El Katracho: A Honduran Hideaway
The San Fernando Valley has possibly one of the most astonishing arrays of Latin American food in the entire country: you can't go a single block down Van Nuys Boulevard without passing any number of taquerias, pupuserias, casas de mariscos, and carnicerias. And it's not just Mexican food, either: one of the best little spots I've eaten at recently is a Honduran restaurant on Burbank in Sherman Oaks: El Katracho. The LA Times called it a dining "find" recently, but it still doesn't have much web presence (where you at, Yelpers??). If you're around this stretch of the Valley on a weekend looking for lunch, you definitely can't get much better than this place.
Honduran food betrays the influences of both Latino and Caribbean cultures: you'll find tortillas, enchiladas, tacos, and plenty of rice and beans, but you also get fish soups thick with coconut, the use of conch and crab meat, and lots of bananas and plantains. The menu at El Katracho also specializes in hearty breakfasts, with several different varieties of fried plantains, beans, eggs, and cheese.
The meal begins with fat, slightly crisped tortilla wedges which have been doused in a mild chile sauce and lots of cotija cheese. It's a fantastic alternative to chips and salsa, and a big enough order of these could almost count as a meal. Honduran tortillas are thick and floury, and the ones at El Katracho are warm and spotted with charred bits.
Don't forget to order a side of baleadas to accompany your lunch: this popular Honduran meal-on-the-go is kind of like a quesadilla, a tortilla folded around a cheese, bean, and sour cream filling, but you can also get them with avocado and egg. I would like to erect a Honduran baleada shack right outside of my office door. I would happily eat an egg baleada every morning, and I imagine it would go great with a big mug of coffee.