Yuca’s has been at the same spot since 1976. It has won a James Beard American Classic Award for its contribution to American cuisine and it has earned generations of fans in Los Angeles.
Yuca’s menu includes five categories, which might be the five L.A. food groups: burgers, hot dogs, tortas, burritos, and tacos. The tortas don’t come on good enough bread to justify choosing them, and tacos are made on plain, oversized corn tortillas without much filling.
Burritos are what’s special.They come in an unusual square shape, resembling something that would come out of a convenience-store microwave. Don’t be fooled by their appearance; they are superb. They are only filled with meat, beans and pico de gallo, but that is all they need. The beans — whole pintos long simmered but still firm — are the star. There are four choices of meat: carne asada, carnitas, machacha, and cochinita pibil. All are worth trying, but the machaca and cochinita pibil stand above the grilled ones. Cochinita Pibil is their signature. It traditionally is steamed in a banana leaf with achiote paste, but Yuca’s version is a simplified, Americanized version suitable for fast-food, That doesn’t make it any less delectable. It just makes for a unique fusion.
Since a Yuca’s burrito is too small for our beastly appetites but too big to warrant eating two, we usually mix it up with a taco, hamburger, or hot dog on the side. At a glance, the hamburgers and hot dogs really don’t seem like anything special. They are made from church-picnic buns and condiments, but they have a delightful crust from a grill designed to sear steak and pork shoulder. A basic cheeseburger with a hint of carnitas in the background is anything but ordinary. No French fries are available on the side because there is no deep-fryer on premises.
Note that this is an impossible place to take vegetarians since the beans are cooked with pork and the only cheese option is the American used on the burgers. There is a second location in Pasadena that offers a wider menu with some vegetarian options. However, if you do eat meat, it’s worth coming to this long-standing original stand. The food tastes better here. Best of all, no one looks twice if you bring beers over from the liquor store across the parking lot.