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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Artesia

As far as cities in Los Angeles County go, Artesia would be a Baby Boomer, considering that it was officially incorporated on May 29, 1959.

Credit for the name likely goes to the Artesia Company, which bought 550 acres from a land developer named Daniel Gridley in the late 19th century. Before it went bust, the company built various land amenities and christened the property after the groundwater wells that formed in the area. This strategic approach echoes what's seen in many modern tract housing communities.

Artesia is a quintessential Southern California suburb replete with strip malls these days. Whereas many of the older cities in the county had agrarian beginnings, this one has a particularly pastoral past. Around the 1920s, the city experienced a boom when a network of Portuguese dairy farmers, who migrated from the San Joaquin Valley, helped establish its dairy roots. Dutch immigrants would soon follow in expanding production. The city's history is tied closely to the development of nearby Cerritos, née Dairy Valley.

Starting around the 1970s, the city went through another identity shift as business owners of Indian descent set up in the neighborhood. A little over a decade ago, controversy brewed over making official the unofficial designation of the city as "Little India." The Artesia City Council blocked then-State Assemblymember Rudy Bermudez's bid to place related signage alongside the 91. At the time, the popularity of Indian restaurants and retailers belied the demographics of residents, according to the city council's rationale.

Its dairy legacy may not be as apparent as the more recent additions to the city's dining profile. That doesn't mean you won't find a commonality of savviness among the newer generation of food purveyors and their predecessors, evinced by what's popular in the neighborhood.

 
Surati Farsan Mart / Image courtesy of @amira_lopez

Surati Farsan Mart / Image courtesy of @amira_lopez

Surati Farsan Mart: Surati Farsan Mart gets to the serious business of snacks, which conversely makes it more fun. The digs are modish; service is quick, and options are aplenty whether sweet or savory. It's consequently less solemn than comparative shops. You can build a multi-course meal between pani puri, samosas, masala dosa and jalebis without having to order a thali. Think small plates for those who prefer chai or mango lassi over wine and cocktails. 11814 E. 186th St, Artesia, (562) 860­2310,

 
Photo: Christine Chiao

Photo: Christine Chiao

Rajdhani: There's more than one option to eat your fill of regional Indian fare up and down Pioneer. But there may be few as enjoyable as Rajdhani, which does away with the more conventional buffet arrangement, and instead bringing guests as much, or as little, Gujarati food as desired. What composes your thali (not to be mistaken with the mini thali) will pile up quick, whether spicy bhindi or chole. Even in one visit, you'll explore a range of breads alone, some leavened, others fried. Sooner than later, you'll find yourself nodding to the offer of extra kadhi even when you should've left room to try a dessert from the list atop each table. 18525 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, (562) 402-­9101.

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The India Restaurant: The India Restaurant has dished a wide gamut of standards, mostly North Indian, for nearly 31 years. Locals go for their lunch buffet, which is a fairly good deal coming under $12 before tax. Between the extensive menu and subdued decor, its desire to appeal to all is familiar to anyone who has dined at a restaurant that specializes on less mainstream cuisines in the U.S. It's where you may have gathered with family on birthdays or taken visitors when they're in town. So you'll want to brace for a crowd of all ages feasting for various types of occasions, especially on weekends. 17824 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, (562) 860­-56.

 

Kiko's Lechon Manok: Kiko's is a no-frills operation upon sight. Inside an A-­frame building that housed a Tastee­ Freez, the Filipino roastery keeps their selections simple: pork and chicken in manners fried or roasted. A perusal of Kiko's value menu will inspire intrepid meat lovers. Why go with one over the other when you can have both? You can cap what's called pork Ruffles, or deep­-fried pork fat, with barbecue chicken skewers. For those watching their cholesterol levels, the roasted chicken is a sensible, but no less delicious alternative. Those living within a decent radius take advantage of proximity and treat Kiko's as a go­-to takeout spot. The rest of us can set up brunch, lunch, or early dinner at one of the picnic tables wedged on the side. 18915 Norwalk Blvd, Artesia, (562) 402­8953.

 

Portugal Imports: Portugal Imports is a clear vestige of Artesia's Portuguese, predominantly Azores, heritage. Open since 2003, owners Marco and Melissa Costa took over the specialty foods market four years later. The bakery's pastries, whether nata de Bélem or quejiada de nata, are beloved by their regulars, according to Marco, who grew up and still lives in town. There's biscoitos, a buttery cookie, and massa sovada, a sweet bread that's also common in Hawaiian cuisine. Saturdays bring sugar-crusted fritters called malasadas. You can grab a grilled linguiça sandwich or order enough salted cod to make traditional fritters for a block party. Towards the weekend, the couple brings out specialties like bacalhau à gomes de sá, a salt cod casserole on Thursday or the fried dumplings coxinha de frango. 11655 Artesia Blvd, Artesia, (562) 809­-7021.

 

Honorable Mentions:
La Tavolata: 11688 South St, Ste 106, Artesia, (562) 924­-8000.
Salo­Salo Grill: 18300 Gridley Rd, Ste A, Artesia, (562) 809­-6277.

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