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Street Vending

Here Are Six Women Street Vendors to Support Now By Metro Stations

Of the estimated 12,500 street vendors residing in L.A., around 80% of them are women.

Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO

At the Guatemalan Night Market women are the majority, most of which are single mothers who use their sazón to make a living.

We can’t discuss Los Angeles's history, food, or culture without mentioning L.A.’s iconic street vending communities. From food trucks to sidewalk stands serving tacos, breakfast, burritos, and desserts, there will surely be one or two while riding Metro.

If their colorful umbrellas don’t bring you in, the aromas from their stands will surely lure you in. And while street vending has been viewed as more of a male-dominated industry, in Los Angeles, that’s not the case. 

Of the estimated 12,500 street vendors residing in L.A., around 80% are women, with the majority being immigrants, people of color, seniors, and people ranging in age from low-income households. Many of these women are single mothers trying to support their families. Some do it for necessity, others do it with the hopes of owning their brick-and-mortar restaurants, and others do it to leave something behind for their children. Whatever the reason, their unique personalities, food, and stories make this city what it is today.

In the last couple of years, L.A. has undoubtedly made strides in decriminalizing and providing pathways for people to become legal street vendors. Women have long been at the forefront of the ongoing fight to legalize street vending.

Here are just a handful of ladies serving homemade tamales, fish tacos, and curbside coffee along Metro’s lines.

Irma Y. Perez sitting next to her tamal stand, holding Tamal Samples: Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Irma Y. Perez holding tamal Samples. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Irma Yolanda Perez Tamal Street Vendor ~ Venice / Midvale

Irma Yolanda Perez, a 60-year-old woman from Guatemala, makes 80 Guadalajara-inspired tamales daily. She makes them petite, and as she folds her corn husk over the soft masa, she cuts off the extra ends and then uses those to make the cutest little tamal samples you’ll ever find. 

She gets a ride to Venice Boulevard, props up an umbrella and a small table for the tamales, pulls out a book, and sits there reading, hoping someone will come by to try her cooking. And if someone is hesitant, she’s ready with her blazing smile, bubbly personality, and the tiny tamal samples that are as cute as her jokes.

Surprisingly, the tamal samplers aren’t a sales or marketing strategy, but they are as brilliant as they seem. Irma Yolanda Perez loves samples and getting free samples because “it feels nice.” She would go to Trader Joe’s and just think about how lovely it was and how nice it felt to get free samples, so she decided to do the same.

“I’m going to make samples too. People need to be able to taste what they’re buying, and it feels nice,” she tells L.A. TACO.

- Memo Torres

10935 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 33 - "Venice/Midvale (westbound)" or "Venice/Girard (eastbound)." 

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Vere’s Tacos de Canasta y Tacos Dorados ~ 6th / Park View

Standing directly before the Mexican consulate on 6th Street, you will find one of Mexico’s greatest on-the-go treasures: tacos de canasta.

They are not made to order, and that's the point; proudly cooked and pre-packed early in the morning to be served curbside throughout the day from the guts of a large basket, allowing the flavors to rest and create greater deliciousness as the day passes.

The chef, Vere, serves one of the better examples in town, along with crispy, savory tacos and dorados covered in salsa. She offers the holy trinity of taco de canasta guisados: frijol, papa, and chicharrón. Chicharrón is usually the first taco to run out, but the potato- and bean-filled varieties will be just as good if you don’t make it in time.

Vere has been working as a street vendor in Los Angeles for the past 14 years. She says one of her favorite parts of being a street vendor is interacting with her community and building relationships with her regulars. Her love for her craft is noticeable. Her smile never leaves her face, and she greets every customer as if they were family. And don’t worry about not being able to locate her, because the moment you hit 6th street, you will hear “¡pásele! ¡pásele!” and that’s your sign to follow her voice to try her tacos estilo Guadalajara y D.F.

Monday-Sunday 10:30 A.M.-2:30 P.M., 2325 W. 6th St. Los Angeles, CA 90057. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus 18 - “6th / Park View”

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Cafe Niña ~ 4th / Fresno

The atmosphere at Cafe Niña is unlike any other. Janet Cerda serves her coffee straight from her yard, next to the 4th Street Bridge. Unlike stopping by any vendor's stand, arriving here feels like being welcomed at a family member's home. 

The coffee stand is an ode to her grandmother, and the colorful rag doll in her logo represents her family's origin in Guanajuato, Mexico. The name also pays tribute to her grandmother.

“At the end, she had Alzheimer's, so we would call her la niña (the little girl), and she was, she was our niña,” she says.

