Cuban in a part of Hollywood you probably don’t go to enough.
It’s a bit of a wonderland in here.
By which I mean, I can see this place easily getting configured for dancing a moment’s notice. The Room is red (or rather maroon) decorated with hanging lights and paper lamps. My table hangs on the edge of a well used parquet floor. The walls are lined with mirrors. And did I just see a Disco ball in the back of my eye?
For a second there, as I parked, I wondered if I had the right address. From the outside, no matter what time of day it is, El Flordita looks dead. D-E-A-D, dead.
It doesn’t mean it is, it just looks that way.
Then you walk inside, and are remarkably reassured at all you see…and smell.
It’s been a bit of a Domino effect coming to El Flordita. It was during a screening (for Charlie Wilson’s War) at the Academy’s Pickford Center just across the street that I first noticed and came to Atch-Kotch, a Japanese place in the same complex. A second visit to Atch-Kotch, and suddenly, I see (Charlie Wilson’s War). Since I can’t resist a Cuban place…even if it takes me months and months to get up in there, (which it did in this case) there is no way I’m not coming back.
To say that it’s quiet, may be a bit of an understatement. I’m visiting at lunch, and one gets the feeling that Live Music and Salsa Dancing are a bit part of their business…their nighttime business. And lunch is kind of an add on to make a little more money.
Still, the strip mall it’s parked in only seems to attract so much business, and a lot of it goes to the Casting Agencies and small businesses on the top floor. This is not a place a lot of people in greater Los Angeles know about. It’s about a half mile from Sunset and Vine, where the Arclight is. It’s even a couple of blocks from Off Vine and Los Balcones. Most folks probably won’t make it past Los Balcones for their dining and romantic date-night needs. But if you’re looking for something a bit lower key, or maybe some late night dancing, and don’t mind going a little out of the way, maybe El Flordita should be given a try.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: What I wanted to try most…the dish I usually measure one Cuban place against another, is Ropa Vieja. Now what is Ropa Vieja? It translates to “Old Clothes”, as in old clothes handing on the line (the Ropa, in this case). It is a slow cooked beef stew, with onions, tomatoes and peppers. The beef is simmered long enough so that it comes out all shredded, looking like…you guessed it…old clothes that are falling apart.
I grew fond of this dish at an old Pasadena place called Cafe Atlantico, loooong since gone away (folded even before the advent of this website). The Versailles version was good, but never held a candle to that first bite I had years ago. And love me some Versailles.
This wasn’t bad. I’ve had my Ropa Vieja scooped on a plate before, but this came in a bowl. Perfectly appropriate. Perfectly delicious too. It’s not quite Cafe Atlantico, but El Flordita did enough to show me they knew what they were doing. It’s not the greatest Cuban place I’ve been too in Los Angeles, but it’s steps past good enough. You’ll like what you have.
I also dug into the Ham Croquettes. Sometimes I’ve had ‘em when it’s basically a piece of ham crusted in bread crumbs and fried up. Sometimes I’ve had ‘em (like at Mambo’s), were they’ve whipped up the ham into a creamy mixture, then crusted ‘em in bread crumbs and fried ‘em up.
This was more like Mambo’s.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: You’ve read the part about it looking dead on the outside. Well, it’s open. Come on in. Other than that, it’s all about the parking.
PARKING: El Flordita is seated in a strip mall with a very large, very free parking lot that has plenty of spaces. What happens on a late Friday night, I couldn’t tell you. I can imagine there being some kind of valet service, but don’t hold me to that. I’m not a direct eyewitness.
I will say a lot of the space are the kind where if you trap someone in front of you, you have to leave your keys with the valet. It’s a little easier come lunch time, but I can imagine Weekend nights being a hassle.
El Floridita Cuban Restaurant
1253 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tel: (323) 871-8612