Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hangin' with my Homies at the Homegirl Cafe

Did you know that it's possible to do good and eat good (er, well) at the same time?

A group of my Homies and I took the Gold Line from Pasadena to the Chinatown Station to pay a lunchtime visit to the Homegirl Cafe, an offspring of Homeboy Industries. The nonprofit organization "assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education. " The org. opened the Homeboy Bakery in 1998 and the cafe in 2004 in Boyle Heights and then moved to its current Chinatown-adjacent location in October 2007.

Since Homeboy Industries is in a gritty, industrial part of town, I wasn't expecting much.

The view from the Gold Line Station

But the architecture of Homeboy Industries, home of the Homegirl Cafe, could hold its own in downtown LA.

I was in for an even bigger surprise once we entered the cafe. Original artwork, fresh flowers, granite countertops and glass tile gave the cafe an upscale, not an in the 'hood, feel.

But the biggest surprise was the menu, consisting of traditional Latina cuisine with a contemporary twist. For example, Angela's Green Potion, lemonade with fresh spinach and mint, sounds disgusting and looks questionable, but tastes wonderfully fresh and delicious. And the nutrient quotient puts an Arnie Palmer to shame.

Looks like pond scum, tastes like yum yum.

The salads are filled with interesting, fresh ingredients, such as roasted corn, julienned apples and jicama or mangoes and come with a choice of zesty dressings (citrus, chipotle or cilantro).

Ana's Salad Martha's Salad are just $6.95 each.

And there's an impressive roster of creative tacos, including my selection, a salmon taco with jalapeno pesto and pico de gallo.

Tacos are just $2.45 each or three for $6.50.

My salmon taco and side of Frijoles Negros (black beans with sautéed garlic, onions and cilantro, topped with queso fresco) came to just $4.45.

Of course, when you add in the $2.50 for the parking meter, $2.50 for Gold Line passes and a $37 parking ticket, my lunchtime excursion cost me $48. OUCH!

Lessons Learned:
- Don't take the Gold Line from the Del Mar Station in Pasadena. Parking is not free.
- If you do attempt to park at the Del Mar Station and it's full on the Raymond side, try the entrance from Arroyo Parkway.
- Do NOT under any circumstances park on the street because you won't be able to make it back in two hours.
- Do take time to purchase some fresh baked goods from the Homeboy Bakery.
- Do also take time to visit the Homeboy store, where you can purchase merchandise with Homeboy mottos. I want a "Jobs Not Jail" T-Shirt.
- Do allow time for a leisurely lunch. This is not a fast food restaurant.
- Do arrive early for lunch. You're in for a 10 to 15 minute wait if you walk in at noon.
- Do consider returning for breakfast.
- Do keep checking the website. The latest endeavor, Homeboy Press, will publish a literary magazine in 2008.
- Do tell your friends. It's a treat to find good eats and good deeds under the same roof.

Homegirl Cafe
130 W. Bruno St. (at Alameda St.)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: 323-526-1254 ext. 301


Paula L. Johnson said...

As someone who drank Angela's Potion, I agree: it looked like swamp water but tasted great.

Petrea said...

My mouth's watering and I just ate dinner.

This is the first I've heard about Homeboy and Homegirl, and I'm glad to know of it. Your story reminds me of the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco (, which has been very successful. They have a great restaurant, too. Can't wait to try Homegirl.

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

If you want to be really adventurous, take the bus down Lake Ave & catch the Gold Line at the Lake Ave station. No threat of a parking ticket in that scenario.

"looks like pond scum, tastes like yum yum" really cracked me up!

altadenahiker said...

I would pass this building on the way to work every day and wonder what it was. But then, I'd get caught up in this and that and forget about it until I saw it again the next morning. And on and on. Thank you for the report, and now I definitely plan to visit.