Monday, January 25, 2010

Grand Opening: Antojitos Carmen, a Piece of Breed St. Finds a Permanent Home in Boyle Heights

Back in 2007 I came across the gathering at Breed and Cesar Chavez that became a regular Los Angeles institution.Back then the vendors were about a dozen or so, lined up on either side of Breed St., just north of Cesar Chavez.

It would be a while before others would discover the magic of Breed St.,but all throughout the rising profile of this street fair I was a regular attendee on Sunday nights.

When Gloria Molina started her heinous crackdown on the trucks some of the vendors were chased away, and the remaining hold outs started to gather in the Bank of America parking, where many more vendors joined in due to the popularity of the street fair and the spaciousness of the parking lot.

Antojitos Carmen was one of the originals,though.The recent demise of the Breed St. Fair due to pressures from local restaurants ended an era.

But I say, be careful what you wish for.Any of you restauranteurs that might have made one of those phone calls to break up that rowdy street fair stealing all your business? Now you've done it. Antojitos Carmen is here to stay, better get your ass back in the test kitchen, compa!

On Sunday, January 10, 2010, I attended the opening of Antojitos Carmen's new restaurant, just down the street where they once battled it out with three dozen other stands.While others are still scrambling for places to sell their food, Antojitos Carmen has taken it to the next level.

The kitchen was well staffed that day, and hustling to keep up with the packed restaurant and the new challenges of a brick and mortar.

Carmen, who had become so well known amongst the Los Angeles food scene through blogs and local press was on fire. Cooking, directing, and squeezing in between family members in the narrow cook's corridor.

The small restaurant was packed on opening day as a steady stream of Carmen's well documented DF style "little whims", called antojitos, glided from kitchen to already worn earthy-red booths.

The familiar salsa of dried red chiles all to myself, part of me enjoyed the exclusivity, and the other part missed the hordes crowding around condiments, vying for the space to finish dressing their sopes or huaraches. "Permiso." "Pase"

Ah pozole, the benefit of stoves and counter space means that Antojitos Carmen has a few more items on their restaurant menu.

Flautas for the gentleman in the hat, gorditas for table number two.No numbers to call out and no cops to chase you away, just the nice officers sitting at table number three asking for that "flat thing with the green sauce."

The extended family of sopes is what Carmen is known for, though. Masa shapes:sopes, huaraches, gorditas,and quesadillas filled with home cooking fillings of huitlacoche, squash blossoms, tinga(spicy meat),picadillo,potato and chorizo,chicharron,carne desebrada(shredded meat), and mushrooms. Enchiladas,fried tacos, or dorados,round out a solid offering of supper time favorites.

There was a seamless rotation at the tortilla station, a serious task for an organization molded from a mound of masa.

Abraham, Carmen's son, carefully prepares to deliver a sope and a tostada, assisted by an intent East Los beauty. An OG picks up another order and grabs a bottle of Jarritos.

Menudo debuts at straight out of Carmen's home kitchen, along with seven different tortas,migas(egg, cheese, and tortilla bits),stewed chicharrones, ribs in salsa,barbacoa,eggs any way you like,

Two elderly gentlemen wearing their Sunday best, blast ballads on a karaoke machine, a little bit of Joan Sebastian for your tia(aunt), and some Don Chente los abuelitos(grandparents).

When I stopped by the other night, their new sign had just been installed and lit.Opening day has now passed, the cops can't bother you any more, you can all take a deep breath and sit back and enjoy this a bit.This was 20 years in the making!!And for me? It's a little strange adjusting to being able to sit down, but I'll manage.

Congratulations to Carmen, her family, and all their loyal customers, who will always be a part of Breed St. long after that day when the comals and fryers went dark.

Antojitos Carmen
8:30AM-10PM Mon-Thurs.,8:30AM-midnight Fri.-Sun.
2510 E. Cesar Chavez
Boyle Heights, CA


Noah said...


Food GPS said...

That's a shame about Breed Street, but this opening is a great success story.

Antojitos Carmen has migas?! I haven't seen those on a menu since my last trip to Austin.

gourmetpigs said...

Glad to see they opened a permanent place! Though selfishly they were more convenient when it was mobile hehe. I should just do an East LA marathon. Bill, you lead?

Hobson's Choice said...

Great post. I was excited to hear that Antojitos Carmen was able to find a permanent space as I always loved the food. I will have to get out there next week.

streetgourmetla said...


Foodgps, yes sir, this is a nice story, but I miss the scene.

Burumun-let's do it.

Hobson's Choice-Hope you get out there soon.It's all about the migas.

glutster said...

Out of restaurateurs negativity comes a brick and mortar masa beauty--

This is awesome to see, especially that smooth-looking Chile Rojo and that East L.A beauty! Can't wait to try this place out soon.

streetgourmetla said...

Javier-Yes, and now's the time while they are still raw from years on the street, hardened from the elements and the game. Migas?

Unknown said...

Dear StreetgourmetLA, this was an awesome review! I thought it was very personal, original, and very LA! I lived in San Diego for a while and remember finding small places like Carmens that had the best food and they didnt need to be fancy or expensive...just open! I understand now why many nearby restaurants who could not offer anything even close to these small shops, would feel threatened. So glad you wrote this piece. Loved how the police came to check it out!!! There are some wonderful shots of the place. Very professional and I will definitely be back to have a bite of more.
Thank you for sharing.
Cheers, Gaby
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