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A String of Fires Shuts Down Three Esteemed Eastside Mexican Restaurants

Mexes Cafe, Don Chamorrón, and Birria Los Socios have been forced to put their businesses on pause after all three were left without a space following fire damage.

The fire damaged sign of Don Chamorron in Montebello

The fire damaged sign of Don Chamorron in Montebello, photo via Don Chamorron

L.A.’s Eastside community has witnessed the closure of three cherished local restaurants due to fires in the past month. Mexes Cafe, Don Chamorron, and Birria Los Socios, each a cornerstone of their neighborhoods’ vibrant culinary scenes, have been forced to shutter their doors. As the community comes to terms with these losses, everyone is left wondering what caused these fires and how to prevent such devastation from happening again.

After fires burned their hard work to the ground, these businesses have launched Gofundme pages, urging their neighbors to support them during these trying times.   

Birria Los Socios has been a Boyle Heights staple since 2017, with its origins in a food truck. 

In 2020, the success of the truck enabled owner Jose Pacheco to open a brick-and-mortar location at 3544 East 3rd Place. In addition to the Boyle Heights location, Los Socios’ food trucks also serve the neighborhoods of Cypress Park and West Covina, further cementing their place in the hearts of Angelenos.

However, all this hard work by Pacheco and his team was dissolved on June 5th, as flames tore through the Eastside eatery near 3rd and Indiana streets shortly after 3 a.m., leaving the community in shock and mourning the loss of a local favorite.

Pacheco took to Instagram saying, “This morning, at 3 AM, I arrived to find our life’s work, everything my family and I have poured our hearts and souls into, reduced to ashes by a devastating fire. The sight of our dreams and hard-earned business engulfed in flames was beyond heartbreaking.”

After garnering community love and support, Birria Los Socios totaled over $10,000 in donations through their GoFundMe. Although the small business is still far from its goal of $100,000, the popular birrieria spot is still open for business, serving from both of their food trucks in West Covina and Cypress Park.

Lana Del Rey's stenciled face on top of a coffee at Mexes Cafe in East Los Angeles.
Lana Del Rey coffee art at Mexes Cafe. Photo via Mexes Cafe/Instagram.

Mexes Caf, until facing a similar tragedy, was one of East L.A.’s up-and-coming cafes. 

Popularized by the coffee shop’s aesthetics of stained glass windows, murals depicting Latin culture, and frames of la Virgen de Guadalupe, Mexes' social media had been gaining traction over the past few months for its appeal to younger Latinos, even featuring drinks inspired by Lana Del Rey and Hello Kitty. 

On June 18th, a fire broke out in a store within its local plaza, causing significant smoke damage to Mexes Cafe. 

Adrian Hernandez of Mexes Cafe shared the unfortunate situation on GoFundMe, writing, “Our owner is devastated and saddened that this has happened and put a pause on her business. We would greatly appreciate your help to bring Mexes Cafe back up so we can serve you with the coffee you love.”

The cherished cafe has received over $1,000 in donations and is actively searching for new ways to serve its community. Starting July 8th, the cafe will open an alternative setup right outside their location on Eastern Ave and Floral Dri. 

Debuting as ‘Nighttime Mexes’, the shop will continue to offer their baked goods, chocolate-covered strawberries, and lattes. Operating from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm, they’ll continue setting the mood with outside seating and music. 

And yes, their printed latte art will be making its long-awaited return there.

The damaged interior of Don Chamorrón.
The damaged interior of Don Chamorrón. Photo via Don Chamorrón.

Don Chamorrón, a local Michoacán-style restaurant in Montebello from owner Jose Gutiérrez, has been forced to close its doors due to yet another fire at a neighboring business. This incident is the latest in a series of fires affecting small businesses in the area.

Gutiérrez began his business by cooking at home and gradually building a following at local markets, events, and fairs. His family and he specialize in food from the native state of Michoacan, serving his eponymous pork shank in adobo and dishes like carne apache.

He even has a signature Michoacán-style salsa macha, which is sold in butcher shops all over L.A.

In May of this year, Gutiérrez took a leap of faith in his restaurant and opened up a brick-and-mortar location at 477 Washington Boulevard in Montebello. 

Don Chamorron officially opened to the public on June 1st and quickly gained traction. 

"We worked for three weeks,” Gutiérrez says. “Business was going well and we were gradually getting more customers. People received our food very well and we received very positive feedback."

However, on the night of June 23rd, Gutiérrez received a call from a fellow restaurant owner in the plaza, informing him that the shopping center was on fire.

The flames and smoke resulted in significant damage to Don Chamorrón

"In my case, it was almost a total loss of everything we had," Gutiérrez shares with L.A. TACO. "We are still waiting for the city officials to allow us to enter and see what we can recover."

Without insurance to cover the losses, due to its recent opening, and the future of the restaurant uncertain, Gutiérrez’s focus is on rebuilding his dreams one way or another. 

"We are trying to keep going by returning to the markets,” he says. “We are also resuming service from home for those who want to place orders or invite us to any events. We don't want to lose the small positive impact we’ve made on people."

In the wake of this tragedy, Gutiérrez is asking for the community's continued support, not just for Don Chamorrón, but for all of these local businesses facing similar challenges. 

"We ask people to give us, and other restaurants going through similar situations or who have been robbed, a chance to prove the quality of our food,” he says. “We have great quality, and we hope to continue moving forward.”

Despite these setbacks, investigations have found no correlation between the incidents, nor evidence of the fires being man-made.

These local businesses, each with their unique offerings and loyal customer bases, are now focused on recovery and rebuilding. The overwhelming support from the community has served as a ray of hope for both owners and employees. As these cherished establishments work relentlessly to bring normality back to their lives, the Eastside community's unity continues to deepen. 

If you find yourself in their areas, make sure to show these local businesses some love and support. Their GoFundMe’s can be found here:

Birria Los Socios

Mexes Cafe

Don Chamorron

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