By Alex Medina

Mole fries? Mole quesadillas? Mole nachos?

Mole fries

These dishes may sound like the food of fiction, but they’re actually offered at a restaurant here in Boyle Heights.

Las Molenderas, a family-run restaurant on Whittier Boulevard, is known for its unique menu. Though you may not expect it from its nondescript appearance, this restaurant is a hidden gem.

It offers many traditional Mexican foods with a twist: they’ve been combined with mole to create one-of-a-kind dishes. The restaurant offers three types of mole: traditional mole poblano, sweet almond mole and spicy chipotle mole. If it’s your first time here, you’re offered a sample of all three with a couple of tortillas before you make your final decision on what to order.

The menu

Imelda Belmente’s mother introduced her to the restaurant, and now she’s a repeat customer. She enjoys the sweet almond and spicy chipotle moles the most. Her favorite dishes are mole poblano, pork ribs and enchiladas.

“It’s really good. That’s why I’m back.” said Belmente.

While many customers are locals, some come from far away to try the mole.

José Luis García and Claudia Martinéz found the restaurant on the internet while searching for a place that served mole.  The name of the restaurant intrigued them, and they traveled all the way from Riverside to Boyle Heights to try it. The couple, visiting the restaurant for the first time, said it’s not always easy to find good mole. “We like mole poblano, and not every place knows how to make it,” said Martinez.

Marisol Feregrino and her parents, Eufracia Salcedo and Lucio Morales, and other family members run the restaurant, which opened in the summer 2014. Feregrino says that her father came up with the name.

Chicken with mole poblano

“Molenderas is actually not related to mole. It’s related to making tortillas,” she says. “It’s funny, because our specialty is mole, so a lot of people connect it. ‘Oh mole, molenderas.’ But it’s not related.” “Las molenderas” means “the corn grinders”.

While there is a variety of dishes with mole, many patrons come for the traditional mole poblano, the most popular item on the menu. “They have different dishes, but we like the traditional one: rice, beans and mole,” Garcia said.

Traditional mole poblano is chicken drenched in mole and served alongside rice and beans.

Mole quesadillas

In addition to mole poblano, the restaurant offers unique dishes such as mole-sauced tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and fries.

“We actually wanted to play with the ingredients,” Feregrino said.  “We wanted to combine other ingredients with our moles. It’s not just our regular plain mole, it’s something different.”

Feregrino and her parents came from the Mexican state of Puebla. She has seven years of experience managing restaurants. Feregrino says that her mother’s moles were the inspiration behind Las Molenderas.

“We knew that my mom made really good food, so we wanted to bring our culture to everyone,” she says. “There’s a lot of places that sell mole, but a lot of them focus on mole oaxaqueño, so we brought our mole poblano to the table for everybody to come and try it out.”

Mole enchiladas
Mole enchiladas

The restaurant has been involved in many food-related events, including Tacolandia and the Feria de Los Moles. Through taking part in such events, increasing advertising and receiving media coverage, the restaurant has seen an increase in business.

Eddie Humble, a former Roosevelt student and repeat customer, said, “Don’t judge [the restaurant] by its looks, because the food is way better than most expensive restaurants.”

What is mole?

Mole, a sauce, is considered Mexico’s national dish.  It comes in many varieties and can be made in a multitude of ways. The number of ingredients depends on which type is being made, but most use an average of 20 or more. Although a staple Mexican food, the origin of the dish is disputed.

One popular legend is that 16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla panicked upon realizing that the Archbishop was coming to visit. The nuns prayed for guidance, and an angel appeared to give them inspiration. They mixed a variety of ingredients and then boiled the creation for hours. The result was the mole that we know today. They poured the concoction over a turkey, the only meat available. The Archbishop was pleased with the new food.

Los Molenderas is located at 2635 Whittier Boulevard. It is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except Monday. Call (323) 269-2812 for information.

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Alex Medina

Alex Medina is a graduate of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and 2018 alumnus of the Boyle Heights Beat. He is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Central New York where he majored in Hispanic...

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