Family opens new Afro-Mexican restaurant in Bell Gardens

An Afro-Mexican food truck in Watts, Tamales Elena expanded by opening up a new restaurant in Bell Gardens called Tamales Elena y Antojitos.
BELL GARDENS, Calif. (KABC) -- An Afro-Mexican food truck in Watts, Tamales Elena expanded by opening up a new restaurant in Bell Gardens called Tamales Elena y Antojitos.

The grand opening was on Wednesday.

"I get to find out that we are actually one of the only people that will offer this kind of cooking you know, for L.A.," said Judepth Irra, the head chef at her family's restaurant. "My mother she is from Costa Chica, Guerrero, and over there is mostly populated by Afro-Mexican people and they have a very special way of cooking."

Irra immigrated to the United States with her relatives in 1996 from La Costa Chica in Guerrero, Mexico.

"We have a lot of how can you say like a lot of fresh produce that the people grow you know right there. We have a lot of like fish and a lot of fruits that in other parts of Mexico you don't find," said Irra. "It has a lot of flavor, everything is spicy," she continued.

When the Irra family immigrated to the U.S., Irra's mother first started selling this unique coastal food out of baskets in Watts.

In 2005, the family bought a food truck. Fast forward 15 years, they opened up a restaurant.

"I'm so proud of my mom and my dad to you know, they both have worked so hard you know?" said Irra. "And now they're scared a little bit. She's like, 'Oh my god a restaurant who's going to work.' And I'm like, 'Don't worry mom you have seven children. We are going to take care of the restaurant.'"

Through their Afro-Mexican cuisine, Irra says they hope to shed light on their culture.

"A lot of people don't want to recognize that we are out there, you know, and it's like, we go through the same stuff that African Americans go through in this country too you know, like being discriminated," said Irra. "We are teaching our people that you know that we are from Mexico that we are out there."

Even though the pandemic may impact the opening, this family is ready to share their Afro-Mexican roots with Los Angeles.

"Now we have this opportunity even with the shutdown of COVID-19 you know, we were able to get a handle on this business," said Irra. "I'm so happy we are this big step, you know and we're not gonna stop."

For now, the restaurant has outdoor dining and takeout.

Tamales Elena y Antojitos
8101 Garfield Ave.
Bell Gardens, CA 90201

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