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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Run for the Border

October 20, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

After a day of frolicking at the beach, or perhaps working off some tonnage along the bike/walk path, it may be time to replenish that body with a few calories. So a lot of people trek 100 feet from the beach to La Playita, a casual Mexican restaurant that has been in Hermosa Beach for 17 years.

La Playita's dining room is decorated simply with a few Santa Fe-style posters. A vine sprawling over a yellow-and-blue-tiled archway leads toward a more intriguing spot--the partly covered patio, where diners at 10 tables can enjoy the sea air amid purple bougainvillea, white roses and yellow hibiscus. The Hermosa Beach City Council recently approved plans to build a small park on a sandy plot that separates the restaurant from the bike path.

"I'm not very good remembering names, but I know the regular customers by what they order," says Julie Sierra-Bond, a 14-year veteran of La Playita. To prove the point, when two patrons enter, she says: "Chicken burrito and beef fajitas ." They nod in agreement.

La Playita still has its original chef, Emeterio Hernandez, who gets people going in the morning with a burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic and onions, all topped with ranchera sauce, melted jack and Cheddar cheeses and alfalfa sprouts ($4.50). Oat bran pancakes come with seasonal fresh fruit ($3.75).

Here at the beach, it is not unusual to see someone come in drenched from a five-mile run along the path and order a burrito as thick as the Manhattan Yellow Pages. The most popular burrito is the chicken version filled with garlic- and onion-marinated chicken, rice and beans, topped with melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream. The chile verde burrito ($5.95) has chunks of beef smothered with a tomatillo sauce.

The big seller here is the fish taco ($5.95; two to an order), made with poached cod, cilantro and tomato with homemade tartar sauce.

La Playita is at 37 14th St., Hermosa Beach. (310) 376-2148. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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