It's no secret. From the oceanfront to Central Ave., Pico Boulevard plays host to one of the most culturally diverse landscapes worldwide. Along this 15 mile stretch you'll find African-Americans, Armenians, Equadorans, Ethiopians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Jaliscans, Jamaicans, Japanese, Koreans, Nicaraguans, Oaxacans, Orthodox Jews, Persians, Peruvians, Salvadorans and Zacatecans among many others (I got tired plus I'm pretty sure I made up at least half of those). Pico stretches from the allure of the Santa Monica oceanfront to the now relatively dormant Los Angeles garment industry, and along the way incorporates not only the glitz and glamour of the Fox back lot and Century City but also the epicenter of the birth of Latino gang culture in the Pico Union district.
Although various stretches of Pico have been abandoned, burned downed, redeveloped and gentrified over the years, I still believe the lifeblood of Los Angeles flows through this single road. Doubt me? Just take a look at the food along Pico. You have some of the most resilient fine-dining destinations in LA (Josie, Valentino), to a burger stand that hasn't changed an ounce in over 50 years (see earlier post re: Apple Pan) to a whole swath of Mexican and Central American joints that have inspired the Latino flavors of LA food over the decades.
Again, this is not news. But following in the footsteps of Jonathan Gold, I have decided to take all four of you on a journey through this vast culinary landscape, one restaurant at a time. Unlike Mr. Gold, I have not set any rules for myself; I will not be going in any particular order, nor have I given myself a timeline to accomplish this feat. Some posts might come in bunches, some might be two sentences long and some might not appear for weeks. So it is with great fanfare (and no planning whatsoever) that I announce:
I EAT PICO BOULEVARD, PART. 1
Pollos El Brasero
I used to love coming to El Brasero. Best damn Peruvian chicken around. Perfectly marinated in some lovely concoction and then put on a rotisserie right up until the flesh starts falling off the bone. Rice that was cooked with just the right amount of salt and sugar so that it almost defined what moist should taste like. Aji sauce that had a bite worse than a starved tranny hooker.
It just isn't the same anymore. Maybe the passion has left the joint since the area has become slightly gentrified. These are no longer the mean streets of the LA riots and then the Rampart division scandal. The 18th Street Gang has migrated to other parts (and now flourishing within the penal system instead of on the streets).
I mean sure, roto chicken in general has become somewhat of a lost art, and if you are in need of picking up a bird to bring home or one of their four quick combos, El Brasero totally serves the purpose. And I found on this most recent trip that the friendliness and jocular nature of the staff remains consistent. The guy taking my order was wearing a Yankees hat and the guy hacking my chicken into pieces with a rather menacing looking instrument was wearing a Red Sox hat.
You're just not getting heaven here any longer. I know, I know, it's kind of lame that I kick off the Pico spin-off (although technically it's not really the first as I've already written about two other Pico establishments; Apple Pan and Westside Tavern) with a letdown, but them's the breaks. Stay tuned for more.
Pollos El Brasero
2281 W. Pico Blvd.