El Cochinito
Glenn Lindgren: It may not be the biggest, but El Cochinito Restaurant may just be the best Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles. This small, 12-table restaurant turns out the most authentic Cuban food we have eaten in a long time.

Jorge Castillo: And no wonder, this is a family-run business where the owners, Victor and Gladys Gutierrez, take great personal pride in everything they serve.

Glenn Lindgren: So many Cuban restaurants are run by professionally trained chefs who insist on turning simple Cuban fare into something gourmet and foreign.

Raúl Musibay: Let me tell you that some of the best Cuban restaurants are run by people who got all their training in the family kitchen...

Jorge Castillo: ...where Cuban food was first and foremost a passion and only secondarily became a business.

Raúl Musibay: Gladys Gutierrez got into the restaurant business preparing cantinas – tin containers that were traditionally used by restaurants in Cuba to deliver hot food to people's homes – for a loyal and growing list of customers.

Jorge Castillo: Working from her home, she soon ran afoul of the local authorities. Faced with the ultimatum – find a professional kitchen or shut down – Gladys almost left the business.

Glenn Lindgren: Then the owner of a local Mexican restaurant on Sunset came to the rescue. She could use the kitchen at his restaurant in the early morning hours to prepare her cantinas.

Raúl Musibay: Four months later she came to her husband with a proposition. Why not buy the restaurant and get into the business full time?

Owner Victor Gutierrez and his most loyal employee
Owner Victor Gutierrez and his most loyal employee are ready to take your order.

Glenn Lindgren: More than 16 years later, Gladys still arrives at El Cochinito early every morning to prepare menu items for that day.

Jorge Castillo: Her dedication is evident in the rich frijoles negros, served thick and creamy like they should be, not plain and watery as they serve them at some places – like a bad can of soup.

Raúl Musibay: It's obvious that she cares for every bean!

Jorge Castillo: El Cochinito features "homemade Cuban food" and by that they mean traditional Cuban cuisine as enjoyed by the average Cuban in pre-Castro Cuba.

Glenn Lindgren: There is nothing fancy here, just good, hearty Cuban fare served without pretension.

Raúl Musibay: This is a restaurant for people who love to eat.

Glenn Lindgren: We dug into a platter of tostones mashed as thin as we've ever seen and fried to crispy perfection – dipped in the garlicky mojo, they dance a crazy mambo on the tongue.

Tostones and mojo sauce
Tostones and mojo sauce that will get your tongue hopping.

Jorge Castillo: The tamales here are rich with the basic flavor of fresh corn, smoky bits of pork, and plenty of garlic.

Raúl Musibay: Three tamales on a plate would make an excellent lunch, but why stop there? The pollo asado is a quarter chicken slow roasted to fall-off-the-bone perfection and finished on the plancha to make the skin so light and crispy...

Glenn Lindgren: ... you'll wish you could just sit and eat chicken skin all day!

Bistec de Palomilla
Jorge Castillo: The carne con papas is also a delight and it's obviously one of the dishes that Gladys so lovingly prepared this morning. The beef is tender and plentiful in a thick gravy with potatoes, peas and strips of red pepper.

Glenn Lindgren: El Cochinto serves three of the most popular Cuban beef steak dishes: Bistec Salteado, Bistec Empanizado, and one of the most popular, Bistec de Palomilla

Raúl Musibay: The Palomilla Steak is cooked to order and arrives just the way I like it, smothered underneath a blanket of sharp, lightly sautéed onions.

Bistec de Palomilla served with creamy frijoles negros and white rice.

Glenn Lindgren: El Cochinto gets their Cuban bread from a nearby bakery, and although it's not as good as Porto's Bakery bread, it does make great toast and sandwiches.

Jorge Castillo: The Sandwich Cubano, Pan con Bistec, and Pan con Lechón are all great choices at lunch time.

El Cochinito is small and cozy
El Cochinito is small and cozy – just the type of place we love.
Glenn Lindgren: You wouldn't think that there could be anything easier than preparing plátanos maduros, but true Cuban food fanatics know that making great maduros is an art.

Raúl Musibay: The maduros here are so sweet you may want to order them for dessert.

El Cochinito Restaurant

Jorge Castillo: The Camarones al Ajillo are a nice serving of generously sized shrimp swimming in garlic sauce served over fluffy white rice.

Glenn Lindgren: They also assemble a very respectable paella here – Valencia style with meat and Marinera style with seafood.

Raúl Musibay: Tortillas – Spanish-style omelettes – are another menu feature that make a nice change of pace. The one with ham, potatoes and onions is a real treat.

Jorge Castillo: Wash everything down with a Cuban soda – Materva, Iron Beer, Jupiña – and finish your meal with a Cuban coffee and an arroz con leche and you'll think you're back in the 1950s in the Province of Havana .

So sweet you may want to order these for dessert.
Glenn Lindgren: Here's a tip: if you are staying in a nearby hotel, call ahead for takeout and be the envy of your fellow hotel guests!

Jorge Castillo: They typically offer a take-away special or two.

The skin on this chicken -- WOW!

HOURS: Open Sunday to Wednesday 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. | Thursday to Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

PRICES: Most entrees between $8 and $12, plus lunch specials


DRESS: Very casual

BAR: Beer and wine only

The Details
El Cochinito
3508 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

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