Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!
Order the Mole Tots at Amor y Tacos in Cerritos, and you're served a fruit basket's worth of the cork-sized potato plugs, fried up crunchy and smothered in queso panela, shredded red onions, cilantro, sour cream, and the mole sauce that chef/owner Thomas Ortega makes with 21 different chiles and spices--a concoction so complex you'd think it less Mexican and more Google algorithm.
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Ortega also uses the mole for a proper main entrée with chicken legs braised in duck fat, but as refined as that dish may be, you want this gut-bomb. Heavy, rich and messy, one order is sufficient as an entire dinner for two. Scoop up a forkful, and the cheese stretches as though a deep-dish pizza. Consume it quickly, while it's hot and gooey, and the crisp of the potatoes hasn't been dampened by the mole and sour cream. It's the kind of meal your heavy-drinking college roommate might make for himself to eat with beer--that is, if he were trained at California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and then made a name for himself in Redondo Beach, where Ortega is the executive chef and partner at Ortega 120.
83. Khao Soi at S.T. Noodle Bar 84. Chili Cone Queso at Cozy Cone Motel 85. Crispy Smelt at Big Catch Seafood 86. Teriyaki Chicken Plate at California Plate 87. Combo Plate at MasalaCraft 88. Cornbread Waffle & Chicken at Mrs. Bea's 89. Everything at Crispy Town 90. Kurobuta Pork Belly Bánh Mì at Mendocino Farms 91. Tostilocos at Tortas y Biónicos "Nice" 92. Milanesa at Delicias Peruanas 93. Super Nachos at Kelly's Korner Tavern 94. Tortas at Sliced and Diced Eatery 95. Seasonal Dumplings at Coconut Rabbit 96. Burrito de Birria de Res from Burritos La Palma 97. Bò Kho at Song Long Restaurant 98. Pancake Sandwich at Willowick Golf Course 99. Tahdig at Tanor Fresh Mediterranean Grill 100. Quatro Formaggi Panini at Old Vine Cafe