We spoke with Latinx small business owner of Milpa Grille, Deysi Serrano, to discuss her favorite Latinx-owned Los Angeles small businesses for Latinx Heritage Month. Explore Deysi’s go-to spots and recommendations below and in Intentionalist’s Apple Guides.
At Milpa Grille, owner Deysi Serrano and her team pay homage to their Mesoamerican ancestors by featuring the three core ingredients that helped them sustain great civilizations: corn, squash, and beans. When you taste Milpa Grille, you savor history. Deysi’s culinary creativity allows her to reimagine traditional Mesoamerican food and share her vision with her community. Visit Milpa Grille to see just how delicious corn can be, and how many ways it can be prepared.
Mario Christerna has crafted a creative and enjoyable home-made menu at his restaurant Brooklyn Ave Pizza Co. “Just opened a few months ago, and the wings and pizza are amazing!!” says Serrano. “Pizzas are catered to everyone; the OG is just simple but good. Buffalo Hot Wings and Lemon Pepper Wings are so good!” This fast-casual joint is perfect for watching the game, hanging out with friends, going on a first date, or putting a smile on your kids’ faces.
“Mariscos Jalisco is a food truck on Olympic Blvd that has amazing shrimp tacos and red salsa aguachiles,” says Serrano. Raul Ortega opened his food truck in 2002, and since then he has been serving Los Angeles some of the best fried shrimp tacos. You can find Raul at the food truck often, taking or making orders and chatting with his customers. “Be aware, the aguachiles aren’t for the weak!” says Serrano. “Talk about spicy with flavor!”
“El Mercadito is exactly that: a place concentrated with culture where you will find everything,” says Serrano. “You’ll find decorations, food, sage, palo santo, clothes, shoes, kitchenware, drinks…EVERYTHING!” El Mercado, also affectionately known as El Mercadito by customers, was opened in 1968. In 1988 Paul Rosado took over the market, and now it’s run by his children Tony and Marlene Rosado. El Mercado serves as a social, cultural, and commercial center for the local Latinx community.
Serrano also co-owns El Place, also known as Noa Noa Place, along with Donaji Esparza and Luis Octavio. “This new Latinx queer bar provides the Boyle Heights community a safe space that is very much needed,” says Serrano. “You will find amazing drag queen shows, wings, Al Pastor Pizza, and more. My favorite [drink] is the michelada with your choice of Mexican, Salvadorian, or Guatemalan beer! They, too, brought the first Orgullo Fest (pride event) to the community!”
Sara’s Market was first opened as Hilda’s Market in 1986 by Sara Valdes’ great uncle. It was later run by Sara’s parents who then passed it on to her and her husband, Steven Valdes. “This is a small market that has provided many brands with the opportunity to carry their items,” says Serrano. “They have a mix of salsas, tortillas, coffee, beers, and wines! You will find some amazing stuff and will love it!”
“If you want a fresh patty, brioche bun, and overall a great burger, this is it!” says Serrano. Tony Gomez’s burgers at So-Cal Burger are so much more than just a burger. The service is fast and friendly, and the atmosphere of So-Cal Burgers is always enjoyable. Serrano adds: “Don’t forget the seasoned fries!”
Brothers Arturo and Leo Aguilar opened Street Tacos & Grill in Boyle Heights to merge the street taco experience with a restaurant feel and comfort. The menu is a dive into Arturo and Leo’s past, recreating the tacos they enjoyed as a kid and on family trips to Tijuana. “Even though it’s small, it’s mighty,” says Serrano. “The al pastor meat is delicious in tacos, tortas, sopes, or burritos. But my favorite has to be the Carne con su Jugo. Just so much flavor in a bowl!”
Carlos Ortez is bringing Los Angeles traditional and innovative flavors from Latin America and other parts of the world at un solo sol. Carlos is a vegetarian himself, and he wanted to ensure that other vegetarians and vegans had authentic Mexican options. “It has now transitioned to an all vegan restaurant, and the only vegan restaurant in Boyle Heights,” says Serrano. “The pupusas are done with Kernel of Truth masa and the mushroom posole…delish!”
“Need a drink? Xelas has local crafted beers, micheladas, mixed drinks, beautiful indoor space, as well as al fresco seating,” says Serrano. “Yes, there is also dancing…They have done a collab with La Michoacana Boyle Heights. Meaning: expect a paleta on one of your drinks.” XELAS was born out wife and husband Corissa Hernandez’ and Gabriel Paredes’ love for their neighborhood. Their goal is to create a fun and safe community with a friendly staff, and some of the best local DJs and bands.