Day 6: Manuel’s El Tepeyac Cafe

Growing up,  if my family ever found ourselves in the vicinity of East L.A. at dinnertime there was only one place to go, El Tepeyac.  My father discovered the place when he was at the L.A. Police Academy (a job that didn’t last long) as a place that all the cops liked to eat at.  Thirty years later, Manuel still fondly calls my dad “Beachboy” knowing he lives on the Westside. 

My father and brother would get the famous Hollenbeck Burrito and I would always get the Taquitos a tradition that my ten year old is carrying on…  I don’t know what they do to make the guacamole so fantastic? Maybe because it’s texture is thick and not watered down like you find in most restaurants or that they are generous and not putting a miniscule drop of it on the plate, but just the thought of it makes my stomach grumble as I pass the Soto St. exit off the 10 freeway.  

The Hollenbeck  Burrito with its topping of cheesy, brothy, beefy deliciousness (photo below is from their website) is definitely a two person meal and the Manuel Special, I’d say a meal for a week!  They used to say if you could finish the Manuel Special by yourself, you would get another one free, though I never understood the logic in that.  I guess it was the original “Man vs. Food”.  

There is always a long line waiting for the sit down service, so we usually find ourselves at the takeout window on the other side of the restaurant and eat there.  Not for the feint of heart or for the girl who wants a salad and a glass of wine for dinner.  This is serious Mexican food, prepared the same way it was when I was a kid in a part of town that is sketchy at best, but oh man it’s worth it!

Day 5: The Farmers Market

I think I like this place because it represents the melting pot of ethnicity that I love about L.A. and for me, anyplace that features this kind of food line-up is heaven.  The whole family, heck the whole extended family could come here and find what they have been craving.  Everything is here, groceries, shops and dining choices from tacos (Loteria!), to molluscs (Tusquellas Fish & Oyster Bar), so you can eat it here or collect everything you need to prepare the food at home, including the pot itself (Sur La Table).  Growing up on the Westside, it was like a field trip for me as a kid to venture off to Fairfax and go to the Farmer’s Market and still feels a bit that way today.  This is not to be confused with The Grove next door, this is pure old school.  Independently owned businesses that have been passed down through generations and still operate today.

I had the good fortune to meet some friends there last Sunday morning.  We plunked ourselves down at the tables and went ballistic at Bob’s Coffee and Donuts, stall #450.  They were out of their famous cinnamon rolls but had fresh glazed donuts that were still hot, Krispy Kreme doesn’t even come close!  One of our party decided it was early enough for ice cream, hey it’s 5:00 p.m. someplace…  She ventured to Bennett’s Ice Cream, Stall #548 (which in full disclosure is owned by one of my best friends).  I am a die-hard fan of the White Chocolate Raspberry and the flavor named after the proprietor Scott’s wife, Fancy Nancy.  I think there should be a name for ice cream creators, I mean coffee houses have baristas, right?  But anyway, recently Scott brought his artisan drumsticks to a party and that was that, my new favorite!  Go by sometime and watch him make the ice cream on-site through the window on the side of his stall. 

I cannot leave out Du-par’s Restaurant, which is open 24 hours and it’s the perfect late night stop or for breakfast.  Think short, fat and warm coffee cups that are re-filled regularly by waitresses with attitude, has every kind of pie you could want and you get the gist.  And it’s been around almost as long as the market itself… Lastly, Huntington Meat & Sausage is the way to go for all things meat, as they are one of the few purveyors of Harris Ranch beef and have the most amazing sausages to throw on the grill or that perfect Shelton Thankgiving turkey. 

If you really want a treat, show up on Saturday nights for karaoke, there are some regular characters (and I mean characters) that can’t be missed, hilarious! Or visit one of the many events that are featured here throughout the year.   There are too many other great places to see to mention here.   So do yourself a favor and just go, wander around and be open to trying something new, you might just like it!