Taking In the Culture of East Los Angeles

Mariachi Plaza | Photo by Javier Guillen

One of L.A.’s oldest neighborhoods, East Los Angeles has a lineage of culture that can be found in its shops, businesses, and community. No stranger to change, East L.A. has been the subject of recent transition. While community members have pushed to improve quality of life, they also stand on the front line protecting the neighborhood’s vibrant history and traditions. Quietly sporting some of the best restaurants (by far the best tacos), unique stores, budding businesses, and landmark locations, East L.A. is fundamental to the heritage of Los Angeles.

Mariachi Plaza



Located in the historic neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Mariachi Plaza serves as a gathering place for a variety of occasions. On Fridays and Sundays, local vendors and live musicians gather for an open air-market. In the summertime, J&F Ice Cream shop provides relief to visitors with their aguas frescas, a key ingredient to a hot afternoon. Other points of interest include the Libros Schmibros lending library and the recently restored Historic Boyle Hotel. The Metro Gold Line provides easy access to Los Angeles with its entrance adjacent to the plaza.

Eastside Luv



Steps away from Mariachi Plaza is Eastside Luv Wine Bar & Queso. With a mission to celebrate Mexican-American culture with a modern twist, Eastside Luv is a staple of the neighborhood. A stunning Mariachi mural by Boyle Heights native Robert Vargas invites patrons from the outside. Inside, the walls are decorated in red velvet wallpaper and the work of local Chicano (Mexican-American) artists. The bar is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Entertainment offerings range from Morrisseyoke (Morrissey Karaoke) and cabaret to global bass dance parties by the local DJ collective, Subsuelo and live concerts from L.A.-based musicians. Eastside Luv is also home to world-famous Micheladas, a mix of Mexican beer, hot sauce, lime juice and salt.

Espacio 1839



A few doors down from Eastside Luv is one of the most unique stores in Los Angeles. Espacio 1839 celebrates local culture, art, and activism with Mexican-American inspired clothing, vinyls, cds, tapes, Chicano books, a community radio station and rotating art exhibits from local artists. Espacio 1839 also serves as a gathering place for meet-ups and community discussions.

Guisados Tacos

 |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Guisados Tacos



Self-described as a place "Born in Boyle Heights, Guisados was created with a simple menu, one reminiscent of home.” The tacos are simply delicious, served with homestyle braises on handmade corn tortillas made-to-order from the masa that's ground next door at Carnitas Uruapan. This Boyle Heights gem is a great spot to begin exploring the culinary offerings of the Eastside.

El Tepeyac Cafe



Open since 1955, El Tepeyac is the home of one of the best burritos in L.A. The modest family-run eatery serves massive burritos and homestyle Mexican fare, include enchiladas, menudo and tacos. Many patrons will travel across the city, state and country to try the Manuel’s Special Burrito with homemade guacamole.

El Mercado de Los Angeles



El Mercado is a colorful indoor/outdoor market where locals come for various goods, food fare and homemade treats such as mole (sauce), raspados (shaved ice with syrup), churros, dulce de leche (caramel), nieves, agua frescas, mexican candy, toys, boots and tortilla presses. El Mercadito is a restaurant located on the third floor, featuring live music such as dueling mariachi bands entertaining families and lovebirds alike.

King Taco



King Taco is an L.A. institution and the perfect late night stop. Its humble beginnings start with owner Raul Martinez converting a used ice-cream truck to a mobile taqueria. King Taco now has many locations throughout L.A. and guests can sit to enjoy soft tacos, burritos, sopes, tamales, nachos and authentic Mexican drinks such as horchata, jamaica and tamarindo.

El Gallo Bakery



El Gallo Bakery is an East L.A. landmark, opening its doors in 1949. Traditional pan dulce like elotes, conchas, galletas, bolillos and empanadas come fresh out of the oven and entice passerbyers. One of their most popular breads is the Payaso - the perfect marriage between pan dulce and a doughnut. The shop's pan dulces are still as meticulously crafted as they have always been, using family recipes developed decades ago.

East L.A. Library - Chicano Resource Center



The Chicano Resource Center (CRC) was established in 1976 to serve the information needs of the Mexican-American community and to make information about the history and culture of this group available to the general public. Subjects covered by this multimedia collection include immigration, the Chicano Movement, mural art, biographies, folklore and the history of Mexico. Many of the materials are available for checkout. The collection is comprised of books, journals, online databases, subject notebooks, videos, audio CDs and microforms. Highlights include periodicals from the Chicano Movement such as La Raza, Con Safos and Aztlan. The CRC is also home to pamphlet files on over 750 subjects with topics that cover Chicano Movement events, Latino leaders and East Los Angeles history. Anyone interested in the stroy of East L.A. will be fascinated by the collections housed at the Chicano Resource Center.

Whittier Boulevard



Bump some oldies and end your day in East Los Angeles by cruising down one of L.A.'s most iconic streets, Whittier Boulevard. It's best known for a place for lowriders and locals to come together to cruise up and down the street. Quintessential East L.A.!