Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XLI!!!

Interactive Map! Click here for larger version.


It's October, which means we celebrate the 12th anniversary of CicLAvia with the classic Downtown-centric, "Heart of L.A." route. The 41st iteration of Los Angeles' Really Big Open Streets Thang (and third of four CicLAvias in 2022) takes us back to the "Heart of L.A." variant used in October 2014 and October 2017 which skipped Mac Arthur Park and went as west as Echo Park instead. But this time, there's a twist -- Instead of traversing the 4th Street Viaduct as usual to glance at an under-construction 6th Street Viaduct 2.0 in between your Downtown Skyline Selfies, the eastern leg of the route has been altered so you can do your CicLAvia thang on the 6th Street Bridge 2.0! Whuuuut? Instagram's servers are probably going to have serious data overload on Sunday...

If you've read those previous Epic CicLAvia Tour guides, you'll see some familiar sights, but The Militant, knowing a simple Cut-And-Paste job won't cut it, got to update the guide with new entries for 2022. Yes, many things have changed in the past five years.

 The Militant has been serving the CicLAvia-loving public with these handy Epic CicLAvia Tour guides since the 2nd CicLAvia in 2011! But these take a LOT of time to work on, even this updated version. It's almost like a job, except...he doesn't make a salary from it [nervous laughter].

So if you dig this guide and learned something new from it, or it helped you appreciate a place or a part of town you didn't appreciate before, show your own appreciation for The Militant's work by showing some love via PayPal! Thanks in advance! [More nervous laughter...he's still new at this fund-thingy]

Thanks to the following for their Militant Support over the last month:

Salomon G. Davila, Jr
Jimmy Recinos
Erika Isiordia-Alvarado
Margaret Wehbi
Daniel Pouliot
Jane Malich

So there it is folks, take it:

1. Simon Gless Farmhouse
131 S. Boyle Ave., Boyle Heights

Back in the totally radical '80s...That's the 1880s, Boyle Heights was an open, rural area and French Basque immigrant Simon Francois Gless built a Queen Anne style house on his sheepherding farm at this location. Today, the house is a City Historic Cultural Monument and is a home that's rented out to -- Mariachi musicians! Just a few blocks west of here is Gless Street, and you might have heard of Simon's great-granddaughter -- actress Sharon Gless, who starred in the series Cagney and Lacey, which aired a century after her arrière-grand-père first settled in Boyle Heights.

2. Boyle Hotel (Cummings Block)
103 N. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This brick Queen Anne-style building, built in 1889 and designed by architect W.R. Norton was one of the first commercial buildings in Boyle Heights, and is one of the longest-standing commercial buildings in all of Los Angeles. The hotel was an important social and political center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in the 1960s, started to become a popular lodging spot for Mariachi musicians. It recently underwent a major renovation which created 51 low-income housing units and three street-level retail units, one of which is home of the Libros Schmibros bookstore/lending library.

3. Mariachi Plaza

1st St and Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This is the new town square for Boyle Heights, where Mariachi musicians have been hanging out to get picked up for since the 1930s. The Kiosko, or bandstand, that sits in the plaza is actually not that historic. It was given as a gift from the Mexican state of Jalisco, who literally shipped it over in 1998 where it was assembled in place. But it only gets used once a year for the Santa Cecilia Festival around every November 21. The plaza is also home of the Metro L Line station of the same name, which opened in 2009. This place could warrant a Militant blog post in itself -- no, an entire week of posts! Don't miss the Farmers Market events there every Friday and Sunday!

4. Eastside Luv
2006 (Built 1940)
1835 E. 1st St, Boyle Heights

One of The Militant's favorite hangouts in the Eastside, this bar, started by a bunch of friends who grew up in nearby City Terrace, took over the former Metropolitan bar eight years ago and updated it to a more contemporary Eastside-style flavor. Don't call it gentrification, call it gente-fication. In the decade and a half of the establishment's existence, it has already established its own traditions, namely the Thursday night themed karaoke nights, paying tribute to artists such as Latin superstars Juan Gabriel, Selena and Esteban Morrissey.

5. Hollenbeck Park
4th and St. Louis streets, Boyle Heights

John Edward Hollenbeck was a rich dude in the late 19th century who founded the First National Bank of Los Angeles (more on this later) and purchased parcels of land in Downtown, the San Gabriel Valley and the Eastside, where he made his home. Hollenbeck was also credited with the creation of what is now called Exposition Park. His sister married his friend, James George Bell, who founded...Yep, you guessed it! After Hollenbeck's death in 1885, his widow, Elizabeth, donated a 21-acre parcel of land, which was essentially their front yard, to the City. One of the Los Angeles’ oldest parks, it was established in 1892 and continues to function today.

6. Pioneer Chicken
904 S. Soto St, Boyle Heights

One of the two surviving locations of the once-revered Pioneer Chicken restaurant chain that boasted 270 stores. Originating in 1961 as an off-shoot business of the Pioneer Market local supermarket chain, the fried chicken franchise outgrew the size of its mother business exponentially. Though the old chain ceased to exist in 1993, this location, operating since 1981 (the other is in Bell Gardens) lives on as an indpendently-run vestige of a tasty, crunchy past. The colorful cardboard buckets may be gone, but the fried chicken (and gizzards) tastes as good as Back In The Day. Forget Popeyes, Jollibee, KFC or any of that trendy hot Nashville stuff, this is old school fried chicken right here, just a few blocks from the CicLAvia route!

7. 6th Street Viaduct (2.0)

6th Street over the Los Angeles River, Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

The 6th Street Viaduct is really a tale of two bridges: The first, built in 1932, crossing over the Los Angeles River and several railroad tracks, lived a decent life serving as a 24-hour mediator between Downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, occasionally doing extra work in movies, television shows and music videos. But in the mid-2010s, it was diagnosed with Alkali-Silica Reaction, a very lethal disease it had since birth, where high alkaline content in the concrete would cause it to become brittle and collapse in an earthquake. So it had a farewell celebration in October 2015 and it was euthanized in February 2016.

