Hungry Gal: Mei’s on the Hunt for Cuba in Los Angeles

One of our very own dishes out equal amounts of food envy and style advice. Dig in.

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By Mei Ly

Growing up in Miami, eating delicious Cuban cuisine is a rite of passage. From the mom-and-pop set-up connected to a laundry mat, to a trendy hotspot on the beach, there’s always an abundance of Cuban food and culture in any Miami native’s life.

Naturally, this next LA food search hits close to home – Cuban dining in LA.

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One of my favorite spots in the city for lunch, my first stop was El Cochinito in Silver Lake. I ordered the bistec empanizado with rice and black beans, plus a side of tostones (and a sangria to wash it all down, because YES). Bistec empanizado, essentially a breaded steak, has been my go-to dish since I was a kid.

The combination of steak with a fried outer layer, sautéed onions on top, and the tangy lime squeeze are heavenly. Another “must-have” in my book is tostones. Tostones are twice-fried plantains and common throughout the Caribbean. No Cuban dining experience is complete without them.

As usual, everything was delicious and I’m already thinking about the next time I’ll be back.

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I love this yellow/gold tiered midi skirt. The color feels so festive and the layers make me want to shimmy! I paired it with Dr. Martens as I wanted to keep it super casual, but feel that it can easily transition into a night look once paired with heeled sandals.

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My second stop was Porto’s Bakery & Café in Burbank. With constant lines at all of their locations, Porto’s is an LA staple for Cuban food. There are so many baked goods, ranging from sweet to savory, to choose from. Their cake selection is extensive, but overall pricing remains moderate despite the insanely high demand. For research purposes (I use this excuse all the time), I ordered a variety of baked goodies. A pastelito de guayaba, a cheese roll, a papa rellena (potato ball), and a croqueta de jamon (ham croquette). By far my favorite sweet as a kid was the pastellito de guayaba. They are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and even to top off your dinner! However, at Porto’s I feel the papa rellena is easily one of the biggest hits. Go get one… or, like,  five. I also ordered a cortadito to accompany the treats and give me a very necessary caffeine jolt. If prepared correctly, I love this coffee delight. It’s the first thing I order when I’m visiting Miami along with a pastellito de guayaba.

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This mustard sweater is beyond cozy, perfect for cooler temperatures, and sampling a few baked goods. I paired it with a midi floral skirt and combat boots which I felt had an overall 90’s look. I’ll be living in different variations of this throughout the Fall/Winter season, trust me.

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Being dangerously close to a food coma, I decided to mix it up and go in search of a beverage. For the third stop, I ended up around the corner from Porto’s (also in Burbank) at a spot called El Criollo.

El Criollo has a full liquor license, so I knew they could make the mojito I was currently craving. A mojito mainly consists of rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint, but as with anything popular, variations and twists abound. Feeling the need to remain a purist, I went with the classic mojito and it didn’t disappoint.

While there is a full food menu, there’s only so much food I can inhale in an afternoon. One day I’ll return and try the food along with the late-night salsa dancing.

This yellow lightweight trench is so easy to throw on. It’s pretty perfect for going out as it adds slight coverage, but can still be sexy & flirty with the high side slits (and maybe some heels). Maybe I’ll wear it again when I come back for dancing.

Overall, sampling LA’s Cuban-centric cuisine only reinforced my love for my hometown and the exciting and delicious blend of cultures it offers.

Have any ideas for the next #HungryGal? Tweet us at @NastyGal and hashtag your ideas with #HungryGal!

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