What do Tesla and Tlayuda have in common? In Riverside, very little.
Twenty-one years ago, flight mechanic Efrain Toledo and his wife, Antonia Toledo, began serving Oaxacan food from their hometown of Tlatelac de Cabrera, Oaxaca, in their riverside backyard. Around the same time, Toledo began working in the aerospace industry in the Inland Empire.
“I’ve done work for Tesla, NASA and SpaceX in different places – Rancho Cucamonga, Corona. I even worked on rockets,” Toledo says. But after a long day wearing cleanroom coats, working closely with engineers in the airframe and engine departments Rockets, assembling Teslas, Toledo had nowhere to go in the evening for the Valles Centrales food he craved: tlayudas, molotes (stuffed and fried) masa pastries, quesadillas, memelitas (thick masa cakes topped with meat or beans) and so on. Cenaduria Oaxaqueña Donají, named after the legendary Zapoteca princess. (Cenaduría loosely translates to “dinner house.”)
Over the years, the Zapotikos spread the news about the couple’s performances. Nowadays, by 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, there’s a line outside the white-tent backyard, and the dirt driveway parking lot is full, thanks to the exceptional Valles Centrales food served by Toledos at picnic tables draped in tablecloths at the best of a southern Oaxacan house party. California.
Along with Sinadoria’s “artisan Oaxacan food,” said Toledo, who hosted a night of romantic music by the local singer, which partially hid a parapet wall along Front Road, along the east side of Highway 215.
Entering the large white party tent in the courtyard, grill, komal, and masa station are to the right; On the left, guests are greeted with sips of mezcal complete with plants (snacks). Cenaduría Oaxaqueña Donají is the best place in greater Los Angeles to get a Valles Centrales-style tlayuda. Says Toledo, who imports large tortillas for tlayuda, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), cured meats, chorizo, and ascentos, or the unrefined lard left after cooking the carnitas. (In Valles Centrales in Oaxaca, it is standard practice to source the artisanal produce of the tlayuda platform from local producers and carnicerias.)
Seared Toledo Talayudas are cooked over a charcoal grill and then filled with black beans studded with avocado from Antonia; Warm, Porky Ascentos; A slightly sour quesillo made in Villa de Etla in Oaxaca; and clipped wrapped. It is folded and served in a basket with a side of tasago (thinly sliced roast beef), cecina (chili roasted pork), chorizo, or a combination thereof. The second serving basket is filled with pungent wild herbs (bibicha and babalu), plus guaj (bean pods), and other toppings like roasted onions, chile de agua, and grilled nobel. Frisbee-sized competition mimilas are topped with ascentos, black bean puree, and quesillo, enhanced with a choice of meat or crunchy capolin (locust).
Back at the entrance, Toledo’s sister-in-law Conchita Garcia’s hand makes huge torpedo-shaped particles out of maize maize. They are stuffed with chorizo and potatoes, then drenched in hot oil. Fried snacks arrive hot and crunchy. They’ve been drenched in avocado salsa and black bean puree, and showered with crumbled queso gypsum. It takes a minute for the mullet to cool enough to eat it—one is enough for one—but a bite of spicy choripaba (that combo of chorizo and potatoes), cooled with savory sauces and savory cheese, is instantly cooling and transitional and festive.
cenaduría also serves tamales de mole and quesadillas, including beautiful quesadilla filled with high-quality quesillos and chunks of fresh shredded epazote. Everything tastes like an Oaxaca bite. And of course, there’s pan de yema (soft, eggy rolls), café de olla (roasted cinnamon coffee), and chocolate de leche (hot chocolate with milk), the Valles Centrales range served at all times of the day.
For Toledo and his family, Friday and Saturday nights have been a way to bring the family together over the past two decades to bring to life an authentic taste of his region of Oaxaca, something he feels isn’t offered in more commercial restaurants. It’s also a nice diversion from his demanding job – he rarely stops to smile as he cooks tlayudas for customers who drive from everywhere for an evening filled with the kind of street food you find wandering around the capital, Oaxaca de Juarez at night.
Says Toledo, “We’re here to offer a familiar experience on weekends, with artisanal gastronomy, made with authentic products and great taste. That’s it.”
Cenaduría Oaxaqueña Donají is located at 1608 E. La Cadena Drive in Riverside and is open Friday and Saturday nights from 6 PM to 9 PM
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