Bustling, aesthetically hideous, vibrant, multi-ethnic, colorful, trashy, tacky, inhuman; filled with families, vagrants, small businesses and the newest Americans.
Van Nuys Boulevard, between Sherman Way and Saticoy, that is where the action is.
Reformers and planners might dream of trees and benches near the Valley Municipal Building, in the old downtown, but Van Nuys has moved up north, where the bus riders catch the #162 and #163, stopping to grab lunch at Boston Market, buying a cake at Mey Fung Bakery, picking up smokes at Angie’s Cigars, getting their hair cut at John’s Barber Shop, and snacking on Ceviche Peruano at Ay Papa Que Rico, a Cuban restaurant rated highly on Yelp.
Like a vision from old Tijuana, a row of brightly painted shops near 7433 Van Nuys Blvd, houses El Progresso Supermarket and Guateex “Rapido y Seguro” a place to send packages and shipments to Central America; a barber, a tattoo shop and “Tropical Fish and Pets”. Each business is enclosed in a cube, vividly colored, advertising signs.
Salvadorean food is served at La Carreta (“The Cart”) a one-story, stand alone restaurant with tables and parking at 7301 Van Nuys Boulevard. Mediocre reviews alternate with better ones on Yelp:
“This is a small Salvadorian restaurant in the middle of Van Nuys (yeah, yuk, Van Nuys I know) I work out here and it’s hard to find good places to eat. Here, I love the pupusas. I get them filled con frijoles, con loroco y con loroco y frijoles.”
And smoke pours onto the street from burning mesquite at Ay Papa Que Rico, 7344 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91405 where Yelp reviewers are ecstatic:
“I was getting my car serviced & I smelled the most delicious mesquite scent coming from this place on the corner. I walked in got a half chicken, & Wow!!!!!! It has to be some of the best tasting grilled chicken I have ever had.”
“The grilled chicken is a definitely must order! It’s Tender, juicy & well seasoned. Cooked to perfection. Also try the Cuban sandwich, it hits all the right notes.”
As night falls, the long day of men and women who work in dirt and heat, under cars, in kitchens, cutting hair, stacking boxes, looking after children, go back to their apartments, (like “English West”), collapsing on the couch, taking a long shower, resting in a bedroom where the air-conditioning blows cold.
Part 1 of a 2 part article