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Camacho's Opens New Cafe on Olvera Street

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, February 09, 2010, at 09:03PM
Cafe de Camacho Ed Fuentes

Don Camacho with father, Andy, looking on. The Camacho family business began with El Paso Inn at Olvera Street.

Just in its second week of a soft opening, Café de Camacho is a new coffee house located in Olvera Street's Simpson-Jones building. Situated with a view of El Pueblo's plaza, the eatery is currently serving a start-up menu of coffees and hot chocolates, pastries, and pre-made salads and sandwiches.

The contemporary cafe is a smart addition to the historic complex, sparing customers from tourist trappings and prices. No stranger to Downtown, Camacho's operates Olvera Street's El Paseo Inn and concessions at both Staples Center and Dodger Stadium from a corporate office steps away from the new cafe.

The west-facing wall holds a collection of screen prints from Self-Help Graphics in East L.A. "We don't want to take a commission on a sale," says patriarch Andy Camacho, who was raised in East L.A. "It's our way to help out Self-Help Graphics."

There is a staging area in the corner for poetry readings, book signings, or power lunch presentations on a wide screen T.V. "This is what we envisioned," says son Don, "When we get into the event component . . . That will be something we grow into."

An 11th Grade Honors Art Class from Boyle Heights' Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School painted a number of the chairs, adding to the feel of the room. The art on the chairs ranges from Day of the Dead themes to a life-size reproduction of an old Olvera Street postcard left stranded on a seat. One chair-back had rosary beads painted on, as if they were left behind by a worshiper who rushed out.

The delicate balance in the decor and art hints at an answer for the identity crisis that is El Pueblo. How should Olvera Street and El Pueblo represent Los Angeles history? The idea of Christine Sterling's rural village, arguably an early example of a commercial strip mall, conflicts with the Siqueiros mural's academic cache and potential to drive cultural tourism.

Café de Camacho has a blend that could be a model for profitable success that doesn't compromise L.A.'s cultural integrity.

Right now, that needs any help it can get.

Budget cuts threaten El Pueblo's operation of museums, and the city is looking at privatizing part or all of the facility's operation.

For Don, the main concern is the cafe. "I grew up here (on Olvera St) so I have seen changes since the 80s," he says. "As far as what the future holds for El Pueblo. . . I don't know. I want the whole street to be successful."

For now, he will focus on the space. At least the cafe provides a great spot to mull over those complicated questions while sipping a Mexican Cafe de Olla.

Café de Camacho / 103 Paseo De La Plaza, Olvera Street Los Angeles, CA 90012 / (213) 626-6300


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