But, after a 6-year re-animation process in July 2022, the 6th Street Viaduct 2.0 was reincarnated into a slick, cybernetic form. It had large curving arches (that people could easily climb on), bright, programmable LED floodlights (that made it Instagram-friendly) and a wider road where people could do donuts and...things got out of hand. The bridge was closed for a time, because of the behavior of 21st century people and their reactions with 6th Street Viaduct 2.0.

But things have calmed down and today you can ride, walk, jog, scoot or just chill on 6th Street Viaduct 2.0. It is the droid you are looking for.

8. Site of Southern Pacific Arcade Station
4th and Alameda streets, Downtown Los Angeles

Before there was a Union Station, there were various rail passenger terminals in Los Angeles, many of them just a short distance from the Los Angeles River. On what currently stands as a large shopping mall, this was the original site of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Arcade Station which served passengers up until 100 years ago. A popular landmark of this station was a young palm tree, which was moved a century ago to Exposition Park where it stands today, much taller, in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately for indie rock fans, the Arcade Station was not devastated by a Fire, but was dismantled and replaced by a new station, the Central Station, located one block south.

9. Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Shuttle Memorial
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka and San Pedro streets, Little Tokyo

Nestled in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court shopping center, just behind Shinkichi Tajiri’s Friendship Knot sculpture, is a seemingly random model of a launch-position space shuttle and its booster rockets. But upon closer inspection it’s a memorial to Ellison S. Onizuka, the  Hawaii-born NASA astronaut who in 1985 became the first Japanese American in space. Later that year, he was the Grand Marshal of Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week Parade. But on January 28, 1986, Onizuka and six other astronauts were on that fateful final mission of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded following its launch. The local Japanese American community created a memorial organization in Onizuka’s name that awards science scholarships to Japanese American youth, and in 1990, this 1/10th-size scale model of the shuttle, built by Isao Hirai of Hawthorne, was dedicated as a memorial monument to the astronaut.

10. Terasaki Budokan
249 S. Los Angeles Street, Little Tokyo

Known as "The Big Gym in Little Tokyo," this venue was a long-standing dream for the Japanese American community, going back over 40 years. This  budokan (Japanese for "martial arts hall") opened in 2020 and was officially dedicated in March 2022. The facility was named after the late Dr. Paul Terasaki, whose foundation kicked in $3.5 million of the project's cost. A percentage of the funding was also contributed by the LA84 Foundation, which came from the profit surplus from the 1984 Olympics. It's being used for community sports and athletic activities, as well as special events.

11. Site of Historic Broadway Station
2nd and Spring streets, Downtown Los Angeles

The CicLAvia route also follows part of the Metro Regional Connector route, with the second of the three new stops being here on Broadway and 2nd Street, which will serve the historic theater district, Gallery Row and parts of the Civic Center.


• If heading north to Chinatown, skip to #21.
If heading south to the Theatre District, skip to #16.

12. Pacific Electric Tunnel
Toluca Street south of 2nd Street, Downtown

For 30 years, Los Angeles' first subway tunnel allowed the Pacific Electric's Red Cars to bypass the traffic of Downtown's surface streets and sped up the travel times to places like Burbank, Santa Monica or the San Fernando Valley before it was abandoned in 1955. Soon after, the area surrounding the tunnel portal and adjacent electric power substation became blighted and a haven for the homeless and graffiti artists, while the tunnel itself became part garbage dump, part urban spelunking adventure (The Militant has been in the tunnel before). In 2007, a large apartment building designed for upscale, gentrifying types was built on the site of the Red Car yard, thus blocking the tunnel and dashing any hopes of it being revived as part of our modern rail system (it's been holding up well structurally for nearly 60 years without any maintenance whatsoever). But if you look at the back of the property, you can see the boarded-up tunnel with an artistic homage to its former purpose (and do browse the apartment building's lobby for some PE photos and diagrams).

13. Vista Hermosa Natural Park
100 N. Toluca Street, Echo Park

The Militant loves to poke fun at the failures of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but once in a while, those failures turn out to be wonderful things. Take for instance the Belmont Learning Center, at one time the LAUSD’s costliest boondoggle, which was stalled and scaled back due to environmental concerns (there used to be oil wells around here). The school district gave up a portion of its land to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, who in turn built a really beautiful oasis of California native plants and a killer view of the DTLA skyline. The Militant covered its opening back in 2008. It’s more than worth visiting during CicLAvia, or at any other time.

14. Historic Filipinotown Gateway
Beverly Boulevard between Belmont Avenue and Glendale Boulevard

October is recognized as "Filipino American History Month," so appropriately, the Filipino community, comprising of roughly half a million in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, is the largest Asian group in the City of Los Angeles. People of Philippine ancestry have been living in Los Angeles since the early 1900s, originally concentrated in an area once called "Little Manila," where Little Tokyo is today. The community migrated westward along the Temple corridor as it grew, and later spread into other communities like Eagle Rock, East Hollywood and parts of the San Fernando Valley (particularly Panorama City), especially after larger waves of immigration came starting in the mid-1960s. The Historic Filipinotown neighborhood still contains major institutions in the community such as businesses, nonprofit organizations and churches, which prompted its formal designation by the City in 2002. Twenty years later, a large $750,000 gateway arch over Beverly Boulevard, designed by artist Eliso Silva with Philippine cultural elements was dedicated in May 2022, and it looks even nicer when lit up at night.

