These Peruvian restaurants in Downey are serving up more than just delicious food

Downey, a Peruvian destination.
(Diana Ramirez/Los Angeles Times)
Share via

Hailed as one of the best cuisines in the world, Peruvian cuisine continues to grow in global popularity. In 2022, Peru was named a leading culinary destination in the world, according to the World Travel Awards.

According to the 2020 census, Downey’s Latino community accounts for 74% of the population. There’s no breakdown of ethnicity, but four Peruvian restaurants in a 12-mile radius is significant. An official enclave doesn’t exist yet for Peruvians, but Downey should be considered one of them.

There’s a distinct decor that Peruvian restaurants have that remind you, in case you were uncertain, that this is a Peruvian restaurant. You might see a Peruvian flag at the entrance, a painting of Machu Picchu on the wall or a gold-plated tumis, and llamas throughout the restaurant. It may feel kitschy to some, but to fellow Peruvians, you might feel like you’re in your abuela’s kitchen.

These four Downey restaurants are staples in the Peruvian community. They’ve all been operating for over 15 years, their customers are typically multigenerational and they function as hubs for the community.


Coincidentally, all these restaurants are in strip malls, situated between other commercial businesses. Blink fast and you might miss them.

Toyito's Rotisserie Chicken on the 8500 block of Paramount Blvd., in Downey on Friday, July 28, 2023.
(Raul Roa/De Los)

Toyito’s Rotisserie Chicken

On the corner of Telegraph Road and Paramount Boulevard, nestled between a dental clinic and an insurance office, is a small, unassuming restaurant. But Toyito’s Rotisserie Chicken should not be underestimated.

Toyito’s serves polla a la brasa, a slow-roasted rotisserie chicken, usually accompanied by French fries, white rice and iceberg lettuce salad. The chicken is the star of the show and it should be juicy, tender and well-seasoned . Like most recipes, the exact sazón varies by chef and restaurant.

“The sazón, or seasoning, is what gives it the special touch,” said Daniel Goya, owner of Toyito’s. After his mother retired a few years ago, Goya took on the challenge to run the restaurant. He didn’t hint at what ingredients their special sazòn carries, but he did describe it as being heavily influenced by Peruvian and Japanese dishes. Goya and his family are from Peru and of Japanese descent. His great-grandparents are originally from Japan, and he grew up combining flavors and dishes of both countries.


Toyito’s Chicken has been around for nearly 20 years. Its most popular dish is their rotisserie-style chicken. For years, Toyito’s only sold pollo la brasa and its accoutrement, but expanded its limited menu to include other favorites like aguadito, a cilantro-based chicken soup. They even added tortillas de maíz to their menu. Peruvian cuisine does not traditionally include tortillas, but this is Los Angeles.

“When my family opened, I started to notice the amount of Peruvian restaurants, and that told me something,” said Goya. “Then our clients started to tell us they also lived in Downey. We were lucky in picking the location because we didn’t do a demographic survey.”

After Goya and his family immigrated to the United States and landed in Los Angeles, Goya’s mother decided she wanted to open a restaurant.

Toyito’s also carries a selection of Peruvian ingredients, drinks and snacks for sale. They serve as a little embassy of goods when grocery stories don’t have the ingredients shoppers need.

Toyito’s staying power, even through the COVID-19 pandemic, is a testament to the quality of food, service and loyalty of their clientele.

8510 Paramount Blvd.
Downey, 90240
(562) 927-3080

Fernando's Restaurant on the 9400 Firestone Blvd., in Downey on Friday, July 28, 2023.
(Raul Roa/De Los)

Fernando’s Peruvian Restaurant

When Liliana Gonzalez arrived in the U.S. by way of Colombia, she began working at a Peruvian restaurant. Gonzalez had friends living in Downey, which is what led her there. While working as a server, she fell in love with the food and culture and met her future husband. Together, they opened Fernando’s Peruvian Restaurant in 2007, but Gonzalez remains the sole owner.

“I love Peruvian food and for me, it’s the best in the world,” Gonzalez said. She said she never considered adding Colombian food to the menu because she believes her clients value authenticity, which is what she aims to provide.

Fernando’s provides an extensive menu with favorites like papa a la huancaina, papa rellena and a variety of saltados.

9484 Firestone Blvd.
Downey, 90241
(562) 401-4050

Cholito Restaurant on the 12100 block of Paramount Blvd., in Downey on Friday, July 28, 2023.
(Raul Roa/De Los)

Parrilla’s Cholito Restaurant

This restaurant has an extensive menu, but one of its shining stars is pan con chicharrón, a Peruvian breakfast staple that’s usually eaten on weekends.

The dish provides the perfect blend of savory and sweet. A French bread roll is the foundation for this breakfast sandwich, followed by thin, round slices of fried camote, or sweet potato.

Next is thick-cut slices of fried chicharrón, or pork. It’s topped with salsa criolla, providing an acidic balance to the salty and sweet flavors. This salsa consists of julienned red onions, finely chopped cilantro and aji amarillo all marinated in lime juice. Rounding out this party of flavors are two different ajis, or chili sauce. The crema de aji amarillo is thick and tangy with a mayonnaise base. The aji verde packs a punch, depending on the serranos picked that day. Use both ajis if you want a delicious texture. (Note: This item is only available on weekends before noon.)

12121 Paramount Blvd.
Downey, 90242
(562) 622-9389

El Salto Del Fraile on the 7600 block of Firestone Blvd., in Downey on Friday, July 28, 2023.
(Raul Roa/De Los)

El Salto del Fraile

This restaurant has a full list of offerings such as lomo saltado, pollo saltado and papa la huancaina, but the most popular item is ceviche. It offers ceviche de pescado and ceviche mixto. If you prefer a classic item, try the sea bass ceviche. It’s thinly sliced and cooked in leche de tigre. No, it’s not tiger’s milk, but rather a lime juice concoction with rocoto, a red Peruvian chili. It’s rather spicy on its own, but the lime cuts the intensity. Accompanying the sea bass is choclo, Peruvian-style corn, a thick slice of baked yam and cancha, deep fried corn kernels.

If you really like seafood, you’ll want to order the ceviche mixto. It includes the same ingredients as ceviche de pescado but with a variety of seafood, including sea bass, shrimp, octopus, mussels and clams. If you’re super hungry, add a side of fried calamari. It’s the ultimate Peruvian-seafood combination! Pair this with an Inka Kola, a sweet and vibrant Peruvian soda. Or a Cusqueña, Peru’s signature lager.

Grab dinner and then stay for a show. El Salto Del Fraile hosts live music and performances. This is another reason it’s a cultural hub for Peruvians throughout Los Angeles.

7639 Firestone Blvd.
Downey 90241
(562) 928-6395


Restaurants are cornerstones of communities. While culture should not be reduced to food alone, many of us, especially Peruvians, connect with one another over the common love of a particular dish. Maybe it reminds you of your home country. Or your abuelita’s cooking. It’s a bridge when you feel isolated or lonely in this vast city we call Los Angeles.

Diosa Femme is the co-founder of Locatora Productions. She is a podcast producer and journalist and has a master’s in specialized journalism from USC.