Huevos Rancheros: Martha’s Kitchen


Please excuse the terrible picture, I took it as an afterthought. What you see here is the genesis of an idea, the visual cue for a sudden decision to document the state of Huevos Rancheros today. Yes, I am a fan of Huevos Rancheros (as long as they don’t come in a cone), that simple staple of a proper Mexican/Chicano breakfast that consists of fried eggs on fried tortillas, smothered with a tasty tomato and chile sauce. Despite the simplicity, this dish is elusive: a proper example is an increasingly rare sighting. The minimum requirement is that the eggs should be placed on a crisp fried tortilla, and with that qualifier most examples fall short as they don’t abide by that one basic principle. This might end up being a series of disappointments but that’s a sentiment to which I am not averse; the measure of our Joy is intimately tied to its counterbalance. Despite the bleak prospects I intend to try out different HR’s throughout the city and see if we can find something worthwhile. As for the bad ones, at least now I can remember where not to try them again!

First on the list of lastimas, Martha’s Kitchen…

Martha’s Kitchen (2526 Daly Ave. 323.226.9099) serves up Sinaloa style food (so sez their sign and business card) and though I am partial to the Norteño lifestyle, this was only the second time I’d been there, the memories of the great eatery they replaced (Anita’s) just keep me away. I should have gone with my instincts. The first thing the waitress tells me after I place my order is that breakfast is 75¢ extra when you order after noon. Huh? What, did you throw out all the eggs? Why don’t you just stop serving breakfast then? That’s pretty ridiculous, considering it’s only 12:30 on a Saturday, and I thought you all were from Sinaloa, not Monterey. Okay, whatever, you cheap bastards, I still want the dish. That should have been another hint. When my food did arrive, I was shocked. Where the fuck are my Huevos Rancheros and who the hell dropped this block of cheese on my plate? Oh wait, it was the cook. Now do you see why I decided to document the sad state of HR’s? It makes me want to cry. Next time some anti-Latino Miniman tries to claim that “they don’t acculturate” just show them this picture, that’s Americanization in a snapshot: smothered in cheese. The queso puddle made it so you could barely taste the sauce and distracted from the fact that, unlike most other places, they actually did use a fried tortilla underneath the egg! It might have just been a tostada but in any case it was a waste, they drowned my food and even the tasty tortillas hechas a mano that came with the plate couldn’t rescue this casualty.

The thing that makes me not want to go back is this: Martha’s practices discriminatory friendliness. I really don’t know what other term to use, but that one seems to sum it up. Let me explain, as I’m letting you in on a public secret. Pssst!-my gabacho and middle class friends-sometimes, that really friendly and hospitable Mexican waiter/ess is being friendly only because they are afraid of you. Not afraid as in you’re gonna hurt them, but afraid in that they don’t know your world, don’t know what you can do, don’t know your status on the ladder, but they want you to like them because you obviously seem important. Having spent many years working at a family owned shop on Brooklyn Ave. and seeing how my abue would suddenly stand at attention when white folks came in, I know of what I speak, and I can spot this attitude in others. In this situation, an obviously middle class latino couple that comes-back-to-the-barrio-to-reconnect was a table away, getting all kinds of extra attention, unnecessary info about how they only use fresh food, a rundown of their specialties, while I could barely get their attention to ask for the tortillas that had yet to show up on my table. I was just a commoner but this other couple was special. Something about that sort of instinctual deference rubs me the wrong way, its a form of unintended groveling that mostly the locals notice. And it’s stupid. But so it goes, you can’t understand being Chicano without the constant reminders of why it would have been much easier and better to just have been born in the proper context.

How’s that for a food review?

This entry was posted in Huevos Rancheros, La Comida, Lincoln Heights. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Huevos Rancheros: Martha’s Kitchen

  1. Chuck Morse says:

    Great post again. You’re such a good writer and have an amazing ability to draw out larger issues from simple the daily interactions that most of us take for granted. I think the practice or perspective is very exciting: you point out that we live and reproduce world historical problems in the most unexpected and apparently “non-political” ways and yet implicitly show us that we can challenge such problems there too. That feels great. Let the revolution of daily life begin!

