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One of the best Mexican Restaurants in America, right here in San Gabriel, CA.
From the outside, it really doesn’t look like much. On top of that, you standing at the edge of a Chinese-American Community in San Gabriel looking at a Mexican Restaurant.
But then, you step through the doors…and you’re still surprised at how small and intimate it is.
But then the food arrives, and magical things start to happen.
Babita Mexicuisine has been ranked as one of the Top Mexican Restaurants in America, according to Travel and Leisure Magazine. Not in Los Angeles mind you, in America. That’s an awful lot of hype to live up to. Fortunately the Chef-owner of Babita Mexicuisine and his humble crew at make it look easy.
“Look” easy. (Read on and you’ll see what I mean).
You’re going to hear a lot of “don’t judge books by their covers” metaphors when it comes to Babita Mexicuisine. They’re all true. It may not look small and humble on the outside, but come through those doors, you’re in for a fine dining experience. White tablecloths, excellent, attentive service. At the same time, it’s a Neighborhood joint, so that excellent, attentive service come with a just a bit of Mom. You get a warm welcome. “Where are you from?” “Oh, you came all the way from there?” Smiles all around. Heck, you haven’t taken a bite of food, and you already want to come back.
For the longest time, I have been trying to discover Mexican-Mexican cuisine. Oh, I’ve had loads of Tex-Mex. It’s practically all you can get in this country. But authentic Mexican, food that actual Mexicans would recognize and cherish? That’s a harder trick. I’ve had wonderful experiences at places like Hugo’s in Houston (which made the same list as Babita Mexicuisine), and at La Serenata off Pico, and El Rinconcito Del Mar in Boyle Heights. These have been the greats.
La Serenata has always been one of my favorite restaurants. It has always been my favorite Mexican restaurants period.
But could we be looking at a new number one?
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: You’ve got a wide selection. First off, a bit of Chips and Salsa will arrive at your table as a bit of an Amuse Bouche. The chips feel and taste handmade, but the Salsa (oh Lord, the Salsa). I’ve never seen something so rich and orange and delicious in a small little cup. I would have drained the remainder right down my pie hole, but…man that stuff had a kick.
After that, I had the Panuchos Yucatecos, which is Tostadas with black beans, Pollo Pibil, pickled cabbage-onion. You might think it just a Tostada with some bits of chicken on it, but…the start of the show is that picked cabbage-onion. Again, sensational. Raise the roof tasty.
As a side now, the Panuchos Yucatecos comes two per order, so either have a friend with you to share, or come with deep stomachs, ready to go.
After that, my main dish arrived, in the form of the Roast Pork Loin…and oh my god. It arrives in front of you looking like a Filet Mingon, only it’s not…it’s better. It’s a bit of Pork loveliness set on a flat bed of Cactus (Nopales). The sauce it comes smothered is a thing of beauty as well. It’s a red wine reduction, chipotle and plum sauce. Sweet. Tasty, and perfectly balances the Pork.
And they came with fresh, hot, oven warmed Tortillas.
We were told afterward by the one and only Roberto Berrelleza stopped by our table. Chef Berrelleza aka the Chef-Owner of Babita Mexicuisine. He’s a warm and friendly man. You can feel the pride and love that he takes in his menu just talking to him. He told us that he’s tried to take the Roast Pork Loin off the menu, but it’s too popular. Because Pork really doesn’t have any fat or marbling, he sears it a bit then slow roasts it the rest of the way for an hour. This is not something that’s easy to do, requires more than a bit of planning. and can result in one or two Roast Pork Loins having to be done away with at the end of the evening. This is something for love and loyalty to your customers. So do me a favor. Come by, and order this dish to reward Chef Berrelleza’s hard work…and to keep that sucker on the menu.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Like I said. It’s small and nondescript. You could almost miss it if you’re not looking for it. And it’s not huge. Only 28 seats, so…
PARKING: Not easy, but doable. You’re basically doing street parking along S. San Gabriel. No meters, so everything is basically free. These guys don’t have a Valet Service as far as I can see. I don’t know how wise of an idea it is to go into the Residential neighborhood behind Babita Mexicuisine. I couldn’t see any permit requirements, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Lean on S. San Gabriel first.
1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Lunch: Tuesday thru Friday 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner: Tuesday thru Thursday 5:30pm to 9:00pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Closed on Sundays and Mondays