1818 E. 1st St. (Boyle Ave.) ~ Boyle Heights (TACO MAP)
It’s time to take a trip to Boyle Heights. Next time you’re in need of a healthy taco, take that ass to Homegirl Café. Just a tortilla’s throw from downtown, straight across the Los Angeles River Bridge (helping us overcome this massive deluge), Homegirl’s hidden gem sits across the street from lively Mariachi Plaza. The strolling songmen and colorful storefront signs which sell cualquier you desire, put you in the center of a Sandra Cisneros novel.
The café operates under the umbrella of Homeboy Industries and the waitresses are true homegirls, on the mend after stints in prison or juvenile centers. What a crew of sweet faces, with script-tatted knuckles and permanent teardrops flowing from the eyes. Their T-shirts reveal the company’s name and philosophy, Jobs not Jails. Eating here serves this great cause, but the food is the real reason people…
…venture from as far as Little Armenia regularly to fill themselves up.
One such patron considers Homegirl Café the best and healthiest place to eat in East L.A. (There is not much to eat in East L.A. that is vegetarian unless you count bean and cheese burritos.) But Homegirl is not a vegetarian restaurant, per se. It has many chicken and seafood dishes named after women who sure do cook a lot. Enchiladas de me Ama, Chabela’s Fish Soup, Rosa’s Chicken Mole (a favorite of some of the homeboys), and Consuelo’s Sandwich (jalapeno pesto sandwich with chicken), all figure brightly down Taco’s hallway. As always, free chips and salsa come for your cheap friends who can;t spend a few dollars on lunch.
But what you really want to hear about are the tacos. There is one taco item on the menu, Tacos Sudados. These are soft tacos served on banana leaves with beans and rice, atruly unique presentation. Although this is East L.A., these tacos are not very traditional and have chicken tinga, roasted poblano peppers, and potatoes, in addition to standard ingredients. If you are looking for traditional messy, greasy tacos, don’t come here. But if you are looking for flavorful, healthy tacos, washed down with fresh mint/spinach lemonade, then this is your spot.
Which brings us to Homegirl’s fresh and natural juices. Besides said mint/spinach lemonade (Angela’s Green Potion) and the mix of rasberry and mango, with a splash of lime that many patrons cite as their favorite (Sarah’s Drink), you can also create your own special mix of tonic herbs and spices.
Added bonus: While you are eating, random street merchants walk in with arms of rosaries or wooden hangers for sale. Much better than the AAA batteries and pencils we’re offered in New York. It’s like having the 99c Store come to you! And…well, that’s just the way it is, pinche buey.