    Your description of the “discriminatory friendliness” reminded me of something that I often experienced while living in Mexico City (2001-2003). I’m an Anglo-Saxon American, but most people assumed that I was European. I am much lighter skinned than most Mexicans and my nickname was “El Guero.” In any case, my entrance into a shop or restaurant often ignited a ritual of obsequiousness and deference that I genuinely didn’t like. Occasionally I could see people’s demeanors change once they realized that I was walking in the door: everyone stood at attention, ready with the gracious comment. … Of course some Anglos want and demand that type of treatment, but it genuinely made me uncomfortable. While I knew that I couldn’t opt out of that racist drama simply because I wanted to, I tried to avoid places where that occurred. I was uncomfortable with the political implications of such interactions although, more than anything, probably moved by selfish concerns: where there’s fear, there’s loathing, and if I didn’t want to be feared, I certainly didn’t want to be loathed. For the most part, I just wanted breakfast or lunch…

    Anyway, thanks for reminding us that so much can happen over breakfast. I’m going to stay away from Martha’s when I’m in LA.

  2. EL CHAVO! says:

    Hey Chuck,
    The saddest part of that sort of deference is that often the person doing it doesn’t even realize that it’s happening, it’s just 2nd nature. I think I would find it uncomfortable as well, being on the receiving end of excessive friendliness, but I guess there really are enough people in the world that either don’t see it or just plain love it! The big shitty chain restaurants seem to require this kind of attention, but at least they usually do it for everyone, it’s quite insipid. Thanks for sharing your experience, from the other side of the equation!

  3. matt lucas says:


    You’re blog is fucking awesome! I really enjoyed the picture of the car undergoing natural urban decay. Maybe one of these days you, A, and H can come visit! Or maybe I’ll come down there… if I can take any time out from fighting.

    got the eye of the tiger

  4. cindylu says:

    Dammit! Now I want some huevos rancheros. You know what makes me more mad than crappy, assimilated huevos rancheros? Super expensive gourmet chilaquiles. That’s just wrong. Chilaquiles are “poor peoples’ food” according to my mom. And she’s always right, just don’t tell my sister.

    I was thinking about your concept of “discriminatory friendliness” (df) today as I ordered my two sopes de pollo at King Taco. I’m extra conscious about not seeming like a snobby middle class Chicana whose parents moved out of East LA as soon as they could afford a home in the suburbs. I never noticed the “discriminatory friendliness” when I was a kid, but I don’t think my parents abused of it either. They’re still humble people, but it makes me more conscious of checking my privilege.

  5. Julio says:

    Mendy & I are HUGE fans of the huevos rancheros at El Huarachito. Quite amazing and not the huge snot of cheese that La Llamarada does.

    El Huarachito is one of those rare examples of good, but inexpensive Mexican food. I’ve never had an unhappy meal there. And it’s funny when the waitress calls me “licenciado.” Would one say she offers general friendliness? ‘Cause she’s even nice to the old, dirty viejitos that wander in.

  6. castillo says:

    So are the huevos rancheros in a cone (yuck) better than the Sinaloa style
    huevos rancheros? I now eat huevos rancheros at the only Salvadoreno restaurant in the Monrovia area yum, yum I even get hand made corn tortillas.

    I am reminded of the time me and my pareja went to a Japanese sushi place where latinos were not welcomed. And being the stubborn bastard that I am, I forced my pareja to eat at this no latinos allowed sushi place. Those fuckers did want to give me a seperate bowl of rice, the fucking waitress says “we have no rice” (WTF) sushi is rice wrapped around raw fish. Well after eating a few pieces of sushi and still being hungry I get my bill for $100.00. Moral of the story, “japanese screws stubborn mexican”

    Well now I see, clever chanfles invents his own anti-spam words.

  7. jk says:

    can you name some names? what’s the name of this racist establishment with the overpriced riceballs?

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