Through the hilly neighborhood of Highland Park just west of the Arroyo Seco runs York Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main commercial thoroughfare. It supports not one, but two supermarkets, within blocks of each other, that serve the mostly Latino community. When my daughter lived in New Zealand, she rued that she couldn’t get Mexican products readily (or inexpensively). In Christchurch, there was one Hispanic market, but a can of black beans for $8 was a bit much. She even went so far as to buy a tortilla maker so she could make her own. She finally gave it to a friend over there before her family moved to Highland Park last year; she knew she’d never have to make a tortilla in Southern California.
El Super and Super A Foods not only have tortillas galore but every imaginable item for cooking Latino food. The usual staples are sold that are available in any well-stocked market, except that the quantities, choices and sizes are much more extensive. Where Safeway might carry one, maybe two, different brands of canned pinto beans, the Supers have many more and in sizes you won’t find outside of Latino neighborhoods. How about cases of Corona stacked to the ceiling? Or an entire aisle section devoted to Goya products? Or Mexican wines? More kinds of Mexican cheese than I’ve ever heard of? Chorizo made not only from pork but beef? A wide variety of dried chiles and beans in bulk? Fresh zucchini blossoms? Panaderia? Such is the surprise and awe that a shopper will feel when first surveying these markets. And the prices are laughably inexpensive. A pineapple for 99₵, 2 pounds of tomatillos for 99₵, a 2lb 12oz package of tortillas for $2.39. Whole Foods prices these are not. (As wondrous as these markets are, the most jaw-dropping I’ve seen is Supermercados Mexicano in Hillsboro and Portland, OR.)
Highland Park is becoming more of a hipster area, yet the commercial district seems to have kept its old character. There are no big name chain stores or franchises along York, only small shops and little restaurants, including several taco trucks. Gentrification can change things forever for the locals. For now, the community can only hope for some kind of balance and that the main character of the area will not eventually serve only the latté crowd.
Super A Foods
5250 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
5610 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042