Opening an Afro-Mexican restaurant was a longtime — and elusive — dream for Maria Elena Lorenzo. She wanted to serve pozole verde and banana-leaf-wrapped tamales, dishes from her birthplace in the Costa Chica region of Mexico.
Last year, her six children opened Tamales Elena y Antojitos, a bricks-and-mortar space in Bell Gardens, for her and her husband, Juan Irra.
“My daughters can show what they’ve learned from me about food, cooking, and my recipes,” Lorenzo, 58, said in Spanish. “I feel really accomplished and fulfilled.”
Their story of becoming restaurateurs, a path paved by their adult children, is echoed across Southern California. Other examples include Woon, a humble Shanghainese-Cantonese joint in Historic Filipinotown; ixlb DimSum Eats, a modern Hollywood takeout spot; and Sazón, a Huntington Park restaurant that combines Guerrerense fare with the spirit of placemaking.
These stories have a series of common themes: immigration, resilience and a second