The 32-year-old single mom of two is trying to bring those flavors from childhood and feelings of comfort straight to her community through the lattes she makes. Her customers' favorite lattes are her Mazapan and Lolita lattes, one of which is the flavor of Maria cookies while the other has the nutty taste of the Mazapan. But the flavors range from paleta de payaso to her most recent pistachio-flavored latte. 

Ultimately, Janet's business was meant to be more than just a place to get a good cup of coffee; more importantly, it was designed to build community.

Tuesday-Thursday 8:30 A.M.-1:30 P.M. Saturday & Sunday 8:30 A.M.- 1 P.M. , 3264 East 4th St., CA 90063. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus 605 - “4th / Fresno”

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Juana Dominguez’s Taco Stand ~ Main / 41st

Many mujeres chingonas—badass, hard-working women—come to mind when thinking about street vending in Los Angeles, including street vendor Juana Dominguez. She has been a street vendor in Los Angeles for over 20 years. When she first came from Mexico, she sold candies and gum until she could save enough money to open her food stand. She says she became an avid transit user during these times, mainly riding Metro’s bus lines to reach different parts of the city.

In the 20-plus years that she has been a street vendor, Juana has become a leader, she works with a local organization, Community Power Collective to help organize and mobilize street vendors. She has also been part of the long fight to legalize street vending throughout L.A., which has involved passing laws like SB972 that attempt to facilitate greater access for food vendors like Juana to get the required county and city approvals for food vending permits. 

But Juana’s food is as iconic as her work. She sets up her food stand in Downtown, outside of Paloma Market, where she sells tacos, quesadillas, and anything else you can think of. She is an example of how street vendors accommodate the community they serve. Juana knows when people go to work and what meals they may want to eat as they get their day started.

For those wanting breakfast or a quick bite, she can whip you up some fried eggs with beans that she sets on top of a fresh hand-made tortilla. Feeling like having lunch or dinner? She has carne asada, quesadillas de huitlacoche, flor de calabaza, chicharron and an array of guisados. And at Juana’s stand, you don’t have to worry about any watered-down salsas because even her “mild” salsas have a kick to them.

Monday- Friday 4 P.M.-10 P.M. Saturday & Sunday all day. 4075 Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus 48 -  “Main / 41st”

Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO
Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Carnitas Los Gabrieles ~ Olympic / Central

The piñata district is one of L.A.’s most incredible hidden gems, selling more piñatas, candies, and party favors than the rest of the city combined within just a couple of blocks. The street food stands positioned along these streets have transformed the area from feeding piñata shoppers to making it a local eating destination.

Still, one stand has risen above the colorful paper figurines to become queen of the block, and that’s Guadalupe Baez and her caldrons of Michoacan-style carnitas, succeeding in a world where males dominate this specific cooking craft. Guadalupe is the definition of perseverance, she is a single mom who began street vending after she got divorced, and despite losing it all during COVID, she has managed to pick herself up to continue doing what she loves, serving her carnitas.

Her tender and juicy pork meats, from cueritos to costillas, have earned loyal patrons for over 20 years. These might be the only carnitas chefs in Los Angeles who, after spending hours preparing and cooking pork, still put in the extra effort to make handmade tortillas for their customers.

Carnitas Los Gabrieles isn’t just one of the best tacos in downtown L.A.; it’s also one of the best carnitas in the whole county and one of the most unique and colorful shopping destinations you can experience.

- Memo Torres

1251 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90021. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 53 and 66 - "Olympic/Central."

Photo via: Tacos Beachy

Tacos Beachy ~ Whittier / Leonard 

East L.A. is an epicenter of great taco spots, but when it comes to a women-owned business with an all-female crew and flavors that’ll keep you coming back for more, you have to stop at Tacos Beachy. 

The owner, Jasmine, hails from Guadalajara. She is an example of what many street vendors in Los Angeles hope to do: grow their business from the streets to a food truck and, eventually, to a restaurant. Jasmine is no different. She started as a street vendor on Patata Street, serving plates filled with flavor and tradition. Fast-forward two years, and she now owns her food truck, where she hired an all-women crew.

She specializes in quality service and quality food, her fish and shrimp tacos are some of her most popular items and after taking one bite of her tacos we would agree. What makes her food that much more remarkable is the care she has for what she offers; for example, every two weeks, she buys freshly caught fish from Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, to ensure her fish tacos are top quality. 

When visiting, save room for dessert and try her mini pancakes, which are dressed with your desired toppings. 

Monday- Sunday 10 A.M.-1 P.M. 5901 Whittier Blvd, East Los Angeles, CA 90022. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus 18 - “Whittier / Leonard” 

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