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A fast sojourn in Los Angeles results in good eats

If you are in Los Angeles and in the vicinity of Wilshire Boulevard and 7th Street, you might be staying at the Historic Mayfair Hotel, as we were last week. We fell victim to the shortage of scheduled trains between Tucson and Los Angeles and had to make a short visit to L. A. to take care of some unrelated business, and so we did more exploring that we might have if we could have made just an overnight trip.

In staying at the Mayfair, we walked about a bit and I heard something I thought was hilarious—an ice cream truck playing a simple version of the famous theme from Swan Lake (yes, the one by Tchaikovsky). At the time I was walking back from a restaurant to the Mayfair.

We didn’t eat any meals at the hotel except breakfast, though, because the Mayfair is a bed and breakfast hotel—although we had to pay for breakfast, which was an unwelcome surprise. Actually I have a few criticisms of the Mayfair, so I might as well list them now.

I did cheer up about breakfast when I figured out how to operate the little waffle iron that sits in the breakfast nook, beside a spritzer of oil and a machine that gives you the batter. You spray, fill, flip and in a few minutes a perfect Belgian waffle pops out, ready for the hot syrup that is also available. I made waffles for breakfast and that was perfect. Eventually you also get around to the orange juice, which was obviously fresh-squeezed (hey, this is California!) and it couldn't have been better.

The most annoying thing about our room, though, was the tiny bathroom. It was barely larger than the bathtub and toilet, and you have to be agile to get in and out the door. Once in, the strange shower curtain (short and made of fabric) drips merrily onto the floor while you shower. The hot and cold faucets are reversed for some reason—hot on the left and cold on the right—and they also turn the opposite way you expect. I go by the old mnemonic device that says, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey,” but that didn’t work in our room, which was fitted just the opposite.

Other than that, the hotel is very nice, with warm beds and a lovely, airy lobby. We were within walking distance of our objective, the consulate of Costa Rica, and we took care of that the day we arrived on an overnight Amtrak train from Tucson. Amtrak tickets turned out to be cheaper than bus tickets, so my husband got his first train ride. You certainly enjoy having the club car and plenty of restrooms on a long trip like that.

After a long day, we inquired at the desk by the front door about restaurants in the neighborhood and that was when we struck gold. The bellman recommended that we walk less than two blocks up the street to La Parrilla, a Mexican restaurant at Wilshire and Witman. We entered to find colorful decor in a large setting that has seating both on the ground floor and below. The staff was very pleasant and attentive, and the food was nothing short of amazing. After all, this is a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles!

We were not drinking that evening, but my husband ordered breaded fish filets and I ordered their house chicken enchiladas. The fish came with beans, rice and a little salad, while the enchiladas were covered in a chili verde sauce (based on green chilies) and accompanied by refritos, guacamole and sour cream (and sprinkled with queso fresco, a delicate white cheese).

I avoided the dairy—don’t bother to ask a Mexican restaurant to skip the cheese and sour cream—and still found the food delicious. I mean, any restaurant that is recommended by hotel staff had better deserve it. We also enjoyed the music, which was mariachi-themed and featured big Mexican stars like Vicente Fernandez.

If we return to Los Angeles, I would definitely stay at the Mayfair again unless we had business in an inconvenient location. And I would take a taxi to get to La Parrilla and enjoy their food, which is worth the low taxi prices in California. Taxis there also feature a small card-reading machine that calculates the tip and accepts your cards so that you don’t have to deal with cash—something that has not yet arrived in Tucson. I appreciated it when we arrived without much cash.

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