A few decades ago, the Hotel Chancellor had The Cove, the Ambassador had the Cocoanut Grove, the Sheraton Town House housed the Zebra Room. Such were the swanky restaurants and nightspots that populated the many apartment/hotel buildings in Wilshire Center.
It's 2007, and the delightful Chichen Itza occupies a storefront of the beautiful Asbury Apartments on 6th Street and Park View. (To be fair and accurate, The Prince bar has always been in The Windsor.)
I spent several months researching and developing a context for mid-rise multifamily residential buildings in the area, which has obviously changed in just about every conceivable way. And the changes haven't stopped. In the time since I did this work, the Ambassador was demolished, for chrissake. And the neighborhood around MacArthur Park shows signs of getting safer and going more upscale-ish.
Chichen Itza isn't simply a nice restaurant plonked down in the middle of Funkytown, nor owned by people who turn a blind eye to their surroundings. Instead it reflects all of these subtle trends, and like some of its neighbors, is more respectfully tied to the community.
All kinds of folks can be seen in the formal outpost of the wonderful Yucatan style restaurant in Mercado la Paloma. It's definitely a step up from the stand where I ate regularly when I took a class in grad school that met weekly at the Mercado.
And the kitchen delivers generous portions of richly nuanced Yucatan food. (Read a certain Pulitzer Prize winning critic's review here.) We sampled the pollo pibil, cochininta pibil, and poc chuc. I would order any of these dishes again in a heartbeat, but skip the $9.50 glasses of unexciting wine. My enormous platter of falling-off-the-bone tangy chicken with soft marinated red onions and thinly sliced fried plantains, plus rice and beans, seemed too much to eat in one sitting.
Flash forward half an hour and I was facing an empty plate as I stared out the window towards the majestic Park Plaza Hotel.
2501 West 6th Street
Los Angeles 90057
Image from LAPL Photo Collection