Sometimes good tasting food is not enough to keep a good idea going. Koreatown's Oaxacan eatery Pal Cabron, is no longer living proof of this. Now shuttered, this kitschy Mexican themed sandwich shop served relatively obscure Oaxacan dishes with attitude similar to that of San Diego's own Lucha Libre Taco Shop.
Pal Cabron’s decor celebrated the humble but colorful kitsch of Mexican decor: saturated pinks, yellows and greens, along with colonial style murals and brickwork.
The works of Mexican funnymen Cantinflas and Chespirito often played on mounted lcd screens.
The adjacent Natura juice bar -with its own storefront as well as a connecting window - served delicious drinks and shakes, and juices not openly available this side of the border (try getting mamey or cactus pear drinks at your local taco shop). Here, the horchata is served fresh and topped with squirt of fruit and a layer of pecans.
It can be said that part of Pal Cabron’s demise was due to its niche cuisine: Cemitas (a Oaxacan torta) and Clayudas ( pizza-like flatbread) are not even familiar to most most Mexicans. Mexico’s southernmost cuisine are not taco shop staples.
Obscurity aside, Pal Cabron did them right. The milanesa cemita was served with generous strings and slivers of Oaxacan and Panela cheese atop a thin breaded steak.
The marinated pork cemita is served equally abundant in meat and cheese but tastefully complemented with the sharp tang of white onion slices. The cemita’s sesame seed bun is toasted on the griddle, but still soft to the bite.
Pal Cabron’s other inner Mexican dishes include the huarache - an oblong corn disk in the shape of a sandal is smothered in mole and dressed with Oaxacan quesillo. The salty cheese provides a sharp contrast to the mole’s subdued lower notes.
Pal Cabron’s mole tlayuda is similar in flavor composition, but makes for a crisp and light appetizer that begs to be shared.
In addition to signature Oaxacan plates, Pal Cabron’s menu offered various other more traditional dishes, including tacos al pastor.
Here, al pastor is done Mexico City style: marinated ribbons adobo pork with bite sized cubes of grilled pineapple. Tacos are served with onions, cilantro, and a very spicy chipotle salsa.
Sadly, Pal Cabron’s ambitious presence in Koreatown ( Koreans actually dined here) did not outlast its initial buzz, but is survived by its much older parent restaurant, La Guelaguetza. Fans of Oaxacan can seek solace in the fact that thanks to the numerous Oaxacan enclaves in LA, it will nevertheless remain a stable-footed cuisine in the city.
Pal Cabron (Now closed)
3337 1/2 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005