The Avila Adobe

In the Middle of Olvera Street, L.A.’s Oldest Still-Existing House

In the Middle of Olvera Street, L.A.’s Oldest Still-Existing House

In my semi-retirement, I’ve taken to going downtown at least once a week and doing some exploring. Today, I started out at the Central Library reading Claude Izner’s In the Shadows of Paris, set in the City of Lights back in the 1890s.

I picked out a volume of Charles Bukowski’s letters in the literature section and checked it out, making my way to Meeting Room A at 12:30 for something completely different: A guided session on meditation by Giselle Jones. It was super-relaxing. I will look out for other meditation events at the Library.

Then it was on to Dash Bus B to Olvera Street. I had a hankering for some more of Cielito Lindo’s taquitos and chile rellenos. Yum! They were even better than last time.

Finally, I paid a visit to the oldest surviving house in Los Angeles: The Avila Adobe. Although L.A. was first settled in 1781, all the houses were destroyed by the ravages of time, except for the Avila Adobe, which was built in 1818 by Francisco Avila, one of the city’s earliest alcaldes (mayors). The house was an oasis of calm amid the frantic crowds looking to buy souvenirs.

From there, it was a short walk to the bus stop for the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus #R10 to return home.

Eve Babitz and the Taquitos

Cielito Lindo, Specializing in Beef Taquitos on Olvera Street

Cielito Lindo, Specializing in Beef Taquitos on Olvera Street

As I was visiting the Taste of Ecuador Festival by Olvera Street yesterday, I decided to find the place that Eve Babitz writes about in her book Eve’s Hollywood about what could have kept rock star Janis Joplin from OD’ing. Toward the end of the book is an essay entitled “The Landmark,” which she dedicated to food writer M. F. K. Fisher. She starts at the very beginning of Los Angeles:

In 1781 a Franciscan with 24 ex-cons and runaway slaves decided to name something that didn’t exist La Ciudad de Nuestra Signora [SIC] La Reina de Los Angeles and proceeded to build a church and a street called Olvera Street. The church and the street are still there, preserved by this huge city called L.A. as a landmark from when one street was named the City of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. The street is uneven and bricky and lined with terrific shops where you can get things you think you want, cheap. And taquito stands for in case you get hungry. Taquitos are much better than heroin, it’s just that no one knows about them and heroin’s so celebrated.

Now Eve’s book was written over forty years ago. I decided to see if I could find her favorite taquito stand, which she describes as follows: “The best place to get them [taquitos], though they are also sold in other places throughout the mall, is the place on the Northeast part of Olvera Street.”

Making Taquitos at Cielito Lindo

Making Taquitos at Cielito Lindo

It just so happens that the Northeasternmost restaurant on Olvera Street is Cielito Lindo (“My Little Beautiful Heaven”), which has been around since 1934 and specializes in taquitos in a way that none of the other restaurants on the Street do. Once again, Eve continues:

They have black frying pans with long handles that are about a foot and a half in diameter and have sides that flare out about 3 inches high so that oil won’t hit the cook. With metal prongs, the guy lays the raw taquitos neatly in the oil over a fire of coal that produces a heat of such intensity that blast-furnace clouds encompass the buyer as he watches the taquitos cook and the guy turns them over when they are done on one side.

Except for the coal fire, which is now probably against some city health or safety regulation, that’s pretty much what I saw at Cielito Lindo, such that I am 100% sure that this is the place to which Eve would have directed Janis Joplin to keep her from that nasty heroin.

By the way, the taquitos were delicious. I will return there for more. Their chile rellenos are pretty good, too.