15. Echo Park Recreation Center
c. Early 1900s
Glendale Boulevard at Temple Street

You might pass this tennis court and nearby swimming pool every day and wonder, "Who the hell would put a tennis court/swimming pool right next to a freeway?" Well, no one put them next to a freeway, but they put the freeway next to them. Before 1948, Echo Park wasn't just a pretty little lake with lotus flowers and paddle boats, but it was a park park, with recreation facilities and everything. It stretched as south as Temple Street. But it stood in the path of the almighty Cahuenga Parkway (now the Hollywood Freeway, or "The 101"), which cut the park in two. Hmm. That sounds familiar...Pictured is the park (with Temple Street in the foreground - notice the trolley and horses and buggies(!) in 1909.

• South Spur to Broadway Theatre District:

16. Bradbury Building
304 S. Broadway, Downtown

A building that's famously meh on the outside, but OMG from the inside, this building has been featured in movies from Chinatown to Blade Runner to 500 Days of Summer. Designed by Sumner Hunt and modified by George Wyman, this 5-story structure was designed to look like the 21st century from 19th century eyes. Despite the ahead-of-its-time design, this building has nothing to do with sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, but was named after developer and 1800s rich dude Lewis Bradbury.

17. Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway, Downtown

Everyone knows this is Los Angeles' premier public marketplace, and the Militant probably doesn't need to include this since you may or may nor already be getting your Eggslut on (The Militant, on the other hand, prefers tacos and tortas from Roast To Go, and will incite a riot in the event that eatery is kicked out by gentrification). Over 100 years old and still going strong!

18. Biddy Mason Park
331 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

Born as a slave in Georgia, Bridget "Biddy" Mason was a renaissance woman of her time. Having followed Mormon settlers west, she gained her freedom when California became a slavery-free Union state. As a nurse, she founded the first child care center in Los Angeles and later became a lucrative property owner and philanthropist, having founded the First AME Church, now a major institution in Los Angeles' African American community. She died in 1891 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. A century after her passing, this mini-park in DTLA, on the site of her house, was built and dedicated.

19. Broadway-Spring Arcade Building
541 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

This unique building is actually three, opened in 1924 on the site of Mercantile Place, a 40-foot street cut between 4th and 5th streets connecting Broadway and Spring. Mercantile Place was a popular shopping and gathering locale in the early 1900s. Having fallen into decay by the 1970s, it was recently renovated and is now famous for, some of the newest, hottest eateries in town (Guisados DTLA is located here, BTW). It also becomes an artistic venue during the DTLA ArtWalk.

20. Clifton's Cafeteria 
648 S. Broadway, Downtown

The sole survivor of 10 kitschy and theatrical themed cafeterias founded by Clifford Clinton around Southern California (and now you know what inspired the Fry's Electronics stores), this location known as Brookdale, was the second in the chain and the most iconic. The current incarnation of the restaurant opened in 2015 after half a decade of renovation by new owner Andrew Meieran, who kinda made it quasi-hipsterfied, but at least preserved the decor even though the food costs like twice as much as it used to. But do go down to the basement level, near the restrooms, just to glance at the world's oldest continuously-lit neon light.

• North Spur to Chinatown:

21. U.S. Federal Courthouse
145 S. Broadway, Downtown

This big glass cube that is responsible for blocking your view of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline from Grand Park used to be a hole in the ground was once the site of the Junipero Serra State Office Building, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and abandoned and demolished in 1998. This 10-story, 400-foot-tall U.S. Federal Courthouse building (don't we already have a few of those?), designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, opened in 2016. Do check out the embossed bald eagle situated over the main entrance on 1st Street.

22. Site of 1910 Los Angeles Times Bombing
Northeast corner of Broadway and 1st Street, Downtown

This longtime empty lot, previously identified in this CicLAvia tour as the foundation of a state office building condemned after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake has some additional history. It was recently dissevered to be the location of the 1910 bombing of the (then) Los Angeles Times building, which happened 104 years ago this week. The dynamite bombing was discovered to have been the work of Ortie McManigal and brothers John and James McNamara, all affiliated with the Iron Workers Union,  in what was meant to protest the newspaper's staunchly anti-union practices. 21 people died when the 16 sticks of dynamite exploded just outside the building at 1:07 a.m. on October 1, 1910, the explosion was exacerbated by natural gas lines which blew up a large section of the building. The Times since built a new building in its place, and later relocated across 1st Street to its current location. The lot is being readied for an expansion of Grand Park.

23. Site of Court Flight
1904 (demolished 1943)
Broadway between Temple and Hill streets, Downtown

You all know Angels Flight, but it's time to pay tribute to the city's other funicular, its cousin to the northeast, Court Flight. Built in 1904, it went up the northern end of Bunker Hill and was next to a former road called Court Street, hence its name. Even shorter than its more famous cousin at 200 feet, it ran steeper at a height of 200 feet. It was burned by a fire in 1943 and never reconstructed. The hill was eventually chipped away. The north side of the stairways going up to the Court of Flags (wonder if that was intentional there) in today's Grand Park is the precise location of ol' Courty.

24. Hall Of Justice
Temple Street and Broadway, Downtown

No, you won't find Superman or any of the Super Friends here.  But this building, the oldest surviving government building in the Los Angeles Civic Center, was built in the mid-1920s as the original Los Angeles County Courthouse and Central Jail (which once housed the likes of Busy Siegel, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson), as well as the headquarters for the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney and the County Coroner. This Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Allied Architects Association, an all-star team of local architects put together to design publicly-funded buildings. The building is currently undergoing a major renovation project to modernize the facilities and repair damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. It is now a LEED Gold Certified building (gotta be sustainable, y'all), following a 2015 restoration.

25. Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial
451 N. Hill St, Downtown

Way, way, waaaaay back before we had tall building and freeways, Downtown Los Angeles (well Los Angeles, period back then) had a bunch of hills, Bunker Hill being the most famed one. There was also Fort Hill, the site of a Mexican-American War encampment. On July 4, 1847 the facility was called Fort Moore (and the hill Fort Moore Hill), after Captain Benjamin D. Moore of the U.S. 1st Dragoons regiment, who was killed six months earlier in a battle near San Diego. The 1st Dragoons and the Mormon Batallion established the new fort and raised the U.S. flag during the first-ever observed Independence Day in Los Angeles. This event was immortalized in a bas-relief stone monument made in the 1950s. Speaking of forts, the very street you're riding (or walking, or skating, or scootering, or stand-up-paddling, or pogo-sticking) was once called "Fort Street," which inevitably led to directional problems some six blocks south of here. The monument also includes a fountain, which was shut off in 1977...due to the drought at the time, but revived in 2018 after a massive renovation. So where's the actual hill, you ask? It was bulldozed away in the late 1940s to make room for the 101 Freeway.

26. Chinatown Gateway Monument
Broadway and Cesar E. Chavez. Avenue, Chinatown

Designed to be the symbolic entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown District, The Chinatown Gateway Monument, a.k.a. the Twin Dragon Towers Gateway, depicts two dragons grabbing at a central pearl, which symbolizes luck, prosperity, and longevity. The 25-foot-tall structure was put up in 2001 and occasionally emanates steam coming from the dragons' mouths. Unlike Anglo dragons, the creatures in Chinese folklore are the good guys, meant to scare away evil spirits.

27. Capitol Milling Company
1231 N. Spring St, Chinatown

One of the last visible vestiges of Los Angeles' agricultural industry, this family-owned flour mill operated from 1831 to 1997, before moving its operation to a much larger facility in Colton. The facility that still stands today was built in 1883. The mill supplied flour to clients such as Ralphs, Foix French Bakery and La Brea Bakery. In 1999, the family-owned operation was purchased by industry giant Con-Agra Co. The historic building - the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles, built even before the railroads arrived in Los Angeles, still has a horse-tethering ring, back to the days when grain was hauled by horse carriage from farms in the San Fernando Valley. The eight-building complex, now owned by the Rivoli family (who owns the San Antonio Winery across the river), underwent a massive renovation completed in 2020 so that the 19th century facility can live on in the 21st century as office, retail and restaurant spaces.

28. Old (New?) Chinatown Central Plaza
Gin Ling Way between Broadway and Hill, Chintown

The northern terminus of CicLAvia is no stranger to public events; it was made for them. In the Summer it hosted three very popular Chinatown Summer Nights events. But don't let the "Old Chinatown" neon sign fool you -- This is actually Los Angeles' new Chinatown, which dates back to the 1930s. The real Old Chinatown was several blocks south, where a thriving community of Cantonese-speaking immigrants lived near the river, north of Aliso Street. Of course, they were kicked out in the early '30s to make room for Union Station. So they moved a few blocks north, in the former Little Italy, and they've been there ever since. Well, not really, since some of them moved east to the San Gabriel Valley and were supplemented with Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China. But you get the idea.

Happy CicLAvia, Los Angeles! Enjoy stay safe, GO DODGERS and STAY MILITANT!

Friday, October 7, 2022

Hey, What's (K)ookin: The Militant's Epic Metro K Line Food Guide!

Interactive Map! Click here for larger version.

K, so you've ridden Metro's brand spanking new light rail line. And you've just learned about 19 points of interest along the route from some Militant guy on teh Interwebz. Now what?

Fortunately, the Metro K Line runs down a corridor full of wonderful eating options. From hot dogs to desserts to soul food to ice cream, and even a nice microbrew, there's lots of culinary discoveries to be found along the K.

All of the eateries listed are independently-owned/run eateries. No chains, unless it's of local origin or significance. All listings are within a half-mile (6-block) walk of a Metro K Line station (And although it wasn't a requirement for this list, all but two of these businesses just happen to be Black-owned).

The listings for the Leimert Park and Downtown Inglewood station areas just barely scratch the surface; those two areas (especially the latter) could warrant their own location-specific food guides of their own. And surely the K Line will bring in new eateries within the foreseeable future. This guide is by no means comprehensive - it's just a starting guide to the bevy of restaurants accessible along the Metro K Line.

Expo/Crenshaw Station:

This place is nuts!

NE Conway Peanuts
3818 Crenshaw Blvd, Crenshaw District
Open Mon-Sat, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Closed Sun

There isn't too much in the way of street food along this stretch of Crenshaw, but this converted U-Haul truck parked near the Crenshaw Square shopping center sign sells hot roasted peanuts by the bag. Though unsalted, they're freshly roasted that day and taste like nothing else. Where else in Los Angeles can you find hot, roasted peanuts on the street? Steven Conway, the vendor who has been operating this business for nearly 20 years is here 6 afternoons a week (closed Sunday) and also sells pre-packaged peanut brittle, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and pistachios.

Earle's On Crenshaw - the place to be on a Saturday!

Earle's On Crenshaw
3864 Crenshaw Boulevard, Crenshaw District
Open Tue-Sat, 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Closed Sun

Brothers Cary and Duane Earle have been in the hot dog business since 1984, operating a street cart that became a brick-and-mortar presence on Crenshaw since 1992. Excellent hot dogs (standard, turkey and vegan options), chili dogs (standard and vegan) and chili fries.

Turkey Dog with onions, mustard and sauerkraut (L) and Vegan Chili Fries (R).

