Mexican in Eagle Rock.
There is a part of me that sees El Arco Iris as an old-school, old world Tex-Mex joint, but in a way it’s not.
My first visit to El Arco Iris was for lunch, and…to be perfectly honest, I’m surrounded by some really old folks, really old non-Mexican folks. They all look like they’ve been coming here for years.
Maybe this is how it’s always has been. Maybe this is the place they’ve always been used to coming to, and still like to come to.
Highland Park was taken over when California itself was taken over by the United States. It was a part of Rancho San Rafael, but split apart when Rancho San Rafael was subdivided. As a result, Highland Park was created. It spent a lot of its time as an enclave for the Artsy among us, before the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway, and “white flight” took during the 50s and 60s. Now it’s mostly Latino, 72% Latino.
So just as the neighborhood was transforming, El Arco Iris came into existence:
In 1964, Gustavo and Irene Montes opened El Arco Iris Restaurant with the hopes of bringing a taste of their native Queretaro, Mexico to the people of Los Angeles. With the help of their children and later, their grand- children, El Arco Iris has grown from eight tables to a full-service restaurant with catering and banquet room facilities. While the scenery may have changed over the years, Lela and Papa’s recipes for their signature dishes — chile verde, mole poblano and carnitas — have not.
So maybe that’s the story. As El Arco Iris comes into existence, not everybody moved. The Menu showSome Anglos stayed, and took the restaurant into their bosom. Held onto it. Still coming by.
But the rest of the neighborhood needed a straight ahead Mexican-place, full of the tastes and the flavors they loved, that they were used to.
You want an example? Menudo soup is on the menu. That’s a soup with Beef Tripe and a red chili pepper base. It looks (stress: looks) delicious, but it’s more for the hardcore amongst you.
Not me. You.
El Arco Iris, at least me, has both the classic dishes and Mexican-American fare that those of us who are not Mexican come to expect from Mexican-American menus. But since Mexican food is so much more than that, there is room for things that most Anglo-Americans have not tried. That’s where you should be looking. That’s where you should be exploring.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, my visit there, and the first thing that called to me was not Tacos or Burritos (well, not Burritos), but Soup. Specifically: Caldo de Res o de Pollo.
Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either. But the components of Beef Short Ribs, Celery, Potatoes, Zucchini, Corn, Cabbage, Cilantro; and served with rice did look kinda good to me. So I tried it.
Now, one of the counter-intuitive things about eating out is that when you have a bad meal, or when I have a bad meal does it taste bad. That’s just never the case. Food from restaurants never taste bad. It may be flavorless or bland, but not bad tasting.
Another thing that causes a bad reaction is…not understanding the recipe, and that’s kinda what happened to me with the Caldo de Res o de Pollo.
Caldo de Res o de Pollo is basically cooked in a thin chicken stock, basically the water the meat and the vegetables are boiled in. In my head, I built up the soup to be this beefy, tasty thing, and…when it wasn’t, I was disappointed.
But that’s not to say El Arco Iris did anything wrong. This one may be the fault of the eater.
Like I said, some disappointments come from not understanding the recipe, and just because I didn’t get it, doesn’t make it a bad meal.
Besides, it comes with Tortillas and rice, and making the little Tacos got better and better as the meal went on.
So one competent in, and I’ve already made one mistake. Time for me to make another.
I decided to get some Tacos anyway, thinking they’d be small, delicate affairs, perfect for an appetizer.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I got the Tacos de Papa, which are two crispy potato tacos with Lettuce, Jack cheese and Pico de Gallo; served with cilantro lime rice and beans from the pot.
Don’t get me wrong, the Tacos were good, and made be very curious to see what a meat Taco or a Burrito would be like at El Arco Iris. But getting this meal, along with the Caldo de Res o de Pollo, meant that I’m sitting there with two fairly substantial meals on their own, both of them with healthy portions of rice at their side.
I managed to get through them, but next time…I think I’ll just get one (mind you, one) of their burritos.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Nothing really to report there. Walk in is easy. Takes Credit Cards. Nope, all good.
PARKING: Decently easy, especially for lunch. El Arco Iris has it’s own Parking Lot, running along the side of the Restaurant. There were plenty of spaces, but then again, I was there for Lunch. What happens at Dinner? I have no idea.
El Arco Iris
5684 York Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Tel: (323) 254-3401
Monday: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday-Friday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm