Best Of :: East L.A./Boyle Heights/Montecito Heights/El Sereno
Best Michelada: La Chuperia
Ask five different people how to make a michelada and you'll likely get five different answers. The basic version of this Mexican prepared beer features a light lager and lime juice served in a salt-rimmed glass, but from there, the variations are endless. Popular additions are tomato juice or its fishy cousin clamato, Worcestershire and hot sauces, even sal de gusano, or salt with ground-up maguey worms (the ones usually found floating in a bottle of tequila). In addition to its selection of mouth-watering tortas, La Chuperia serves up a michelada that is a meal all by itself. Its version starts with a lime and clamato base, into which is added a secret spice mix, celery stalk, cucumber slices, whole shrimp, a tamarind straw and a generous drizzle of chamoy, a sauce made from pickled fruit. Served in a large goblet with a whole bottle of beer flipped upside down into the mix, it is a wonder to behold as well as consume. For those with larger appetites, La Chuperia also offers a ballena, or whale, version with a 32-ounce beer.
Other Books, Comics and Zines offers an exquisitely curated selection of new and used books with an anarcho-queer-feminist–third world–radical-indigenist edge. The sparely decorated, spacious store, sandwiched unassumingly between an El Pollo Loco and a Mexican craft-leather shop, offers bare cement floors, bare white walls, bare light bulbs and unobtrusive, comfortable chairs and sofas for reading. Books are cerebral up front, transgressive in the rear. Shelves are unlabeled but well organized in the areas of art, photography, cultural studies, radical activism, poetry and philosophy. Other Books has a superb selection of Latin American Boom and post-Boom lit and crit, and a subspecialty of East Asian lit and poetry. Here you will find both James Baldwin's complete works and his FBI file. Head to the racks in the back for comics, graphic novels, at least one coloring book (Cunt Coloring Book) and fanzines, including the series The Life and Times of Butch Dykes featuring Gertrude Stein and Gloria Anzaldúa and Feminist Pornographic Collective Consciousness, an intersectional feminist porn zine. It's a punk-rock bookstore for a punk-rock part of town.
It doesn't have the kind of star power that Forest Lawn, Hollywood Forever or even the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park can claim. Its connection to L.A. history hasn't been as fully explored as that of nearby Evergreen. But if you like strolling through graveyards, Odd Fellows Cemetery is the place to go. Founded by a international, coed fraternal organization called the Odd Fellows, it's old enough that you might find some Civil War veterans among the permanent residents. The grounds are filled with unusual headstones — that thing that looks like an old tree stump isn't — and it's been kept up just enough to keep it feeling serene. Odd Fellows is spooky, but it doesn't look like a prelude to a zombie attack. The celebrity graves are limited to a couple of old Hollywood names; you'll want to go more to check out the headstones of ordinary folks. The cemetery's claim to fame is that it's the nondenominational site of a massive fetus burial following a grisly discovery and lengthy court battle in the 1980s.
The popular conception of L.A.-style tacos is that they're fairly pared down: You're served meat in a tortilla, and you add your own accoutrements, usually simple toppings such as salsas and onions and cilantro. The tacos at Los Cinco Puntos, though, are different creatures. These start with thick tortillas, handmade on-site. Los Cinco Puntos has a huge staff of workers, most running around slicing meat and making sandwiches, but the people working the giant griddle, slapping on the masa scooped from waist-tall buckets and creating these most perfect tortillas, may be the soul of the operation. And the work pays off: The thick disks often are bought to go in enormous stacks. But it's worth sticking around to eat tacos at one of the outdoor tables. First, the meat of your choosing. Then pico de gallo. Then salsa. Then — and this is where things get interesting — guacamole is added. And then! Sliced nopales. There's a reason people eat these tacos with forks. It's not the typical L.A. taco, but it embodies our city's anything-goes spirit.
Punk rock in L.A. never died; it just moved to Boyle Heights and has stayed steadily buzzed off cheap beer in the tiniest bar imaginable on Whittier Boulevard. If you're tired of going to the same old venues in downtown and Echo Park to catch local punk acts, try the Blvd, a class-A dive bar located just over the L.A. River. It has been around since 2010 and has stayed a locals-only type of place. The acoustics inside aren't the best, but that hasn't stopped bands such as Millions of Dead Cops, Lower Class Brats and Battalion of Saints from dropping hourlong sets in the tiny space. On any given weekend, you can expect to catch a random band playing really fast street punk, hardcore, grindcore, black metal or any related bastard subgenre. The lineups have been particularly killer over the last couple of years thanks to Big-Mike Red of Poor Kids Radio fame handling the talent. So come have a drink and be part of the scene.