One of my passions is food (obviously) and because I live in Southern California, one of the most amazing food meccas in the world, I continue to explore different areas of the Los Angeles basin for delicious destinations. Even as a native Angeleno, I am amazed and surprised at what I have learned the last few years.
We are truly a melting pot of people here in SoCal, and it’s so much fun to explore!
In late December, I signed up for my third Melting Pot Food Tour. I have written about my tour of the Los Angeles Farmers Market and Thai Town, so this time I decided to try “East L.A. Latin Flavors.”
So, at 9 on a beautiful Saturday morning, I met up with my daughter, Alex; her boyfriend, Ben; and his mom, Alyse, in South Central Los Angeles. From my previous two food tours, I knew NOT to eat breakfast because we would have plenty to eat throughout the day.
Our tour consisted of about 10 people, most of whom had recently moved to L.A. Our tour guide, Nick, grew up here in L.A. Due to my friendly and naturally curious nature, I started asking him questions about what he did when he wasn’t giving tours on Saturday mornings. And it turns out he works for the company that used to do Frieda’s printing. What a small world!
For the next four hours, we visited 10 places, including a couple of bakeries. Lucero’s Pasteleria is a second generation, family-owned business. Lucy, the daughter of the founder, is now the owner and works beside her mother. One of my coworkers confirmed for me that they have the reputation for the BEST Tres Leches cake around, which is a favorite for birthdays. We each had a slice for breakfast!
One of my favorite stops was La Gloria Foods, which makes over a million corn tortillas a day! They work six days a week, and use Saturdays to clean the equipment. While we were disappointed to miss seeing the factory in action, we got to come back at the end of our tour to chat with Mr. Behar, one of the owners. We learned that this is yet another multigenerational family business, and that they supply all the Whole Foods stores across the U.S.! And, of course, we bought some of their fantastic corn tortilla chips to take home.
We also enjoyed goat stew—Birria in Spanish—at Birrieria de Don Boni. You can see from the photo that we thoroughly enjoyed the food!
Another favorite was when we went to El Mercado de Los Angeles. We entered this large building only to find aisles and aisles of small vendors selling everything from gelato to every kind of sausage, chorizo, and mole (pronounced mow-lay). Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce that goes through a long, slow process of cooking, starting with dried chiles, spices, and chocolate. I had no idea there were so many kinds of mole!
We traveled mostly on foot for the tour, but also got to ride the L.A. Metro line. I was amazed at how clean the trains and stations were. I was told the secret is that there are no bathrooms and there is absolutely no food or drink allowed on the trains. You will get a ticket for eating food or drink. So, in case you come to Los Angeles and wonder if it is safe to ride the Metro,I say, go for it! Of course, we were traveling in early morning and who knows what it is like late at night.
The Metro stopped at Mariachi Plaza. Yes, there really is such a thing! If you are looking for a Mariachi band to serenade at a party, you have to come here. It’s the weekly meeting place for people to hire authentic Mariachi groups from Mexico. We got to look inside a store that makes custom outfits for the men and women who perform, and learned that the tailor charges a relatively small amount to make the matching costumes. If the group does well, they are expected to come back and pay a little more to the tailor. What a nice way to support the community!
Overall, it was a fabulous experience and makes me want to return to that cozy neighborhood whenever I am looking for authentic Mexican food or want to show visitors one of the amazing cultural centers of Los Angeles.
Or, if you are looking for a saddle for your horse, you can find that too!
Bienvenidos a Los Angeles! (Welcome to Los Angeles!)