Getting a table for lunch at Homegirl Cafe in downtown Los Angeles can be difficult.
The restaurant is very popular, and not only because its mission is to save at-risk young people through training and jobs as part of Homeboy Industries. It's also fun and lively, offering big servings of reasonably priced food.
The three in the photo above are, from left, red mole chicken with habanero pickled onions, sesame seeds and cilantro; white fish with cabbage jícama slaw, crema fresca, chile morita salsa and cilantro, and pork carnitas with apple-tomatillo slaw and, again, cilantro.
You can ask for two tacos instead of three, and they'll make up the difference with huge servings of beans and rice.
You will definitely want dessert, because the Homeboy Bakery provides the cafe with excellent baked goods. This apple crumble pie (above) had real home-baked flavor. Pumpkin and cherry pies were just as good. Hint--you can buy pies to go for Thanksgiving dinner.
If you can't get a seat for lunch, don't come back for dinner. Homegirl Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and Saturday brunch, but not at night. It's on a corner facing Chinatown, across from the Metro Gold Line stop, and there's plenty of free parking.
Homegirl Cafe, 130 W. Bruno St. (corner Alameda), Los Angeles, CA 90012.