Sesame seed, mango and avocado salsas
I've been hearing about Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Cafe for years -- about how they train former gang members for new careers, sell t-shirts and baked goods as well as providing everything from tattoo removal to drug rehab services. But for some reason, I had never been to the cafe, which moved into a spiffy new building across from the Chinatown Gold Line station a year or so ago. So when Chowhound's Dommy and Mattapoisett as well as Divefan, AlyssainPlaya and a few others convened for lunch, it seemed like a perfect starting point for my bike ride to the East Hollywood Artcycle. I hopped on the Gold Line with my bike and got off right across the street. Dommy reminded us to have patience with the servers, as they're not professionals but young women just starting their server and cook training. The bakery up front sells baguettes, cookies and pastries
But actually, the pace was no worse than many much more "professional" restaurants. We sampled chips with a trio of salsas including an unusual sesame seed salsa, and guacamole with the surprising addition of roasted pineapple. There's over a dozen taco fillings, including spicy beef or chicken tinga and carnitas with apple salsa. The taco fillings can also be served as a torta so I tried a salmon torta with jalapeno pesto, which seemed a little under-pestoed. The balance was much better with Dommy's jalapeno pesto linguine with Mexican cheese, which had a wonderful tangy, spicy bite. I'll definitely try this one at home. The limeade with mint and spinach tastes much better than it sounds, and if you've had a lot to drink the night before, you'll feel purified after drinking this.
Verdict: I like the clean, modern look of the cafe, the diversity of the diners, and the menu which isn't afraid to experiment with lots of imaginative ideas and plenty of vegetarian selections. Prices are very reasonable. Open 7 am - 5 pm daily.
Tip: Get there before 11 am to try dishes like the zucchini blossom omelet or nopales with eggs or tofu.
130 W. Bruno St. (at Alameda)