Name of restaurant: El Faisan y El Venado. Named after the nickname given to the Mexican state of Yucatán, based on the abundant deer and pheasant that are said to roam the land.
Chef: Maria Eugenia Contreras de Campos, a self-taught chef who has a passion for the classic dishes of her hometown of Mérida, Yucatán. She owns the restaurant, along with her husband of 31 years, Angel.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The obvious answer would be their tender Cochinita Pibil. But that wouldn't do this place justice. Instead look for the Escabeche Oriental: a hulking turkey leg (an everyday Yucatán protein) braised with vinegar, onions, charred habanero and whole Jamaican jerk-like spices. It is served with sliced ripe avocado and lots of tortillas to sop up the amazing juices.
Concept: A mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall joint hidden along Highland Park's labyrinth of avenues connecting Figueroa and York.
Who's at the next table? A woman from Yucatán that came from the San Fernando Valley just to treat her teen niece to some panuchos. And then an another Yucatán family of six just sitting down for an early Saturday supper.
Appropriate for ... : Mexican food enthusiasts curious to try the slightly less familiar bold, spicy and tropical flavors of home-style Yucatán food, on a dime.
Uh-oh: Cash only, sorry.
Service: The owner himself will most likely seat you, answer any inquiries about the dishes and take your order. On weekends, when it gets a bit hectic, the mom and dad call on their three sons to help out around the restaurant.
What are you drinking? Tall cups brimming with homemade aguas fresca, to help extinguish the fruity heat of the habanero used everywhere. The basics here are done well: tart Jamaica, milky horchata and a pulpy Agua de Piña. Only sober dining here: no beer or wine.
Info: 231 N. Ave. 50 Los Angeles, CA 90042. (323) 257-1770 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Closed Tuesdays.