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Food

Oaxaca Ya Talkin' About?! Pal Cabron Opens in Koreatown

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The Lopez family's La Guelaguetza restaurants are beloved in Los Angeles for their authentic Oaxacan fare and festive, welcoming atmosphere. Last year, the next generation of the family opened up Pal Cabron, a cheeky, brash eatery in Huntington Park that specializes in cemitas and tlayudas, and just this weekend, the former Guelaguetza location on 8th Street at Irolo in Koreatown transformed into a second Pal Cabron.

Brother and sister Fernando and Bricia Lopez are the twenty-something proprietors in the family biz, and they were the ones who heralded the change-over in K-town. Following a boisterous opening party Friday night--just moments after the plaster dust settled and the paint was still drying--we talked to Bricia about the newest Pal Cabron, and asked her to help us put together a primer for those who have yet to check out these traditional, tasty Oaxacan dishes.

Lopez explains that opening Pal Cabron in Koreatown now pretty much just made sense to her and her brother, both business- and community-wise. "My bro and I LOVE Koreatown and there is nothing like Pal Cabron in the area," she says, "We want people to know that Koreatown has so much to offer," she adds, noting that Pal Cabron is "simple, delicious, affordable, and quick service."

Simple, perhaps, but Pal Cabron also offers diners the chance to try something they may not have tried before. For the uninitiated, a cemita is a Mexican sandwich that hails from the state of Puebla, know for its own style of bread, which is fresh baked for Pal Cabron, and is like a ciabatta and a hamburger bun combined. Inside, instead of the perhaps expected mayo, veggies, or beans, a cemita will have Oaxacan fillings, such as, for example, La Chokolata, made with chicken and mole topped with Oaxacan string cheese.

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Also on the menu are tlayudas (also called clayudas) which Lopez explains is a very traditional street food item, like a Oaxacan pizza served on a huge, crispy, hand-made tortilla. Not just any tortilla, mind you--Lopez says they "import these [from Mexico] on a regular basis. If they are not made in Oaxaca, they CANNOT be called a Tlayuda." The tortilla is smothered in "a pork and black bean paste, then sprinkled with cabbage and Queso Fresco." You might also want to grab some of Pal Cabron's fiery antojitos, another Mexican street snack.

All this new territory for you? We asked Lopez what a first-timer should try: " I recommend you come with a friend and order my two personal favorites: La Muy Muy W/ Quesillo, Papalo and chipotle - which is a breaded beef milanesa cemita and the super classic Puebla version. Also order a Tlayuda with chorizo and Quesillo-- you cannot go wrong with that. Split the two and enjoy."

Pal Cabron is also open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and for those who may have been getting toasty a couple of doors down at R bar, or warbling into the wee hours at one of K-Town's many karaoke joints, these tasty eats are perfect to soak up the late night sauce. If that's you, Lopez has a plan: "For late night I recommend a tlayuda, taco arabe, and our amazing chalupas. You cannot got wrong with that. When I visit Oaxaca, there is a Tlayuda stand (Tlayuda Libres) who closes at 6am. The line goes around the corner, Tlayudas are perfect for a late night grub. Also the chalupas are perfect and absolutely delicious."

In addition to the authentic street eats, you can sip on the delicious juices and sweet treats sold next door at Natura Bar, a Oaxacan juice joint that just happens to be in the family. Tap away on your smart phone or laptop with their free wifi--perfect if you're following Pal Cabron on Twitter--and BYO beer to merge with Pal Cabron's Michelada mix.

The Lopez siblings are excited to have another opportunity to welcome diners into their world of Oaxacan food and drink, and Pal Cabron, right next to their Natura Bar, is, as Bricia puts it, "exactly what we always wanted." If you've yet to try a savory cemita or tlayuda, once you give them a taste, you'll feel the same way about Pal Cabron.