Two such epochal events happening simultaneously called for a celebration to shake the galaxy. And that was last Friday's grand opening party at Pal Cabron, for which the galaxy provided special lighting, a full moon.
If you got there early, you might have walked out. Nothing was happening. Instead of party decorations, the restaurant was cluttered with ladders, drills, electric cords, paint cans and workmen.
Street artist Hector Ponce was meticulously painting tiny scenes on the walls. Bricia's brother Fernando, whose ice cream and shaved ice bar opens into the restaurant, was attaching pink slips with the names of each dish to huge chartreuse menu boards.
Bricia dashed about, checking details and posing for a photographer hired to record the event. The smell of paint overpowered whatever was going on in the kitchen.
“It's tonight, right?” asked one puzzled early arrival, wondering if he should be there. The answer was yes, and the ladders and other paraphernalia began to disappear.
Then plate after plate of Pal Cabron's signature cemitas came out. This sandwich from Puebla has been tweaked Oaxacan style at Pal Cabron, with shreddy quesillo (string cheese) inside along with blocks of panela cheese, avocado and any kind of meat you could want–beef, lamb, marinated pork, carnitas and chicken in mole sauce among them.
The tables were still littered with cemitas as platters of Pal Cabron's other specialty, tlayudas, arrived. These pizza-size masa circles were spread with black beans and shredded cheese and topped with thin strips of salted beef, called tasajo.
Guests drank jamaica, horchata, beer and tumblers of smoky mezcal that Bricia poured from a blue plastic jug. Hector Ponce sketched caricatures of the partygoers, the music was loud and the food and drink were nonstop.
Armed with a bouquet of orange flowers, Bricia circled the room chatting up friends. None would have guessed that they were partying in what, only a short time ago, had been a frantic construction zone.
Pal Cabron replaces the 8th Street Guelaquetza restaurant. The address is 3337 ½ W. 8th Street, Los Angeles. (213) 427-0601. The original Pal Cabron in Huntington Park is now closed.
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