Extra props to the establishment who literally sacrificed themselves for the K Line (their previous location was demolished to build the Expo/Crenshaw K Line station up the street), so show them some love! Duane is a frequent presence who even serves and works the cash register. In the '90s he was also known as Don Jagwarr, the ragamuffin MC who guested on Ice Cube's 1992 track "Wicked." Don't come Sundays, since they're closed, but do come on Saturday afternoons - it's a literal party atmosphere with DJs and lowriders outside on the parking lot!

Martin Luther King Jr. Station:

Sweet cuppin' cakes! Southern Girl Desserts' Sweet Potato (L) and Red Velvet (R) cupcakes.

Southern Girl Desserts
3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 100 (in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 1st Floor, near Sears)
Open Tue-Sun 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Mon

Though the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza has a requisite shopping mall food court, it's best to skip it altogether and head towards the south side of the mall on the ground floor where you can find Southern Girl Desserts. Run by Florida natives Catarah Coleman and Shoneji Robison (who call themselves "The Dessert Divas"), they won Food Network's Cupcake Wars competition with their signature Chicken & Waffle Cupcake and used their experience in cupcake warfare to open Southern Girl Desserts. Other cupcake flavors of note are Hennessy & Coke, Pecan Pie and Peach Cobbler. They also have standard (and still really excellent) standard cupcake varieties like Red Velvet, Sweet Potato, Double Chocolate and Vanilla. Speaking of Sweet Potato Pie, they also serve up some of that as well as Pecan Pies in mini sizes, and for full-size pies, you have to order in advance. They also make excellent cakes and cookies.

Post & Beam
3767 Santa Rosalia Dr, Crenshaw District
Open Wed-Sat, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

This acclaimed Californian-meets-Soul-Food-fusion spot located behind Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is all the rage for Sunday brunch and evening Happy Hours.

Leimert Park Station:

All Chill Ice Cream
3415 W 43rd Place, Leimert Park
Open Sat-Sun 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Closed Mon-Fri

Located just steps from the K Line Leimert Park station entrance (turn left) is All Chill
, which bills themselves as a "Hip-Hop Ice Cream Shop." No, you won't find gimmicky-named flavors like "The Notorious F.I.G." or anything like that, but they do serve unique "craft"-style flavors (the Whiskey Praline is a MUST here) in a store setting that doubles as a hip-hop memorabilia museum, replete with concert posters, photographs and artwork adorning the walls. In business since 2020, they're open weekends only, so you might not see them during the K Line's opening day, but if you're here for the African Marketplace on Sundays (which has a collection of notable food stalls in itself), definitely check them out.

Ackee Bamboo
4305 Degnan Blvd. Suite 100, Leimert Park
Open Tue-Thu, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sun 11:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Mon

Open since 2004, this has been The Militant's go-to for Jamaican food in Leimert Park. The Jerk Chicken (and other variations) are excellent here, as with their Jamaican Patties appetizers. But their vegetarian dishes are worth trying as well, especially their Jackfruit and namesake Ackee (Jamaica's national fruit) selections.

Hyde Park Station:

The Jordan's power trio right here: Chiller Diller (L), Chili Cheese Fries (C), Chili Cheese Dog (R).

Jordan's Hot Dogs
5960 Crenshaw Blvd, Hyde Park
Open Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Closed Sun

As you can see, hot dogs are a thing not just along Crenshaw but in this part of town. Just a couple miles southeast of here stood the legendary Art's Famous Chili Dogs on Florence and Normandie from 1939 until two years ago. Jordan's (which closed their doors during Art's closing day in March 2020 out of respect) carries the chili dog torch in this sector of South Los Angeles. With a far more robust menu than the specialty-based Earle's up the street, Jordan's also serves burgers, patty melts, BLTs and pastrami sandwiches. When in doubt, get the classic Harriet's Special, a chili dog and chili cheese fries combo. And if you're not already chili-cheese'd out, the Chilli Cheese Fritos are a must as well. And do try their Chiller Diller, a combination slush/ice cream shake fusion in various fruit flavors.

Woody's Bar-B-Q
3446 Slauson Ave, Hyde Park
Open Fri-Sun, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

It's pretty hard to beat this Southern-style pit BBQ institution that's more than worth the wait in line for. Serving up barbecue ribs, chicken, beef and links, along with the mandatory sides since 1975, every Angeleno needs to go to Woody's at least once in their life. If you're not here to pick up a massive platter for your party or gathering, then a sandwich or lunch special will still suffice, at least more than enough. 

Fairview Heights Station:

Your Bakery

6525 West Blvd, Inglewood
Open Mon-Sat, 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Closed Sun

Just five blocks up West Blvd from the Fairview Heights station is this no-frills neighborhood bakery that specializes in Bean, Cheese and various fruit (Pineapple, Blueberry, Lemon, Apple and Cherry) Pies. They also sell cakes, cookies and Monkey Bread.

Downtown Inglewood Station:

Red's Flavor Table

254 N. Market Street, Unit A, Inglewood
Open Wed-Sun, 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Closed Mon-Tue

For you early risers, this Louisiana/Southern breakfast establishment run by Creole chef Marilyn "Red" Wallace has got what you want and more just across Florence from the Downtown Inglewood station. There's no dine-in service; the food is take-out (you can call in your order or order online for pick-up), but there are outdoor tables for eating. Their Jambalaya Omelet is considerably-sized and can probably suffice as the only meal you'll have that day.

The Sammiche Shoppe
222 Regent St, Inglewood
Open Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Sat-Sun

Just two blocks south of the Metro K Line station, Downtown Inglewood has their very own sandwich deli and it's pretty awesome. Home of their signature  Lucy Mae Air Fried Chicken Sammiche, their soups, salads and smoothies are also well-regarded.

Note: Downtown Inglewood has a large number of restaurants within walking distance south of the K Line station, including Inglewood branches of Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen and Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen (the main Dulan's on Crenshaw is currently closed for rebuilding/remodeling), as well as a number of African and Carribbean restaurants worth checking out.
Westchester/Veterans Station:

Randy's Donuts
805 W. Manchester Blvd, Inglewood
Open 24 Hours

Needs no introduction.

