Restaurants & Bars

Vini's

lil mikey | Jan 19, 2006 11:39 AM

I often find myself in new areas around lunchtime, and it’s fun to just troll the neighborhood looking for a perfect hole-in-the-wall for lunch.

And so it was last week when I found myself just north of the hwy 10-710 interchange in an industrial neighborhood I’ll call Graffitiland. It’s by the northern terminus of the 710 freeway. It’s west of Alhambra, kind of near Cal State LA and County USC Medical Center.

Anyway, I just started driving west on Valley Boulevard and stumbled across a tiny restaurant (5 tables) called Vini’s.

I was a just a bit leery of Vini’s because this little restaurant has a menu that offers food from 3 different countries: the US, Mexico and Italy.

You can order a hot roast beef or pastrami sandwich with french fries; or you can choose from a variety of tacos, burritos, sopes, tortas, etc.; or you can get a combination plate with bistec, lengua, enchiladas or a chile relleno. Or, if you like, you can order a meatball or Italian sausage sandwich, or linguini with fresh squid, wine and marinara sauce, or pollo marsala or fettuccini alfredo, or any of a wide selection of other pastas.

The whole menu is reasonably priced, with the most expensive item being the linguini with shrimp at $9.95. All the rest of the big items like combination plates and all the nice Italian dishes are $6.95 or less, and the Mexican items range from $1 for a taco to $3.50 for a burrito.

But calling upon my inner voice, I decided on the Mexican fare. You see, the lady (the only other person in the restaurant, who, by process of elimination, was obviously the cook) only spoke Spanish. So I decided she probably knew how to cook Mexican food the best.

I ordered the 4-taco and drink special ($4.35). I asked for, and received 2 carne asada tacos, and 2 carnitas tacos.

Let me just say, these could very well have been the best tacos I have ever had. There was no fat on them whatsoever. The meat was cooked perfectly, and the flavor was deep and delicious. My only complaint, and it’s not really a complaint as much as a comment, is that she seems to have a thing for that green, store-bought faux-guacamole that’s really nothing more than tasteless green sauce. Each taco had some of this on top, and while it was tasteless so it didn’t really interfere with the taco, I just couldn’t see the reasoning behind putting it on there, other than perhaps for color.

So I’d hit a home run on my first time at bat. Yummy.

Several days later, I returned to Vini’s, and as I was hungrier, I ordered the carnitas burrito ($3.50). The same lady was there, and I was again the only other person in the restaurant. She brought out a good-sized burrito with a very nice cup of tasteless green store-bought guacamole on the side. About half way through the meal, she also brought out a freshly grilled jalapeno pepper sprinkled with salt. It was piping hot off the grill. I took a bite and my scalp started to sweat. That’s some spicy stuff. Good, but spicy.

The burrito was also good, but unlike the tacos, the meat had not been as meticulously cleaned of fat. I ended up having to cut away some of the fat instead of biting into it. So I wasn’t quite as impressed by the burrito as I was by the tacos.

I think next time, and it may be quite a long time from now, as I’m no longer working in the area, I’ll be a little more adventurous and order a pastrami sandwich or pollo parmigiana.

Vini’s
4625 Valley Boulevard (west of the 710 fwy)
Los Angeles
(323) 441-9587

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