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Exile on Breed Street: LAPD Shuts Down Street Food

Nina's quesadilla cook at work just before the LAPD shut it down.

Nina's quesadilla cook at work just before the LAPD shut it down.

I’m just back from meeting my college girl at the Breed Street food fair, an ad-hoc, parking-lot, street-food fiesta that’s been getting a lot of attention in the last several months. I’m sorry to report that the attention seems to have done it harm, for just after we dug into our deep-fried quesadillas from Nina’s stand, an LAPD car cruised by, lights flashing, with an officer announcing that any vendors who did not have permits would be in trouble. (This is loosely translated — the announcements were all in Spanish, so my Spanish-speaking daughter was giving me her version of the lowdown.)

I wasn’t surprised to see the fringe vendors — the CD sellers and juice makers — pack up quickly to get out. I assumed the longtime regulars — like Nina’s, which has been serving its fried Mexico City-style quesadillas here for a couple of years — had permits. But within a few minutes, every single vendor was quietly, calmly and rapidly packing up and getting the hell out.

My daughter and I went over to the two LAPD officers who were watching the evacuation from their car, lights flashing but clearly with no intention to actually cite anyone. I asked what was going on, and the driver said, “They don’t have permits, and we have to shut it down.” Her partner added, “This is not our idea — there have been a lot of complaints.” Clearly they were not happy to have drawn this assignment, but they had to do their job.

This is a complicated issue. As I walked back to my car, I noticed the storefront taqueria on Cesar Chavez that had but one customer. Breed Street has been attracting hundreds of people the four nights a week it’s been running. Complaints may well have been coming from such local restaurants, who pay rent, deal with permits and Health Department hassles, and seethe when they see business go to street vendors. Perhaps some neighbors didn’t like the increasing crowds and noise. Perhaps the LAPD took note because of the food writers (the EAT: LA team included) who have been carrying on about how great Breed Street is. (Jonathan Gold just talked about it on Evan Kleiman’s show a couple of weeks ago.)

And yet… what a heartbreak if this vibrant, lively, family-friendly party goes away. What a loss for the neighborhood families. What a loss for food lovers, many of whom had never had deep-fried huitacoche quesadillas with a nut salsa before, and now can’t live without them. What a loss for Boyle Heights, where street food is part of its identity. As it is for all of Los Angeles.

I’m writing this on Friday, October 2. If any of you go to Breed Street in the next couple of nights and see anything happening, please post a comment. I don’t know how this will shake out, but I fear that the party may be over.

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15 Responses for “Exile on Breed Street: LAPD Shuts Down Street Food”

  1. Jennie Cook says:

    So sad, but the street vending issue is out of control. You can’t do it in LA, unless you have a triple bin sink on your cart. Oh, is that all?
    PS – a fried quesadilla?

  2. Bobby P. says:

    I have a nightly view of Breed St. from my apt. and I’m happy to report that tonight, Saturday, October 3 there were @ least 400 people out there tonight. The vendors were in full swing! Breed Street ain’t going nowhere.

    • Eat: Los Angeles says:

      Thanks for the report, Bobby! The cops’ hearts were not in the shutdown, so it seemed like the vendors might brave another attempt. Maybe this will clean out some of the junkier vendors, like the CD and toy people.

  3. rick says:

    Actually, I was talking to one of the officers and apparently someone got some kind of food poisoning and it was really bad, but i have heard that the council office is trying to set up somekind of farmers market . they will still of course have to be approved individually for the permits.

  4. I wrote the first blog report on Breed St. back in 2007, and brought a blogger out around that time who wrote one of the first reports, maybe hers got out before mine. Having gone for the past 2 years on a regular basis, the crowd remains 95% local. The police harrassment started with the taco truck laws imposed by Gloria Molina last year, and even before the vendors were subject to being sent home, it’s a sad part of their reality. But, they come back.The Hollenbeck police dept. doesn’t read blogs about food,they don’t need to, the Breed St. fair is well known and quite conspicuous.But, you’re right, the taco shops are the ones that are calling.

    Glad to see they were back on Saturday. Long live Breed St.

  5. Robert says:

    Only ignorant people who refuse to comply with the laws of our city would post such comments. Residents of Boyle Heights has tried to get this so called Food Fair shut down. These illegal vendors were blatantly breaking the law. They are people who are here illegally and refuse to get permits and pay fees like the businesses in LA. They don’t wear gloves, food in unsanitary, they pick their noses and pee in the alley way then handle food. Kids are near open flames of make shift grills so their is a public safety and health issues. They want to make our neighborhoods into TJ. There are rules, laws and regulations in our city and anyone who can’t abide by them should be shut down. I have seen little kids get violently ill after eating food that was filled with bacteria.

  6. Juaquin says:

    Is unfare for street venders to sale without permits. People like me in Boyle Heights pay taxes and we want the venders out of our neighborhoods. If we said its okay to sale then people said its okay to say and that is not okay. No one wants venders saling on our streets.

  7. BHcitizen says:

    I invite the EAT Los Angeles blogger to welcome the Breed Street vendors to your neighborhood. I don’t believe you would revel in having what constitutes blight in your residential area four nights a week. It’s a quaint tourism experience for you…a little getaway east of the river that you can go and dine at your leisure, dialogue with the colorful locals, make a notation on your blog of your pseudo hipster experience and then drive back west leaving behind the trash, noise and tax evasion. It would not be a loss to neighborhood families. This is a population that suffers disproportionately with diabetes and hypertension and here you are extolling the virtues of a fried quesadilla. Shame on you. Families could make healthy meals at home or patronize one of the many established businesses in Boyle Heights. I for one enjoy food all over the city as well as in my neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The issue is not complicated: these are illegal vendors, peddling innutritious food, in unsanitary conditions, devaluing property and evading taxes. Please take all this back to your home.

