Last week, I took a chowfriend of mine to Gloria's Cafe for the Salvadoran tamales. A week later, the memory of those lovely creations was still vivid, so I thought I'd share the moment with those who would appreciate it.
Tamales have been discussed on this site several times, especially during the holidays. Although I've eaten many tamales around town, I've found these to be exceptional. Sadly, I was introduced to Gloria's a little too late to order the holiday versions last year and provide a report, but rest assured that I'll be on the horn this November putting in an order so as not to miss out!
For those who don't know the difference between Salvadoran tamales and Mexican ones, the Salvadoran ones use white corn masa instead of yellow corn masa. The white masa is ground smoother, so that the end result is a creamy, sweeter texture wrapped around the central flavor. The tamale wrapper is a banana leaf instead of a Mexican corn husk, and the meat filling also includes salty green olives,small meaty garbanzo beans, and pieces of smooth potato. All of which deliver a heady mixture of textures and flavors that are comfortingly familiar, yet exotically different! No sauce is needed, and none are provided for either the chicken or pork versions. I myself prefer the pork, as it is slow-cooked carnitas-style, and as a result is moist,tender and flavorful.
My chowfriend ordered the most amazing green corn tamales I've ever had. We were both struck dumb by how good they were and looked at each other with shock and awe for a few moments. They were part of a combination plate along with a cheese and veggie pupusa (sort of like a combination of quesadilla and frittata). The green corn tamales were naturally sweet, tender and most interestingly were peeled from the wrapper and grilled to develop a crisp exterior around the smooth masa...an incredible taste and texture combination! There are other items on the menu under Salvadoran Specialties, but to be honest, every time I've gone I haven't been able to pry myself away from the tamales in order to sample the fried chicken or carne abobada. Someday I'll be strong enough.
Be sure to order a side of fried plaintains as a side dish (served with sour cream) to add a luscious and exotic complmentary flavor to the meal. It works as a side dish and a dessert!
Gloria's is small, homey and a local neighborhood hangout located in a nondescript strip of stores. You may have to find parking on the street, as the adjacent liquor and futon stores take up a lot of spaces. We were served by Gloria herself, and her sons work there as well. They serve both Mexican and Salvadoran food, handy in case someone in your party doesn't want to venture too far from the familiar. There's a bar with sports on TV in the back room next to the bar. The crowd consisted of businesspeople and locals during the day, at night it appears to be hard-core fans and locals.
You can order tamales by the dozen over the phone, and freeze them for later. If there is a later. Life is short...enjoy.
Gloria's Cafe (Mexican and Salvadoran Food)
10227 Venice Blvd (just east of Motor and the restaurant Versailles)
Los Angeles, CA 90034
310 838 0963