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Henry “Hank” Silva ~ RIP

12:00 PM PDT on August 26, 2009


Henry "Hank" Silva, the beloved owner of Bill's Tacos in South LA, has moved on to the big taco stand in the sky. Many people in South LA had their first ever taco at Bill's and remained life-long customers and fans. Bill's Tacos could be considered one of the original Mex-Am taco spots, using seasoned hamburger meat and yellow cheese with hard shells, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. While researching Henry, who people often called Bill (he was not the original owner), I found this remarkable blog post written by his granddaughter, Jen Maiser, who is surely mourning today. An excerpt:

Every once in a while, someone who had just been released from jail would come into the Taco House because they'd been craving Taco House food in the slammer. Celebrities also came into the Taco House -- sometimes limos would pull up and people like Barry White and the singers of the Fifth Dimension would come in to get their taco fix. Many people who grew up in the neighborhood and became successful -- singers, boxers, politicians -- would continue to return to Bill's Taco House. "I remember when Barry White was coming in and no one knew who he was," grandpa told me recently, "and then he kept coming back when he was famous."...

Grandpa was really well known in the community. It's still a treat to run into people who went to Bill's as kids in the sixties and seventies and talk to them about what they remember. Aside from selling popular food, he provided the land for a Head Start school next door to the Taco House that is there to this day, and gave back to the community in many other ways. When the Watts riots occurred in 1965, neighbors urged grandpa to leave as the riots were breaking out, and spray painted "brother" on the wall of the Taco House. The Taco House was saved from being burned or looted while businesses all around were destroyed.

The Taco community has lost a pioneer, an LA fast food legend, and, from all accounts, a great man.

Photo by Jen Maiser via Flickr

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