Mr. Fries Man

1120 W. Florence Ave, Suite C, Inglewood
Open Mon-Thu, 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.

Although it's rapidly grown to a national franchised chain of 34 locations, this eatery, which specializes in loaded french fry (and The Militant means loaded) dishes had its humble beginnings just 6 years ago in Gardena. Owned by spouses-entrepreneurs Craig and Dorothy Batiste, Mr. Fries Man began in 2016 as a food truck whose loaded fries gained viral popularity via the Instagram platform. With around eight locations in Southern California, this is only one of two that are Metro-accessible (the other is their USC location on Figueroa, just south of the Metro E Line Expo Park/USC station).

Three Weavers Brewing Company
1031 W. Manchester Blvd, A-B, Inglewood
Open Mon-Thu, 3 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Fri-Sun, 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.

So you've arrived at the end of the K Line. Now what? You can't visit the airport (yet), you can't tranfer to another Metro line (yet). So what's to do out here? Well, you cross Florence Avenue at Hindry, walk one block west to Isis Avenue and have some brews at this local craft brewery with over a dozen beers on tap and enjoy them in the outdoor dog-friendly beer garden. There's no food served here but food trucks are parked outside regularly.

Whatup! Did you enjoy this food guide? Are you excited to try out some of the eateries listed here? Kindly show The Militant some support via his PayPal donation page! A Militant's gotta eat, ya know (and your support will guarantee there will be more of these food guides to come)!

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Militant's Epic Metro K Line Tour!

It's been an entire decade since a totally new Metro Rail line opened (The Metro Expo Line in April 2012). Since then, the game (and name) has changed - Metro is transitioning away from color names in favor of letters of the alphabet. This is the first Metro Rail line to open under the new letter-name format. So what was once known as the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project and would have been known in some alternate universe as the Metro Pink Line is now the Metro K Line. K?

The new line opens on Friday, October 7, 2022 - just in time for the epic Taste of Soul food and music festival on Crenshaw next Saturday (Metro is a major sponsor). It's been a looooooong (rail) road to get to this point (the much-delayed line broke ground in 2014), and the line isn't even completed yet - only six miles will be usable starting Friday, with the line ending at the Westchester/Veterans station. The construction of the game-changing LAX Automated People Mover which crosses the K Line is the main reason for the hold-up of the last 25% of the route. So you'll have to wait until 2024 to get The Whole Shebang.

Fortunately, there's still lots of places to go, see and do on this 6.5-mile stretch of light rail, which will come in all flavors (subway, at-grade and aerial). And true to Militant fashion, The Militant Angeleno has composed another special Epic guide, this time featuring 19 points of interest along and near the Metro K Line route. Y'all get ready, K?

Expo/Crenshaw Station:

1. West Angeles Church
3600 Crenshaw Blvd, Crenshaw District

One of the largest and most influential African American faith communities in Los Angeles, West Angeles Church of God in Christ was founded in 1943 by Clarence E. Church, originally located in the West Adams neighborhood. Charles E. Blake, the current pastor, succeeded Church in 1969 and grew its congregation to over 24,000. West Angeles Church moved to 3045 Crenshaw Blvd in 1981, taking over a former furniture store. In 1994 the church created the nonprofit West Angeles Community Development Corporation as a community service outreach ministry, dedicated to serving at-risk youth, developing housing in the area and tending to the needs of the community's low-income and homeless residents. The current large church building, known as "the Cathedral" was built in 1999. Stevie Wonder is known to sing and play with their renowned gospel choir during Sunday services. During the week, the church also lends their parking structure to Metro for use to rail commuters.

2. Metro E Line/Santa Monica Air Line
Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards, Los Angeles

The last new line to open, the Metro E Line (a.k.a. The Metro Light Rail Line Formerly Known As the Expo Line), opened to similar fanfare a decade ago (and The Militant thusly made a similar Epic Guide to that line). As you may or may not know, the line was a Pacific Electric line in its past life (1909-1953) as one of four Red Car lines between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Though of the four, it was the least-used (and had limited service due to it doubling as a freight line to serve various industries en route), it was the fastest one from Downtown to the ocean. A little bit of the Metro E Line's Pacific Electric history is reflected in the station art - look at the old Santa Monica Air Line map artwork on the floor of the station platforms.

3. Obama Boulevard
Obama Boulevard between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Gramercy Pl

Originally named Rodeo Road in 1911, presumably to honor the history of cattle ranchers of the area, most specifically those of nearby Rancho La Brea. After living in the confusing shadow of the more opulent Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills since the 1920s, the street was officially re-named and re-dedicated "President Barack Obama Boulevard" in a public ceremony and festival on May 4, 2019, in honor of the 44th (and first African American) president of the United States, who made one of his first presidential campaign appearances at Rancho Cienega Park on February 20, 2007. The street is nestled south of Washington, Adams and Jefferson boulevards, and intersects with Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It joins 16 other thoroughfares nationwide named after Obama.

4. Ken Clark Pontiac/Majestic Pontiac Sign
3740 Crenshaw Blvd, Crenshaw District

Although Crenshaw supported a streetcar line south of Vernon, the thoroughfare north of it had always been auto-centric in nature and design. From the late 1930s to 2000, The 'Shaw was once home to an auto row, boasting car dealerships such as Crenshaw Ford, Harry Mann Chevrolet (once the largest Corvette dealer in the US), O'Connor Lincoln-Mercury and Peterson Oldsmobile. The last of the lot, so to speak, was Majestic Pontiac, at Crenshaw and Coliseum. Originally Ken Clark Pontiac from 1952 to 1960, the business was sold and became Majestic Pontiac. The dealership's telltale neon sign with the Pontiac Indian logo was an icon on the boulevard, much like how Felix Chevrolet's cartoon cat smiles over Figueroa today. The dealership closed for good in 2000 and the lot was converted into a shopping center soon afterward. But the original 1952 sign still remains, Pontiac Indian head intact, this time adapted to bear the signage of Big 5 Sporting Goods and Goodwill Industries.

