Sabado Gigante: El Tepeyac Cafe, Boyle Heights

I love Boyle Heights. It’s one of the few areas left in LA where chihuahuas still roam free (if you ever visit Hollenbeck park, you’ll be treated to chihuahuas scaling the trees as if they were squirrels). The thing that gets me is that residents in the neighborhood don’t even react to the little dogs any more (not even the black one that looks EXACTLY like Samuel L. Jackson). Wild chihuahuas are now just another quirky, ridiculous fact of life here – almost as quirky and ridiculous as a 5-pound burrito.

El Tepeyac Cafe is a cozy Mexican restaurant on Evergreen, at the top of a hilly San Francisco-ish part of Boyle Heights. There are roughly 10 tables in the tiny dining room and some counter-seating. The decor is cutesy-Mexi (Frida Kahlo meets ‘Johnny Rocket’s’) with some interesting photos of the owner with celebrities, and one very cool portrait of the owner (Manuel – or “Manny”, if you become a Tepeyac regular) fighting an unseen opponent. I prefer to think that this portrait is “fan art”, with an accompanying fan-fiction about an evil Mexican fast food chain coming into the neighborhood that wants to turn El Tepeyac into a parking lot, or something.

"Manny"

“Manny”

Thu and I waited in line outside for probably 10 minutes on a Saturday night, and it was a little chilly. The staff were very communicative with the customers outside about how long we’d be waiting. I liked the atmosphere already, it was welcoming (and every time one of the staff opened the door to talk to us, we could feel the steam of a thousand burritos).

Tip: If you can, get seated at the counter. The service is fast, and you get a great view of all the deliciousness coming from the kitchen.

Tip: If you can, get seated at the counter. The service is fast, and you get a great view of all the deliciousness coming from the kitchen.

The ‘Manuel Special’ is an enormous wet burrito filled with rice, beans, guacamole and your choice of meat (we chose carne asada, which was ‘la bomba’). The cheese is melted on top of the burrito, with some sauteed onions on top. There are no fancy touches (like sprigs of parsley, or a tiny Mexican flag), just a straight-up burrito gorge-fest. The two of us shared this huge burrito, fully expecting to take home some leftovers. We finished the whole thing, but I really don’t think that this is typical: I ate way more than I needed to and I think that our server should have stopped me. This was reflected in her tip.

Manuel's Special w/ Carne Asada

Manuel’s Special w/ Carne Asada

This is definitely a unique dinner to share with someone. Tip: order it with the guacamole on the side (reheating the leftovers will be less gross this way). I don’t completely understand the trend of extreme, challenging food. It’s hard enough to eat like a normal person nowadays without Manuel tempting me. Please employ the ‘buddy system’ when planning your Tepeyac outing, and remember that this thing feeds 2-4 people. I give the Tepeyac experience 8 chihuahuas (out of 10 chihuahuas).
Bonus: Instead of after-dinner mints, every check comes with assorted Hallowen candy (year-round) including full-size Tootsie Rolls.

Bonus: Instead of after-dinner mints, every check comes with assorted Halloween candy (year-round) including full-size Tootsie Rolls.

SKATEBOARD DIRECTIONS
From Downtown LA, just skate downhill on 1st Street towards Little Tokyo. You’ll eventually see the One-Eyed Gyspy on the left, make a mental note to stop there later to try their various fried desserts. Then, on second thought, re-evaluate that plan since you are on your way to eat a 5-pound burrito.
You’ll have to go uphill for a little while, but you’ll see some perfectly-waxed curbs and double-sided ledges at Mariachi Plaza/Metro Station past the overpass. A little further down (right before Evergreen), there is a loooong bank-to-curb at a shopping center (it is amazing) and a bank-to-wall (a lot harder to skate post-burrito).
Turn left at Evergreen and bomb the hill towards Wabash. You are on your way to experience an authentic, enormous burrito. Just like in the Olde Country. Don’t forget to stretch.
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