My first job was working at Mexicatessen in Monterey Park. The original location was taken over by the construction of the 60 Pomona Freeway (gee that sounds like a Douglas Adams book!) along with the tiniest library in the world, and the oddest place, a trampoline park. It was essentially a series of deep pits dug into the ground, then somehow trampolines were set up over them. You could rent time jumping on the trampolines, but it got boring. Good thing the freeway took over the space. My older sister worked there at the original Mexicatessen, a small restaurant run by a husband and wife. While in junior high, I started working at the new location and worked there until college. Starting pay was $1.25 per hour and I thought I was rich.
Everything but the flour tortillas was made on-site. Corn tortillas, tamales, two kinds of refried beans, chile colorado, chile verde (the hottest stuff on earth!) all of it like homemade, not quite your grandma's but pretty close. It was fun to get the corn tortilla maker running, the husband was in charge of that task. Those were the best tasting tortillas, fresh and hot, white corn only. I loved watching the owner as she made the chile rellenos by hand. She eventually let me make them a few times. Beef and bean burritos were 35 cents. Tacos were 25 cents, same as the taquitos. If you wanted, you could buy the ingredients to make burritos at home, pints and quarts of beans and meat, rice and the big monster tortillas. You could even buy grated cheese by the pound. It was my entrance into the food industry, and I am glad for that experience. My only complaint was the days when I had to clean the walls. She gave me a bottle of ammonia and a rag, that's all. Yuck!
The Mexicatessen was eventually sold to another couple, and they have added new menu items. I stopped by this week and picked up something for Michael and me. I couldn't believe it, $3.95 for a chile relleno burrito. It still tasted good, but wow, the prices sure have changed since my school days.
830 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park CA 91754