5. Black Dahlia Body Site
3825 S. Norton Ave, Crenshaw District

On the morning of January 15, 1947, the mutilated body of 22 year-old waitress Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. "The Black Dahlia" - the victim of arguably the most famous unsolved murder case in Los Angeles history - was discovered on this site (at the time an empty lot; the house was not built until 1956) by a local woman walking with her young daughter. Short, a transplant from Boston who was reportedly an aspiring actress, was missing the week prior to the discovery of her body, and the case garnered national headlines due to the gory details of her murder. The LAPD's investigation yielded over 150 suspects but no arrests. The cultural intrigue surrounding Short's death became a huge influence on the 1940s 'Los Angeles Noir' phenomenon.

Martin Luther King Jr. Station:

6. Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
3650 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Crenshaw District

Originally known as the Broadway-Crenshaw Center, it opened on November 21, 1947 as one of the first auto-centric regional shopping centers in the US. The Streamline Moderne shopping center, designed by Albert B. Gardner, was home to a 5-story Broadway department store, a Vons supermarket and a Woolworth's discount store. In 1949, a Silverwoods clothing store opened, and the landmark bridge over MLK (then known as Santa Barbara Avenue) was built to connect with the existing 1947 May Company building on the north side of the street. Today's version of the shopping center came about during a late 1980s remodel.

7. Sanchez Adobe
3725 Don Felipe Drive, Baldwin Hills

In the streets behind the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza stands what may or may be the oldest building in Los Angeles. The crown was long believed to belong to the 203 year-old 1818 Avila Adobe on Olvera Street, but further historical research in 2012 revealed that this structure, originally part of Rancho La Cienega o Paso de la Tijera, dates back some 50 years prior to when it was deeded to Don Vicente Sanchez in 1843, making it around 230 years old.  The building was later owned by Baldwin Hills' namesake Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin, who brought freed slaves to work in his homestead after the Civil War. The historic structure - 30 feet wide and two stories tall - has been integrated into a large single-story building built in 1927. It is currently home to Agape Church of Los Angeles.

Leimert Park Station:

8. African Marketplace & Drum Circle (Sundays)
c. 2010
Degnan Blvd between 43rd Street and 43rd Place, Leimert Park

What can The Militant say about Leimert Park? The heart and soul of Los Angeles' African American community can warrant an Epic Guide of its own. From iconic institutions like the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center to the jazz-centric World Stage to Eso Won Books, to the eponymous city park that has been the site of countless celebrations, rallies, demonstrations and memorials over the years,  where the annual Kingdom Day Parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day ends up. It's what the late filmmaker and Los Angeles native John Singleton once described as "The Greenwich Village of  L.A.'s Black Community." The true flavor of Leimert Park happens every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. when Degnan Boulevard is transformed to an outdoor street market which had its origins in the annual Labor Day weekend African Art & Music Festival which lasted from the early 1990s to 2009, and then soon evolved into the weekly bazaar which features African and African American clothing and craft vendors and Southern, African and Jamaican food stalls. And there's a drum circle too.

9. Site of 1932 Olympic Village
Mt. Vernon and Olympiad drives, View Park

The site of the first Olympic Village in the modern Olympic era was located right here in the Baldwin Hills. Some 1,836 male athletes representing 56 nations resided in this oval-shaped temporary community during the Games of the Xth Olympiad, living in 550 (24x10') O.G. Tiny Houses designed by H.O. Davis (the women stayed at the old Chapman Park Hotel in Mid-Wilshire). The $500,000 village also featured dining halls, a movie theater, a radio station, post office, medical and dental facilities and an administration office. After the games, the portable O.G. Tiny Houses were quickly sold for $140 each (that's $3,047 in 2022 dollars - not bad at all!) or $217 with furnishings (that's still $4,648 today - still a bargain) - a hot item during the Great Depression. One of the O.G. Tiny Houses can still be seen on Olvera Steeet.

10. Angeles Vista Boulevard
Angeles Vista Blvd, View Park

If there's ever a street in Los Angeles that truly lives up to its name, it's this one. From the Leimert Park Station, head up Olympiad Drive, follow the road fork left onto Angeles Vista Blvd, and walk up to the desired height. Then turn around 180 degrees and you'll see a sweet view of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline.

11. Destination Crenshaw
Crenshaw Boulevard corridor between Leimert Park and Hyde Park

A unique 1.3-mile outdoor art gallery featuring permanent and temporary works, integrated with pocket parks, street furniture and landscaping makes up Destination Crenshaw. Designed by Zena Howard, the project, slated to open in 2023, will highlight the art, stories, creative energy and rich African American and African cultural heritage of the Crenshaw Corridor. The focal point of this linear art project is the triangular Sankofa Park, sandwiched between Vernon Avenue and the northern tunnel portal of the Metro K Line, where many of the structures of Destination Crenshaw are already visible.  

12. L.A. Railway 5 Line Right Of Way
Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 67th streets

Like its older sibling the Metro E Line, the Metro K Line also has historic rail transit heritage through most of its route. From 1902 to 1955, the Los Angeles Railway (later Los Angeles Transit Lines) operated the 5 Line between Eagle Rock and Hawthorne (via Downton Los Angeles), the longest in its system. It is one of the main reasons for Crenshaw Boulevard's large width, which help allowed it to accommodate a modern light rail line today. Today's K Line runs along the same alignment as the 5 Line from Leimert Blvd's termination at Crenshaw Blvd down to Market Street in Inglewood, where it veered south down La Brea Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard. Pictured is a 5 Line car in 1954 at Crenshaw and 54th Street.