    • Sounds like local restauranteurs to me. That’s funny, hipsters. There are very few “hipsters” on any given night at Breed St., the majority are locals, I guess except you.

      The parking lot of the Bank of America is not a residential concern. I could understand if it were on your doorstep, but no one fusses over parking lots in any part of town. Parking lot blight?

      Everyone in Los Angeles mixes with the locals, whether it’s Boyle Heights residents going to the beach, or Santa Monica residents going to Hollywood Bl. If you feel used, I’d invite you to go to the ArtWalk in downtown LA, so that you can exact some revenge and disturb the residents of Downtown LA. Many hipsters!

      Problems with fried quesadillas? Get a quesadilla a la plancha con flor de calabaza. Eating at nearby King Taco,Ciro’s,El Tepeyac, or La Parrilla will reduce diabetes? Are you that desparate to make your case? And, this is America, we can eat a damn fried quesadilla if we want.What are you? A dietary fascist?

      People go to Breed St. because of the quality and delicious food, pure and simple. I wouldn’t be caught dead having those lame King Taco’s tacos. These places aren’t slow because of Breed St. vendors, they’re slow because they are poor quality and uninteresting. Spreading stories about people getting sick is silly, people get sick every day all over the city. I’ve never been sick in over two years of dining at Breed St, nor do I know anyone. Vendors use gloves and have separate money handlers. But, gloves aren’t used in regualr restaurants too.

      The parking lot looks like a normal parking lot before and after the vendors.The pollution you should be concerned about is the oil leaks from cars that park there during the day going to the bank.We all have to deal with that too.

      Many vendors are locals and walk from their houses to sell something they made at home , and I challenge anyone to go see for themselves.You speak of the colorful locals then hipsters, which is it? People in the neighborhood walk down from their nearby houses to eat. IT IS A LOCAL SCENE! Any other notion of it being full of food tourists is impotent.

      Street vendors are in my neighborhood, and in many neighborhoods throughout the city, only unpopular with the unimaginative restaurants that are in competition. Cook good food, and let a democratic food eating public decide what is delicious, and what isn’t.

      This “outrage” from you BHcitizen(hilarious and absurd), smartmen, Juaquin, and Robert is so contrived and ingenuine. You don’t sound like concerned citizens to anyone with half a brain, don’t kid yourselves.

      Rick is the only one that doesn’t seem to have an agenda, and the idea of a Farmer’s Market is a great plan.It would be a good move. If your restaurant is any good, you’ve nothing to fear.

      I hope the Breed St. vendors could find a place to do their business without the fear of harrassment, so that the locals can continue to enjoy this incredible food, the local vendors and working families with culinary roots that hail from D.F, Puebla, Michoacan, Jalisco, Vera Cruz, and more can make their living, and that something that gives Boyle Hts. notoriety and positive attention can continue. Street and food fairs are welcome all over the city. I would welcome the vendors to my local B of A parking lot here in North Hollywood. I go to street vendors here, but they’re not as good.

      I’m a food blogger who loves the cooking of many of the street vendors, and the amazing cuisine of Mexico. Who are you BHcitizen?Come clean.I imagine some of you local “business” owners don’t even live in Boyle Heights, either.

      • BHcitizen says:

        Hey Street Gourmet LA

        I am sorry if the truth sounds contrived and ingenuine to you. I, like Juaquin and Robert, do live in Boyle Heights and we are not restaurant owners. The majority of people who are vehemently against illegal vending are born and raised in BH. If you read my post, I stated it was a psuedo hipster experience for you. I know who eats the food at Breed. I can walk there from my home. I never said it was a tourist experience and my arguments are far from impotent.

        Thanks for the invite to Art Walk, I go just about every month. Perhaps we should meet and have a conversation.

        No I am not a dietary fascists. I love food. But you sir are being at best willfully naive to ignore the health challenges of the Latinio community. Yes this is America. With 47 million uninsured, many living in BH. Additionally, there is the very real existence of extortion from the local gangs. Dangerous stuff indeed. Please take the illegal vendors back to North Hollywood. It would be great if they joined you.

        Many of the illegal vendors don’t to want to join a food market because they will be regulated. They will have to compy with code and pay taxes. They don’t want regulation and they don’t want to pay the taxes the legitimate food businesses do. Just like big corporations only on a smaller scale.

        So Streetgourmetla, people with full brains do know us as active citizens who address crime, illegal vending, trash, blight, overdevelopment and any number of issues that face this community.

        You don’t live here, you don’t know us, so don’t judge.

        BHcitizen

  8. smartmen says:

    Yes, the vendors were back on Saturday, but believe their days are count. this “fOOD FAIR” will be over very soon. I live on the area and I see all the rules that are broken, all the trash and oil that goes to the drains, all the rats that come out went they move out. The county and state need to have someone to check this, or maybe an elected republican can notice why on the latino community the reforma de salud is necesary. all this people will need attention and who will pay for that?. Its sad that our Councilman wants to offer this kind of food to all. Its time to clean once for all this area. The Police needs to have everyday a car parked at breed st. and fine them, the city is broken and we need income right?…..

  9. Rosalio says:

    I’ve traveled a couple of times to Breed street this passed holiday season but never saw another fair again. It was sad. The food was good and worth the 30 minute drive for me.

  10. […] shut down a similar attempt at a weekly street fair in Los Angeles last year. Yet it has come back to life and is being organized as a yearly event. Imagine your […]

  11. […] shut down a similar attempt at a weekly street fair in Los Angeles last year. Yet it has come back to life and is being organized as a yearly event. Imagine your […]

  12. […] shut down a similar attempt at a weekly street fair in Los Angeles last year. Yet it has come back to life and is being organized as a yearly event. Imagine your […]

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