Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Downtown cultural shift

As I was walking around downtown, I saw something that makes me think about the cultural change to come from the neighborhood's recent renewal.

If you check out the website for The Spring Street Lofts, you can see what great spaces the units are, and how young creative people are living and working in them. The common areas of the building are pleasant and provide a haven from the streets. From the sidewalk, the property is attractive. There's a cafe on the first floor, and when you walk past you hear the sound of a cappuccino machine steaming milk. The menu features panini, chai, specialty coffees, Pellegrino water. There were young men and women sitting at the outdoor tables under market umbrellas, relaxing.
But what's that on the north side of the building?

A tiny lunch stand, at the front of the parking lot, attached to the building like a lean-to, is the Mai Supertaco Restaurant. Its handpainted signs and mismatched outdoor furniture contrast with the polished yet casual look of the LA Cafe. A sign, a faded pentimento, overlooked the parking lot, on the back of the Palace Theatre's stagehouse on Broadway. Here, the menu features tortas, quezadillas, and birria de chiva on Saturdays.

It was time for lunch. I'm sure you can guess which place I chose.

My two carnitas tacos were presented to me on a tray which I took over to the narrow counter running down the side of the little shop, and sat on a red vinyl stool while I ate. The tacos were so full of meat I had to eat some with my fork before I could pick them up neatly. There were chopped onions and cilantro, and a deep red salsa that had the great, slightly alkiline taste of real chile. There was a young man with plaster dust on his shoes at one of the tiny tables eating a torta.

Behind the counter, two women worked at the grill. An elderly lady with a hairnet on stepped out to clear a table. While I ate, a couple of to-go orders were picked up. I read the hand-painted signs for the daily specials, which came with a free agua fresca or bottled soda.

When I was finished, I handed the abuela a ten dollar bill for my two tacos and 2 bottles of Arrowhead water (one I drank there, and one to carry with me). She gave me back $4.50. I folded a dollar and pushed it through the hole cut into the plastic top of the tip jar. The abuela took a ripe red Santa Rosa plum from a bowl on the table, and pressed one into my hand. When I tried to ask her how much it was, she shook her head, and closed my fingers over it.

Gracias, Abuela. I'll have that capuccino some other day.


M. Bouffant said...

Are you still vacating & goofing off downtown?

Saw an ad in the Weekly (or Citybeat) for new apts. or condos @ Hywd. & La Brea (you may not know, but the cleaning up & redevelopment of Hywd. has been threatened for the 35 yrs. I've been here, but it's only in the last few yrs. that it's taken, much like downtown) which said "For the creative class." Does that mean only latte drinkers need apply?

g said...

I went down this weekend to pick up the dress I ordered from Stella. when I got there I found out the downtownLA association was doing all kinds of open house things, so I hung around and toured.

the Mai Supertaco restaurant is worth going back to.

You know, I had my latte drinking days - they were in the '70s in Greenwich Village, when I was a kid from Ohio discovering 50 year-old cafes like Caffe Reggio. In my day (sez Mrs. Grandpa Simpson) the places that sold lattes were the old established neighborhood joints, not the new trendy invaders.

"for the creative class". Funny.

KathyR said...

Who says you can't have a taco one day and a panini another?

No discrimination here. I'm very open to all dishes involving a bread-like substance containing a savory-like substance.

barbara said...

Where is this Mexican restaurant? I want to eat there. You make it sound so wonderful.