October 2009

Walk This Way Boyle Heights


boyle heights, walk this way, illustration, jessie hartland Jessie Hartland

Lyrics to the Missing Persons song aside, people do walk in L.A., chief among them indefatigable Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti. “After I started campaigning, I just kept walking in our neighborhoods,” he says. To echo the point, he steps out of his city hall office to stroll the nearby town of Boyle Heights.

“It’s the Chicano heartland of Los Angeles but also a gateway for immigrants,” says Garcetti. “The people who couldn’t live downtown because of racial segregation—Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, some Russians—moved over here. So it’s always been one of the most racially diverse parts of our city.”

Now, Boyle Heights is 95 percent Latino, and you can really get lost in its culture. It’s where Garcetti’s grandparents and great-grandparents grew up, as did Oscar De La Hoya, Joe Gold of Gold’s Gym and Mayor Antonio Villa­raigosa. A veritable mashup of communities, races and storefronts, Boyle Heights has more overlapping history than scrumptious handmade tortillas. You’ll want to experience both. Garcetti stops to buy pineapple sprinkled with chili from a street vendor near Mott Street, and then we’re off.


Common subjects in local renderings are the Virgin Guadalupe, Aztec imagery, wolves, hearts and the death mask. “For a lot of people who grew up in the community, these were some of the first images that gave them a sense of pride,” Garcetti says.

La Parrilla

The menudo here “was a tradition for my family every Sunday. When they finally told me I had been eating cow stomach all those years, I boycotted it, but eventually I came back because it really is so delicious.” 2126 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Breed Street Shul

Now closed for preserva­tion, the Breed Street temple was constructed in 1923 and symbolized the Jewish immigration movement into the area. “It is one of the first grand synagogues built west of the Mississippi.” 247 N. Breed St.

Canter’s Deli

After opening in 1931, this first and original Canter’s shut its doors in the early ’70s. And though the location is now a kids’ dentist, you can stroll by and almost smell the piled-high corned beef. 2323 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

El 7 Mares

“The shrimp in the shrimp tacos are breaded and crispy, with just the right dollop of cream on a fresh corn tortilla. Perfect place to sit outside and enjoy a beautiful L.A. day.” 2729 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Lupe’s Tortilleria

“You haven’t tasted a tortilla until you’ve had a handmade corn tortilla from Lupe’s.” They sell premade tortillas, sure, but there’s also great flour to make them yourself at home. 2710 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Phillips Music Company

An amazing music school for the musicians we call contadores. 2453 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Candelas Guitar Shop

Opened in 1948, this haven of luthiers, Garcetti says, is “part of Boyle Heights legend.” 2724 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Cesar E. Chavez Avenue & Soto Street

“The heartland of Boyle Heights.” Soto was named for Phil Soto, one of the first two Latinos elected to the state legislature. It’s Garcetti’s favorite spot. “With a pan dulce in one hand, watching the streetlife, it’s one of the great four-ways of L.A.”

George’s Burgers

“Tacos, malts, pastrami and burritos done right—a quintessential L.A. moment.” 2311 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

King Taco

“An institution,” says Garcetti. “You can’t come to the Eastside without hitting it. There’s cabeza, carne asada, al pastor, lengua—basically, any part of almost any animal. Stick it in a taco, and it’s incredible.” 2400 Cesar E. Chavez Ave.

Evergreen Cemetery

The tombstones are amazing. Russians, Span­iards, Chinese, Japanese, Latinos and African-Americans are buried here. Noted residents include Isaac Newton Van Nuys, George A. Ralphs, Bridget “Biddy” Mason, Matthew “Stymie” Beard and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. 204 N. Evergreen Ave.

Mariachi Plaza

“You must check out all of the mariachis around Boyle Heights. It has always been a part of streetlife.” 1758 E. 1st St.

Gold Line

Currently under construction near Mariachi Plaza, the project is set for completion this year. “The extension will make Boyle Heights a much easier area to access.”

El Tepeyac Café

“Definitely a slice of old Chicano Los Angeles. I used to go there with my parents. I like the huevos con chorizo or huevos mestizos.” 812 N. Evergreen St.

—Allison Kornberg