Like the woman who doesn’t dress in the latest fashion, or the girl who’s constantly teased because she looks different, sometimes all it takes is a simple hello to find out these social outcasts are the most beautiful of all.
Such is the thought I have driving around town wondering what treasures lie in all the little strip mall restaurants that look a little run down, with no website, no advertising, and sometimes without even a sign. I know each one of them has an impassioned owner who can make some special dish in a special way that I will love. It just takes an effort to stop and say hello.
Lempira is in the back of a strip mall on the border of Hollywood and Los Feliz. There’s nothing to draw you into this little shopping center, unless maybe you need a carton of cigarettes from the converted Fotomat kiosk in the middle of the parking lot. There’s a coin laundry, a donut shop and a mediocre Thai restaurant. Pollo Dorado is the anchor tenant, occupying the space facing the street right next door to Barnsdall Park. And I’ve seen the crowds dwindling in there over the last couple of years.
No, this is not a fashionable place. And for that reason, I stopped to say hello. The menu is Honduran, with a few breakfast dishes and some basic stuff like antojitos including pupusas which are okay but nothing special. The other stuff I've tried is similarly okay, but nothing really interesting.
But as you peruse the Honduran Specialties section, your eye sees a dish “Platano Maduro con Carne Molida.” It’s described as “Plantain with ground meat, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and sauce.” There are other dishes with sliced plantains, but this one is different.
What you get is a whole plantain about 7 inches long, baked, and sliced so as to avoid it splitting in two. So it makes a little plantain boat. It’s filled with seasoned ground beef (like taco filling) and the other stuff, which combines to make the most delightful bite you can imagine.
The seasoned beef is perfectly matched with the sweetness of the plantain. And the softness of the plantain and beef is countered by the crisp cabbage (it’s not lettuce as it says in the menu). The sour cream is thankfully sparse, but nonetheless adds creaminess, and the salsa over the top provides another layer of freshness and acidity. The cheese is grated, kind of like the parmesan you get in the green bottle. But it’s not parmesan and it has a nice sharpness.
It costs $5, which I think is well priced. I’ve had this for lunch, and it’s enough to satisfy my appetite. For dinner, I also had a bean and cheese pupusa (at $1.75).
I’m glad I kissed this frog.
4848 Hollywood Blvd (west of Vermont)
4848 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
4830 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027