 2013 at 9:31 AM #

    Love your post! “…it’s important to arrive empty-stomached, and then eat as if you will never eat again” – That is exactly how it happened when my boyfriend & I stopped in. #TrueStory ;)

    • Lauren Bair October 10, 2013 at 11:54 AM #

      YAY!!! Then you were doing it right! Hahaha. Thanks so much for your comment! XOXO

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