A Rekindled Romance in Highland Park

Carina gets irritated with me because I tend to crave the same thing over and over again and often times that means wanting to go the same place repeatedly. When I like something, someone or someplace, I instinctively want to frequent it all the time. Which, I presume, is an obvious sign of gluttony or obsession. This was so the case on this particular lonely Sunday afternoon. I had absolutely nothing to do and so I decided to head back to my old stomping ground and visit a little place that I always adored but had not visited in years Villas Durango, the Yucatan place in Highland Park. The little ramshackle hut on York Blvd. between Ave 56 and Ave 58 opened up its doors about 6 years in to my 8 year relationship with ex-boyfriend, whom we will name “The Saucier.” This was also about the time when sadly things began to get sour for our love. I remember going to Villas Durango and loving the food and loving the people. The jukebox, which played loud rancheras, never missed a beat and the large Diego Rivera’esque fresco on the wall made for a fully immersed environment. I was in love with the place, and not to be mean, but rather honest, I was almost always unhappily in love with my partner. It was a sad moment in time for us.

As soon as I stepped in the door, it was akin to one of those moments when you are immediately transported back to a feeling and a place. I was greeted by the same team of women that served me years ago. I think they remembered me, and if they didn’t, they did a great job of making me feel at home. They were just like I remembered, only older. It was a cold Sunday and they brought me my regular hot water and lemon. I proceeded to order from their newly expanded menu. I first ordered a prodigious sample platter (which is my favorite dish and their most authentic).  In my interest to satiate a new craving, I decided to order something new so I opted for the chicken gordita. It was small and inexpensive.

The first thing that came was the gordita. It looked as though it was prepared with love. The masa shell looked like it had just the right amount of oil to be delicious and the dismembered dark chicken meat was tainted with a touch of red sauce. I thought I was in for a treat. I took a bite and was sadly disappointed. It was a modest offering in terms of flavor, but I looked forward to what lay ahead. Next up, my entrée. The plate arrived and boy did it look great. The plates came with Yucatan chicken prepared three ways and all topped with achiote. I didn’t miss a beat and devoured it promptly along with the black beans and rice. The meal didn’t come with plantains, but the kind chef gave me a few silvers along with some Mexican crema. All of the food was amazing. However, while there, I couldn’t help but feel bittersweet about my return. After all, the last time I was there I was miserable. I am in a better place now, but any ending brings about sadness of what once was. One thing is for certain, my love affair with the food in Highland Park will never die.

P.S. I couldn’t remember the name of this establishment and I owe a big thanks to our Twitter friends: GoodGirlLA and HLP90042 for helping us out. Also, according to the Highland Park expert the food at Villas Durango is more Durangoese cuisine than Yucatanian. Good2know!

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May Week (Not Mayday)

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After getting out of a 4 hour class on Ethical Leadership, I got a call from Josie to hit up Spaceland. I had missed trivia at Royal Clayton’s earlier that night. She attended trivia with engineers from work, it was refreshing that they lost without me. Unfortunately, they lose when I am on the team as well. One of her co-worker’s roommates, Larissa, was a violinist for our favorite, Rilo Kiley, and was performing with a band of girls at Spaceland that night. The band she was playing with was awesome. We also became good friends with an Architect from Brooklyn who goes by the pen name William Grey on his blog. I commented that his legs were the size of my entire body. We measured and his legs are as high as my boobs.

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The next day we hit up The Standard Hotel Downtown LA‘s Rooftop Bar with our new architect friend. We drank, ate, and lounged on the water bed pods and basked in the sun. Josie ended up falling asleep, I got some reading done for class, and we all had some great conversation. Of course, we still had our uncouth moments. I spit out my gum in a napkin in the pod and when our drinks arrived I asked, “How long until someone spills?” Josie managed to spill her beer at that exact minute.

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I left early for class and Josie got into some shenanigans afterwards, she ended up at my house late that night. The next day I headed to Magnolia on Lake after an unsuccessful day of dumpling hunting in Alhambra. I am a major fan of Magnolia’s mac n’ cheese but it didn’t feel right ordering it without Josie. I tried something new and had the turkey chili in the corn bread bowl it was equally delicious.

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Today, Thursday, Josie went to work and I helped my friend Nora apartment hunt in West LA. I got a text from the guy that wanted to interview us for a grad school project on the subculture of foodies he asked if the UGs had any plans. I wrote back and said we had talked about having sushi in Hastings Ranch. I texted Josie to find out what the name of the place was and she responded, “Can’t find the name online, but it’s across from the bowling alley in back. Starts with an I…” Magically, our interviewer knew exactly what she was talking about and responded “Ichima?” That was the place and we all planned on meeting up there at 7:45. Nora and I were the last to arrive and were immediately impressed by the cheap sushi prices that Josie was raving about. The UGs had their regular chicken bento box for Josie and beef sukiyaki for Carina. Our guests stuck to traditional, yummy, and reasonably priced rolls. We had some good food chatter but the best part of our dining experience was our neighbors. The table next to us was filled with bikers that toasted to “Loose women and fast motorcycles.” Our favorite part was when the waitstaff put on loud music and everyone clapped and sang to Biker Mark, aka the Birthday Boy. We were fortunate enough to be able to have him in our photo. When the bill came and was $79 for 4 people, 4 sushi rolls, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 3 desserts we were beyond impressed. I was in shock and said, “It is so cheap when we don’t drink”. Josie agreed and was so glad she removed her belt and put it in her purse mid meal. By the way, I apologize for cutting off our interviewer and new friend while he was speaking and for blocking him in the photo.

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