(This is the fifth episode in Leslie’s fascinating “return to LA” saga. To track down the other stories SEARCH (top right) Leslie Clague. )
Rendezvous at El Coyote
By Leslie Clague
When planning my trip to Los Angeles I knew there was one thing I definitely wanted to do: have dinner at El Coyote Mexican Cafe. I would have a #1 combination dinner with a beef enchilada. That means Mexican rice, refried beans, beef enchilada and a taco on the side. Yum!
The mains would be preceded by guacamole and corn chips and a house margurerita. Even more yum! Although Mexican food is developing here in New Zealand, to go back to my Mexican food roots was important.
So four lady alumnae headed to the restaurant on a Sunday evening. None of us had been there in some 40 years, but at the reunion we were told by another alumnus who lived close to the restaurant that he went there frequently and it was still quite good.
Located on Beverly Boulevard, south of Hollywood in west L.A., the El Coyote has been in business since 1931. It has valet parking and takes customers on a first come, first serve basis; no bookings, except for parties of 12 or more. You can learn more on its website: www.elcoyotecafe.com.
When the margueritas came, I knew things had changed. Ah, well, maybe it was our memory that was playing tricks.
The Mexican flavour of LA
On the same evening I was transferred in my accommodation from Studio City to Torrance, now the guest of my friend Mirandi.
The next day Mirandi took me first to the Grammy Museum in downtown to see an exhibit on people central to her rock n’ roll career. California Dreamin: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon, 1965-1977 was the show, featuring music, artefacts and a movie about that era. I never knew there was such creative celebrity quite that close to where I lived.
Then we went to Olvera St., called the birthplace of Los Angeles. It features a Mexican market which has been in place since 1930. Many of today’s merchants there are descended from the original vendors.
I immediately bought myself a very Mexican jacket and could probably have gone totally nuts buying other Mexican artefacts. I didn’t realise how much I missed the Mexican flavour of L.A.
The purpose of the visit was to go to a small Mexican food stand, in existence since 1934. El Cielito Lindo sits on one edge of Olvera St. Customers queue to place their orders which are served amazingly quickly. Most seems to be takeaway, but a small outdoor covered seating area is around the side of the stall.
El Cielito is famous for its taquitos. They are made from baked, shredded beef which is rolled into a tortilla, then fried in light oil. You can order how many you like. Mirandi treated me to three plus refried beans. Magnificent! Also called mui autenticas and again, you can check it out at www.cielitolindo.org. It was one of the best Mexican meals of my life.
Lastly, in a giant Torrance shopping centre on the day I left Los Angeles Mirandi took me to a Chipolte Mexican Grill. It is part of an international franchise with 1600 locations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany and France. Food is ordered similar to the process at a Subway franchise.
A fresh and tasty Mexican meal, I am thinking of writing to the company proposing they come to New Zealand.