DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - I’ve spent a lot of time playing the field at Mercado La Paloma, the sort of ethnic food court and market near USC. That’s the kind of guy I am.

Yet I’ve always been interested in Vista Hermosa Restaurant and Taqueria.

Until recently, all we had shared were a few stolen glances. Instead, I’ve spent my time with places such as Chichen Itza, which serves great Yucatan dishes, and Mo-Chica, the outstanding Peruvian place. Occasionally I stray to Oaxacalifornia, which produces some of the best fresh-squeezed juice in town.

The other week, however, I finally decided to let my wandering eye, and wandering stomach, guide me to Vista Hermosa. I wasn’t disappointed.

The tacos here are delicious, with the al pastor ($6.99) being a standout. It’s the house specialty and is served on a plate with beans and rice.

The al pastor is made from pork that’s marinated and cooked on a rotisserie. Vista Hermosa uses a secret recipe that results in super juicy and tender meat with a hint of pineapple.

Another good choice is the huarache ($5.99), a homemade tortilla stuffed with beans and topped with a choice of meat and nopal (grilled cactus). Go with the carnitas, which is the most complementary to the nopal. If you really like cactus, they also serve a cactus salad ($4.50), although I’ve yet to try it.

Pork is popular here, and another item on my to-try list is the chicharron con chile ($5.99). It’s dried pork skin cooked in green or red chili sauce. It sounds like pig-out heaven to me.

Their seafood is also good, and as I munched away I had visions of eating on the sand in a Mexican resort. The tostada de ceviche ($2.75) is a simple dish with fish cooked in lime over a tostada. It’s very tasty, although it doesn’t compare with the ceviche options at Mo-Chica.

For some odd reason, they also serve a plate of hamburger and French fries ($3.99), which needless to say feels out of place.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back to Vista Hermosa next time I return to Mercado La Paloma, or if my usual flings will beckon me over to their irresistible food. I’m having a hard time committing to any single establishment.

But maybe now, when I do eat at those other places and I glance over at Vista Hermosa, I’ll add a little wink in memory of the time we spent together. And who knows? If the mood strikes, I just might go back. As I said, it’s the kind of guy I am.

Vista Hermosa is at 3655 S. Grand Ave. C-5, (213) 741-1251 or

Contact Richard Guzmán at

page 15, 11/29/2010

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