When I went up to Los Angeles, I intentionally left San Diego early so I would get to LA early enough to eat an authentic Mexican breakfast. Talk about living to eat. I, most certainly, got what I wanted at La Noche Buena, a restaurant on Olvera Street right next to Union Station. Olvera is lined with shops and stalls that sell authentic Mexican products, but it seems to be the restaurants that really draw the crowd. La Noche Buena had the friendliest waiters, the most extensive menu, the cheapest prices, and the most dive-y feel, all of which attracted me to have a seat and order a horchata while mulling over my options. I finally decided to order huevos con chorizo y papas.
The literal translation of “la noche buena” is “the good night,” and I recently found out it typically refers to Christmas Eve. This is a seriously fitting name for this restaurant, with smells wafting over from the open kitchen to the small dining room that create the kind of excitement a child feels on the night before Christmas.
While chomping on homemade tortilla chips and a variety of salsas, I tried to understand all of the Spanish being spoken around me. I took French in high school and Italian in college so I can definitely understand some but can barely produce any. I stopped really caring about words, though, when my food arrived. The heaping mound of chorizo-infused scrambled eggs was packed with potatoes and served along side yellow rice and refried beans. The provided tortillas and assorted salsas begged for prompt taco assembly, so I gave in.
Four of these babies later, my plate still looked untouched. I asked for a refill on my horchata and stuffed my fatigued, travel-drunk self with the rest of my breakfast. After I was done, I stood up, thanked the gentlemen in the kitchen for a truly wonderful experience and walked off, worried that I would never be able to feel hunger again.
By the time I reached my destination, my level of satisfied discomfort decreased to a state of, “Well, I guess I could eat,” and we went to another hole in the wall Mexican joint. I tried the lengua (tongue) taco because I’d always heard pretty great things about this body part on Top Chef, and it had a pretty good texture, but every fourth or fifth piece had discernible taste buds which made me pretty unhappy. I suppose the fact that I was tasting an organ that once allowed a cow to taste made me feel uneasy and privileged. Maybe I’ll get over it the next time I try tongue.