At Bar Ama, tortillas aren’t just a canvas for carnitas; they’re a delicacy in and of themselves. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photos: How LA’s tortilla masters make magic with a handful of masa

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KCRW and Gustavo Arellano’s Tortilla Tournament returns! Four finalists will face off live for a virtual celebration of all things tortilla October 18. RSVP here!

Every tortilla has a story, and every tortillería has multiple tales. For KCRW and Gustavo's Great Tortilla Tournament, that's more than 50 stories every year!

One day, we'll get around to telling them all. But this year, with acclaimed L.A. storyteller Samanta Helou Hernandez, we're going in depth for three contestants: Playa Azul Tortilleria, El Ruso, and Bar Amá, all similar yet vastly different.

PLAYA AZUL

This small mercadito (neighborhood market) has served the Florence and Nadeu neighborhoods of South L.A. for at least 20 years. They sell flour tortillas from local makers, but handmakes delicious, small corn ones daily to go alongside their excellent carnitas. Their head tortillera (female tortilla maker) is Angelina Gomez, originally from Jalisco.

1901 Nadeau St, Los Angeles, CA 90001
(323) 588-2992

IMG_0286.jpgPhoto by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
IMG_0369.jpgPhoto by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
IMG_0597.jpgPhoto by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
IMG_0297.jpgPhotos by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

EL RUSO 

This East LA taco truck is rightfully acclaimed for Julia Silva's Sonora-style flour tortillas (and makes underrated corn ones, too). But on weekends, they bring out the state's legendary sobaqueras — flour tortillas the length of an adult arm. They use them for burritos that hold delicious carne asada, chorizo, and even mole.

1401 Mirasol St, Los Angeles, CA 90023
(323) 246-6819
Instagram: @elrusola

IMG_9678.jpgPhoto by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photos by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW

BAR AMÁ

Joseph Centeno's ode to his Tex-Mex roots offers fluffy flour tortillas that come from his aunt's recipe. And in a totally LA move, his head tortillero (male tortilla maker) is from Oaxaca. 


118 W. 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-8002


Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
Photos by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW

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Tortilla Tournament, Week 1: Stunning upsets, favorites on the run!

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What makes a good tortilla? Gustavo Arellano and Evan Kleiman on how to taste tortillas

How do you buy and eat tortillas in the time of coronavirus? Very carefully.

Love tortillas? Gustavo Arellano and Good Food’s Great Tortilla Tournament returns!

The Ultimate Tortilleria Guide of Los Angeles and Southern California