Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weekend Wine Break - Homegirl Cafe Review

Today's post is wine-free. The Mrs. and I ate lunch at a place that I felt was worth mentioning on the blog so here's a special weekend edition of One Wine Per Week.

Homegirl Cafe is a part of Homeboy Industries. Their Mission Statement explains them very well:

Jobs not Jails: Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education.

The t-shirts worn by the servers adds to that with the motto displayed on the back: Nothing stops a bullet like a job.

The staff of Homegirl is, as you might expect, exclusively women. Young women, presumably of the type addressed by the mission statement, i.e., at risk and formerly gang-involved youth. They all seem to enjoy what they're doing and were working hard at it when we visited.

The place serves breakfast and lunch. We got there around noon, too late for breakfast. There's a lot of interesting things on the menu, far from your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant. Perhaps some of the combination of ingredients are a bit stretched but hey, it shows that someone is thinking beyond the taco/enchilada paradigm and you have to give them kudos for that. Rather than post a picture of the menu, you can click here for a link to the menu page on their web site.

The restaurant is housed in a new building, occupying part of the first floor of the Homeboy Industries headquarters. Both the exterior and interior are attractive. The interior feels comforable and is decorated in a modern, clean style with lots of artwork adorning the walls. The tables are spaced far enough apart and there is abundant window space to give it an airy feeling.

A complimentary basket of black and white corn tortilla chips and mild salsa comes to the table first. The chips and salsa were good but nothing extraordinary. They were fresh and warm, though.

My wife ordered the half-sandwich and half-salad combo. The sandwich was "YuYu's" turkey with mango and chipotle; the salad had a lot of ingredients in it, including mango and jicama. She liked it and it was filling.

I opted to order a couple of tacos. One had salmon with jalapeno pesto and pico de gallo. The other had tofu chorizo with potatoes and a creamy salsa. Our server said she personally liked the tofu chorizo so I went ahead and ordered it and was glad I did. It actually tasted like and had the consistency of chorizo and I'm sure it was a lot healthier for me than the real thing. The salmon taco was also pretty tasty. Along with this I ordered a side of arroz verde (green rice) that was good as well.

I would suggest viewing the online menu so you can see for yourself what an interesting variety they have. Homegirl is located at 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles 90012. It's at the corner of Bruno and Alameda, near Chinatown and just a couple of blocks north of the more famous Phillipes.

As we sat in the half-full room, I kept thnking what a shame it was that Phillipes was overflowing with people while this deserving place had so many empty tables. I know they are two different types of cuisine but if you ask me, Homegirl has the more interesting menu and the decor beats Phillipes by a mile. I just feel that what Homegirl, and the parent Homeboy are trying to accomplish is very admirable and I wish them the best of success. I give the restaurant two thumbs up (they're only open for breakfast and lunch, by the way).

Here's some pictures:

If you happen to be anywhere near that part of town, by all means stop in!

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