Hyde Park Station:

13. Nipsey Hussle Square
Crenshaw Blvd & Slauson Avenue, Hyde Park

No single person is more representative of this Hyde Park neighborhood than the late rapper Ermias "Nipsey Hussle" Asghedom. A native of the area, he joined the local Crips-affiliated gang in his teens, but experienced a cultural awakening after his father took him on a trip to his native east African country of Eritrea. He left the gangsta life to become a rapper in the mid-2000s and the rest is history. He opened his own clothing store, The Marathon, on 3420 Slauson and had designs to not only own more businesses and property in the neighborhood, but to empower local youth to work and eventually become local entrepreneurs themselves. But that history ended on March 31, 2019 when Hussle was shot and killed at age 33 in his store's parking lot by an acquaintance with a personal beef. The store and the adjoining mini-mall remain closed but fans and friends have turned the sidewalk along Slauson into a mini-street bazaar selling Nipsey Hussle-based clothing and merchandise. The rapper has also been immortalized in several murals within a one-mile radius of the intersection, notably Auto Tech Collision Center (3475 Slauson - Pictured), Fatburger (5817 Crenshaw), U.S. Bank (5760 Crenshaw), a residential wall (5951 Brynhurst Avenue) and a large basketball court-sized mural on the parking lot of Crete Academy/St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (Crenshaw & 60th Street). The Marathon Continues...

Fairview Heights Station:

14. Aguaje de Centinela (Centinela Springs)
600 Park Ave, Inglewood (Next to Willie Agee Playhouse at Edward Vincent Jr. Park)

A natural artesian spring known to have been flowing since the Ice Age on this very site was the namesake of the Mexican-era rancho (Rancho Aguaje de la Centinela) that existed before Canadian-born land developer Daniel Freeman named it after his hometown in Ontario. The springs hydrated wooly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, the indigenous Tongva people, Mexican ranchers and American farmers and settlers. The stone monument to the spring, erected in 1939 stands today, adjacent to a monument signifying the springs' status as a California Registered Historical Landmark (#363). A working fountain with water basins was once incorporated as part of the monument but it was shut off in the 1970s. The spring still functions, albeit underground.

15. Inglewood Park Cemetery
720 E. Florence Ave, Inglewood

This 200-acre memorial park was once the largest cemetery in California. And when the Los Angeles Railway's 5 Line ran just outside its gates, they even had their own funeral car for those who wished to take that one last trolley ride into eternity (the mission-style structure near the northwest corner of the cemetery was once an L.A. Railway power substation). Notable rest-idents here include Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, music legends Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald, boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, architect Paul R. Williams, actors Cesar Romero and William "Buckwheat" Thomas, actress Betty Grable and O.J. Simpson trial lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian. The Militant featured Inglewood Park Cemetery on This Here Blog in November, 2011.

Downtown Inglewood Station:

16. Market Street Shopping District
Market Street between Florence and La Brea avenues, Inglewood

Inglewood's "main street" since its incorporation in 1908, Market Street (which carried the L.A. Railway's 5 Line tracks south after diverging from its Florence Avenue right-of-way) saw its heyday between the 1920s and 1940s. After suffering a decline period between the 1960s and 1990s, it's since been beautified and rejuvenated with various specialty stores, restaurants, cafes and art galleries. Though the "G-Word" is a concern due to the arrival of the Metro K Line, nearby SoFi Stadium and the future Intuit Dome, the number of existing and successful community-owned and Black-owned businesses in the Downtown Inglewood area might just keep the worst fears at bay. If you want to see a small-town Main Street vibe near the Metro, then Market Street is the place.

17. The 405 Freeway
405 Freeway at Manchester Avenue

You know The 405. Nothing to see here, except to take the opportunity to look out the window and marvel at all those cars stuck in traffic, while you're not in it.

Westchester/Veterans Station:

18. Westchester Playhouse

8301 Hindry Avenue, Westchester

This former warehouse building was transformed into a 112-seat live theater venue thanks to the renowned theater company The Kentwood Players (billed as "L.A.'s Most Professional Amateur Theater Group"). Where else can one see community theater at an affordable price (tickets are in the $20 range), accessible by the Metro?

19. Randy's Donuts
805 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood

It's as iconically Los Angeles as an Original Tommy's chiliburger, a Philippe French Dip, a Langer's Pastrami Sandwich and an El Tepeyac burrito. It's a big-ass concrete-and-steel donut by the freeway, what more can you ask? What started out in 1952 as a local branch of the Big Do-Nut chain (known for big-ass donuts on their roofs) designed by Henry J. Goodwin, it became known as Randy's (the son of the shop's first owner, Robert Eskow) in 1976, and the rest is history. Today, the 24-hour donut icon has grown to a dozen locations in Southern California, plus one in Las Vegas, and locations in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

...that's it for now. As far as this train goes.

There are two stations still under construction - LAX/Metro Transit Center (opening 2024) which will interface with the long-awaited LAX Automatic People Mover, and the Aviation/Century station (opening 2023). The Militant will update this post when the line is fully completed. Until then, get your Kicks on the K Line!

RELATED: Wanna know where to eat along the new Metro K Line? The Militant has a few recommendations.

Whatup! Did you enjoy this post? Did you learn something new from it? Kindly show The Militant some support via his PayPal donation page! A Militant's gotta eat, ya know (those MRE Rations don't exactly get glowing Yelp reviews...)!

Extra special thanks for your support:

Margaret Wehbi
Daniel Pouliot