Kid Hit Menu Items: The full children’s menu features quesadillas, hamburgesa con papas, spaghetti with tomato sauce and sliced hard boiled egg, small tamales, and taquitos with rice. Even pedazitos de pollo empanizado — AKA chicken nuggets — make an appearance. Fried plantains often satisfy picky eaters, even if it’s not the most nutritious dish. Frescos naturales include horchata, jamaica, tamarindo, and pinapple and melon juices.
Adult Perks: I’m no expert on Guatemalan cuisine, but Amalia’s list of platos tipicos contains some dishes that are already familiar, along with national/regional specialties, such as the rebolcado pig parts fest with Amalia’s sauce. The restaurant does its own take carne asada, chuleta de puerco, and chile relleno. Sample a bunch of things by ordering the Antojitos Amalia sampler ($14). Everything was flavorful, fresh, and carefully prepared and presented. I first polished off all four tacos fritos, and took a bunch of leftovers home. At dinner time, I might go for the next-step-up Plato Amalia ($19), which combines excerpts from the slate of platos tipicos. Amalia’s also serves mariscos, sopas, and desserts, including flan and Guatemalan sweet corn tamales.
Pros: Very well set up for kids. Extremely welcoming atmosphere. Easy parking, down-to-earth vibe. Lunch specials are only $4.99.
Cons: Not many I can think of. Had I been in a rush, I might have wanted slightly quicker, more attentive lunchtime service.
Changing Station: Yes
High Chairs: Yes, with chairs stationed both indoors and outdoors.
Parking and Access: Rear parking lot and street parking.
Other Tidbits: Restaurants located in structures that were originally residential can be a mixed bag. Sometimes the quaint, cutesiness of the “this used to be a house!” gimmick only goes so far, and winds up making a restaurant feel almost too casual, or unprofessional. And the kitchens aren’t always ideal or easily adapted for professional use. In the case of Amalia’s, located on the interesting stretch of Virgil that transitions from Silver Lake to East Hollywood to the amorphously named Wilshire Center, this house (I’d roughly date it to 1915, but not many original, character-defining features remain) is in good hands now. Certainly better than the mediocre Thai restaurant that occupied it before. The vibe is warm and um, homey, and there’s the right mix of family hospitality and courteous service. I liked the fact that kids on summer break were hanging out upstairs, poking their heads down the staircase to discretely ask their mom for stuff. Natural light, bright woods, and the requisite Guatemalan tapestries provide cheer and character. For large groups and families, the outdoor patio space is ideal, especially during sunny days. There’s a sprawling mature tree in the front, hedges to safely enclose the outdoor space, and plenty of room for kids to romp around and explore (while closely supervised, of course.) It turns into an outdoor performance venue when there’s live marimba music on Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Thanks to Pat at Eating L.A. for the suggestion!
751 N. Virgil Ave. (at Marathon), Wilshire Center/East Hollywood
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.