Mercado La Paloma (The Dove Marketplace) is a compelling Mexican-style market near USC. The west wall features a mural by artist Elizabeth Eve, which serves as a beacon to drivers on the adjacent 110 freeway. Stall specialties include Oaxacan crafts and pottery, but for food lovers, the best reason to visit the Mercado is to sample some of the most authentic Mexican food in Los Angeles.
The Mercado is an initiative from Esperanza Community Housing Corporation (ECHC), which promotes the 34,000 square foot space as a community gathering place. The second floor houses non-profits who are working to provide health and social services to low-income families in the neighborhood.
Taqueria Vista Hermosa is the top dining option in the former warehouse. Raul Morales opened his stall eight years ago, which is named for his hometown in the Mexican state of Michoacan. He learned to cook from his mother and grandfather. Morales planned to open a second location near the beach, but with four children age 18 and under, he doesn’t want to take the unnecessary risk. Besides, he’s enjoying success catering for Univision stars, Spanish-language actors and radio personalities, and American celebrities like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mayor Villaraigosa and Nancy Sinatra, who all crave his pastor.
To extinguish the flames from Morales’ fiery salsas, we walked two stalls down to Oaxacalifornia, Juan & Sofia Antonio’s stall, which specializes in aguas frescas, plus ice cream and sorbet in exotic flavors like tuna (cactus), guanabana and mamey.
All told, it cost less than $10 per person for terrific tacos and agua frescas that were nearly as impressive.