LOS ANGELES — Members of the Los Angeles City Council highlighted the entrepreneurs behind their favorite immigrant-run eateries June 10, offering a culinary map of the city that includes Oaxacan cuisine, Persian-style Mediterranean food and North African-influenced tacos.
The variety of cuisines offered by the businesses were recognized at an event declaring June as Immigrant Heritage Month, prompting City Councilwoman Nury Martinez to quip, “I will eat my way through the city.”
Some of the business owners attributed their success to their ability to give their customers a taste of their homeland. Omar Limon, who co-owns Raspado Xpress with his brother Oscar, said their use of real fruit in their Mexican snow cones appeals “to the Latinos who actually know what to expect, and they expect fresh stuff.”
They set up their first Raspado cart in 2001 in Pacoima and quickly saw their lines grow to 35-minute waits, prompting the Limon family to open a permanent location across the street.
But because they arrived in the country illegally, and had no credit, they could not obtain a business loan. Instead, they spent all of their savings — and borrowed from family, friends and neighbors — to open their brick-and-mortar shop, the 32-year-old Limon said.
The stories shared also came from some very recent immigrants.
Saeid Malek, 36, who is a waiter at Safir Mediterranean Cuisine, accepted the commendation for his employer, Matt Barani. Malek said he came to the United States nearly three years ago, leaving behind his print shop business.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t continue that shop here,” he said, but added he has come to love his job at the restaurant, where he frequently interacts with people from different cultures.
The establishments recognized included many that have donated to local causes, and are active in their communities, as well as some that appear to be regularly frequented by the council members themselves.
City Council President Herb Wesson featured Jenee Kim, the owner of Park’s BBQ, a Korean barbecue restaurant that he said is his go-to for staff lunches and holiday parties.
Wesson gave Kim’s restaurant high praise, calling it “one of the best Korean restaurants west of the Mississippi.”
Councilman Gil Cedillo, who hosted the Immigrant Heritage Month presentation, asked his colleagues to feature their district’s best immigrant-run restaurants.
Cedillo said it was “poignant” to see Wesson, a black Los Angeles City Council president, introducing a “Korean entrepreneur,” given the fraught relationship between the two cultural groups that had once been on display during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Cedillo said he hopes the stories of immigrant business people — who he described as “risk-takers” — will provide a “sharp and realistic” contrast to the “bigotry and racism and hatred that is being espoused by Donald Trump.”
The eateries that received commendations were:
• Las Cazuelas Restaurant & Pupuseria, a Highland Park restaurant owned by El Salvadoran immigrants from Cedillo’s 1st Council District.
• Salsa and Beer, a Jerez Zacatecas-style Mexican restaurant in Councilman Paul Krekorian’s 2nd District.
• Safir Mediterranean Cuisine, in Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s 3rd District.
• Igloo Parlor, an ice cream shop in Sherman Oaks owned by an Armenian immigrant, from Councilman David Ryu’s 4th District.
• Delphi Greek, a restaurant owned by an Iranian immigrant, from Councilman Paul Koretz’s 5th District.
• Centro Botanero Mazatlan, a restaurant in Sun Valley focused on healthy cooking that uses the cactus plant and other cooking methods of Mexican indigenous peoples, from Martinez’s 6th District.
• Raspado Xpress, which has a dozen locations but started in Councilman Felipe Fuentes’ 7th District.
• Revolutionario, a taco shop operated by Algerian-American chef Farid Zadi, who blends North African and Mexican cooking methods, from Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s 8th District.
• A business specializing in tlayudas and other Oaxacan cooking, operated by Alfonso Martinez, in Councilman Curren Price’s 9th District.
• Park’s BBQ, in Wesson’s 10th District.
• Yuca’s, a Mexican restaurant that has been widely featured, including on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s 13th District.
• La Parrilla, a Mexican restaurant in Boyle Heights from Councilman Jose Huizar’s 14th District.
• And Joseph’s Bakery, an Italian-American pastry shop in Councilman Joe’s Buscaino’s 15th District.