Remains of L.A.

Traces of L.A.'s past can still be found, in the kitsch of '50s diners and the decayed glamour of '40s hotspots… and sometimes the food is good, and there are nice people.

(1928) La Golondrina Mexican Cafe, downtown L.A.

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lagon sign3David (my husband) and I were in the mood for Mexican, so we decided on La Golondrina Mexican Cafe on Olvera street downtown. The restaurant has been there since 1928, but it’s in the oldest brick building in L.A., built in 1855.

We were going to sit on the lovely outdoor patio, where the tables had vibrant colored tablecloths and the air smelled like the best air possible, but I wanted to see the inside of the place, and it turned out to be even lovelier than outside.

-brick walls, mostly but not entirely painted white, bright paintings everywhere, a large stone fireplace, sturdy wooden tables and chairs with suns carved in the backs, heavy wood-beam ceilings from which hung shockingly beautiful glass lamps. All the furniture seems like whoever made it really cared about how it turned out.

-we ordered guacamole and chips but I had a hard time deciding what to get for dinner; sometimes I get stressed that I’m going to choose wrong and regret it forever. I finally got the carne asada tacos and feel good about it.

-one of the pictures on the wall is of Frida Kahlo riding a brontosaurus. At least I think it’s Frida Kahlo; it could just be someone who looks like her.

lagonpelanconisign-our waiter, who is absolutely charming, brought our food and called me “sweetie” and David (my husband) “my friend.” It’s the sort of behavior I only tolerate in someone with an accent–it doesn’t matter what accent, either. Pretty much any accent makes that sort of thing okay. I feel the same when waiters berate me about my order. Sound like me? How dare you! Have an accent? Thanks for the guidance!

-A large group of people came in, they might as well have had huge signs that said “not from here!” as they galumphed around in their shorts and t-shirts chortling about how they’d wanted to buy a parrot from the Mexican vendors but couldn’t find one, and trying to pronounce the menu items. A moment later another table was seating, four expensively dressed people who either were slightly famous actors or just seemed like it. It was an oddly pleasing study in contrasts.

One of the hanging glass lamps.

One of the hanging glass lamps, only this doesn’t begin to capture how pretty they all were.

-there is a large metal sculpture of what David (my husband) thinks is probably a quetzalcoatl but what I’m thinking now is maybe a cozcacuauhtli. It looked like a big bird, anyway, and it is gorgeous. At first I thought it was made of polished wood but David (my husband) pointed out the blues among the browns; he is pretty sure it’s burnished brass. Anyway it is tremendous, whatever material or animal. I would have taken a picture but there was not a single moment when it wasn’t at least partially obscured by people getting in my way.

-At some point I noticed that our table was literally the only one in the place without a flower in a pretty glass bottle, but luckily that’s not the sort of thing I take personally.

-David (my husband): “Flan is the gefilte fish of desserts.”

-The ladies’ room had absolutely beautiful tiled sinks; one looked like peacock feathers and one like flowers. There was so much beauty in this place, you couldn’t get away from it.

-David (my husband) ordered coffee and it had cinnamon and I kept taking it and smelling it and wishing I could do caffeine. He also got some kind of corn cake that I had a bite of and I think I could eat nothing else forever and be happy, except for I can’t eat sugar.

lagon fireplace-I find it so strange when two people eat in a restaurant and sit on the same side of the table. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I don’t get it. Wouldn’t they rather face each other, for conversation? Is it so they can do fondling? But won’t their hands be busy with silverware? It always looks like the next table over is their TV set.

-our waiter was so vastly superior to the other waiter in the room I couldn’t help feeling smug. The other guy shouted enthusiastically instead of speaking, and seemed like he’d wandered in from a Cheesecake Factory.

-It was hard to hear, but we’re pretty sure the tourists at the next table were model train enthusiasts.

What I Ate: Guacamole and chips and salsa, Tacos Carnes Asadas with beans and rice, a bite of David (my husband)’s warm buttery tortilla, and also a bite of his corn cake

Who I Ate With/Things We Talked About: David (my husband); Amy Schumer and how great she is, the weird smoking laws in Burbank, this essay I read once about a guy who commuted to work every day on the bus and daydreamed about who he’d pick to fight with him if his bus was attacked by another bus, and how I sometimes do the same thing but with restaurants.

What Sort of Ghost I’d Expect to Find if I Believed in Ghosts Which I do Not: A little girl who loved it when her aunts visited because they’d all come here for dinner, and the adults would laugh and talk for hours while she and her cousins ran around the tables. Note: Unless otherwise stated, all ghosts mentioned in this blog died peacefully of old age and then reverted to the age/place of their choosing.

17 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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