My good neighbor David has an adventurous streak when it comes to food. So it was that he selected Amalia’s Guatemalan Oasis from my list of potential review destinations. It proved to be a good choice.
A smartly converted house at 751 N. Virgil Ave in L.A., Amalia’s is a modestly priced ethnic adventure featuring a wide range of appetizing specialties some of which are cultivated, less spicy and greasy cousins of familiar Mexican dishes including tostados, tacos, tamales, enchiladas and chile rellenos.
We began with crisp chips and a choice of mild or hot dips —beware of the very hotcha’ green sauce— followed by starter bowls of home-style chicken and veggie soup. We were in no hurry but our hot entrees arrived before we could scoop all of the soup.
David had a generous bowl of shredded meat which proved to be tasty, well-done strings of beef, $12. While I opted for the rather bland, cheese-filled chile relleno, also $12. Entrees are accompanied by a plate filled with a big scoop of steamed white rice and a generous smear of mashed, re-fried black beans.
The flan dessert was a sweet climax to an altogether enjoyable meal. The spruce surroundings and service were low-key and pleasant.
Lunch specials start at $4.99 and are served from noon ’til 2 p.m. Amalia’s is open seven days for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The background of the place is an interesting saga. After the founder of Amalia’s, Doña Amalia, was widowed in Guatemala City, she cooked to support her five children who served her wares outside their house. Amalia eventually saved enough to immigrate to Los Angeles in 1985 where she worked in various restaurants until 1994 when she was able to establish her own place with the support of friends and family. A second restaurant, the ’new’ Amalia’s, opened in 2008 at 751 N. Virgil Ave. It is operated by her daughter who continues the family tradition of Guatemalan cuisine.
I’d like to take an educated tour of the widely varied menu. You should know it’s strictly street parking at Amalia’s, so carry quarters to feed the greedy meter.