By Jonah Vroegop
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[3.5 minute read]
Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.
First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market!
The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.
One thing that is interesting about Chichen Itza Restaurant is its incorporation of a variety of international ingredients in their Mexican-based cuisine. On the menu, you’ll find things like “Kibis” – a middle eastern spiced beef patty (also called Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon and Syria) that has influenced the Yucatan region since its introduction by Lebanese settlers in the late 1800s. You’ll also find other international ingredients like their Edam cheese from the Netherlands! Within the LA Mexican food business, there is a history of trade with the Dutch for their cheese and this menu item stuck around.
Finally, Chichen Itza isn’t only serving Mexican food – they are also promoting culture. In order to celebrate Bolero music in LA, they are offering a discounted rate on dinner to complement a virtual concert from Boleros de Noche, a concert series about Bolero music in Los Angeles. If you’re interested, be sure to check out the food and any virtual concerts they are promoting in the near future. Southern California cuisine is greatly influenced by Mexican food, so if you have yet to try a local Mexican eatery, I highly recommend Chichen Itza!
Jonah is a junior studying Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish and UX Design. He grew up in Burlington, Vermont and has visited almost every state in the US. He speaks English and Spanish fluently as well as moderate Dutch and a few other languages. Jonah recently studied abroad in the Netherlands and has visited most of Europe and North America. Jonah hosted exchange students in high school and has extensive experience with international students both in academic and personal life. As someone who is not from Southern California, he also loves exploring LA and experiencing the many cultures of the city. On campus, Jonah does genetics research and works at the School of Architecture in addition to participating in many student organizations. In his free time, Jonah enjoys listening to music, watching movies, trying new restaurants, skateboarding, or hanging out with friends.