Mercado La Paloma is a community marketplace developed and operated by Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, an affordable housing developer in south L.A. It's a wonderfully unique place, an incredible model of community economic development, and outstanding example of the amazing work and creativity of L.A. community development corporations.
Best of all, there's *fantastic* food! The Mercado needs the support of chowhounds everywhere--especially those that work in or around Downtown/USC area. It's located at 3655 Grand just north of Jefferson, somewhat off the beaten path. Crowds therefore can be thin and a couple of businesses have closed. With such great food vendors, this is a shame. A Yucatan style meal at Chichen Itza (my favorite) is super delicious, inexpensive, AND supports a very worthwhile project. Their pollo asado taco combination is one third of the price of Authentic Cafe's, and more than ten times better! Surface parking is free, too.
The goals of the Mercado go far beyond mere mainstream commercial development. According to ECHC, the project engages in "creating a neighborhood focal point and gathering place, integrating multiple aspects of community building, including economic development, health, arts, community outreach and education. The rich variety of activities at La Paloma resulted from the very involved, community planning process. Over 5 years, ECHC staff met at least monthly with local residents, including prospective entrepreneurs. Every stage of the planning process underwent detailed discussion, from the business and service mix to the specifics of the design."
Please, go support and enjoy Mercado La Paloma, and spread the word!