Gusto y sabor  

Taste of the Town in Brown

Bill Mondragon's La Conga Restaurant

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: February 3, 2007

Taste of the Town in Brown

Orale, Mi Gente! Buff up them tastebuds!

So far, we've brought you the 411 on some of Aztlan's finest music & musicians.

We've also given up the word on comedians & comedy shows, movies, plays, charity events, artists & art shows, car shows, comebacks, writers, poets, books, promoters, and educational opportunities, all that affect the Gente Brown.

..and now, we take a cruise down another boulevard in that tickles the taste buds, as well as the ears, in a wonderful juxtaposition of music, food, and atmosphere, in a nostalgic setting that brims of the new and yet to come...'s a new slice of Heaven for 2007...wacha:

The other day I was kickin' it at the East L.A. Revue Radio station studio with Steven Chavez, President of RAMPART Records and East L.A. Revue Radio when in the middle of a taping session, our stomachs started growling in 2 part harmony. (things have a strange way of affecting us in the music business like that, ya know...)

Without skipping a beat, Steven says "Grab your hat, Frankie. I'm hungry and I'm treating. Let's go to lunch", and off we went.

Before I knew it, there we were on the 110 freeway just outside of downtown L.A., heading south towards San Pedro. (aka "Pee~dro" to the locals).

"I got a line on a new spot I've been meaning to check out, and I love the coast anyways," he says. "Some friends of ours just opened up. You'll like it!"

Ok, I thought, he's driving, he's paying, I like the beach , and my Lady's not due back from getting her hair & nails done for a couple of hours...why not?

Dale gas, homie!

Arriving to a quaint section of historic Downtown San Pedro on 7th street, we park just a couple of blocks from Ports 'O Call. I notice a neighborhood undergoing major upgrading & revitalization. New buildings & businesses are popping up, and a sense of well being is in the air. Nice touch in a nice part of town. Ample parking is available on the street and across the street as well, in a large parking lot.

Getting out of the car, the sweet smell of the Pacific Ocean kisses you softly, and adds to the anticipation as we park in front of the tastefully re-modeled Spanish style hacienda facade of LA CONGA MEXICAN BAR & GRILL. Seems like only a couple of months ago, this place was closed down & boarded up.

( ...and wasn't it named something else? Hmmm...)

The new owners have made some major improvements, I noticed right away. The tinted glass windows, arched doorways, and tasteful window dressings call you from the street. Another nice touch, I thought.

Walking in through the front double doors, one is greeted by friendly staff, a clean welcoming ambiance, and the warm aroma of good cooking food that had me and Steven watering at the mouth.

Coming down from the upstairs ballroom (still being remodeled) to greet us was the new owner, Chicano percussionist & singing sensation Billy Mondragon of TIERRA fame, son of East L.A. Chicano music legends Willie & Susan Mondragon.

"Hey, Guys! Come on in" Billy greeted us like familia. "let me show you around".

The downstairs restaurant is tastefully decorated in luxurious Spanish style banquet room d?®cor, with a fully stocked antique oak bar, with plenty of comfortable seating. A small stage is centrally located for diners to enjoy live entertainment during a delicious meal.

Despite it's luxurious setting, it still has a familiar home feeling, and we felt right at home.

"The City of San Pedro is undergoing some major changes and improvements," Billy explains, "I wanted to be part of that. L.A. is my community, my hometown, and I wanted to put this part of 'Los' back on the map. I've been in music most of my life, and I've performed all across the country. One thing I know is that people enjoy good food and good entertainment in a good atmosphere, in a good part of town, where it won't thin your wallet. And what part of L.A. is more inviting than down by the beach? San Pedro is a historic part of L.A. and California for world travelers, and I wanted to give every and anybody a taste of the World, my way, with great food and even greater music," he said proudly.

The menu is enticing, with appetizers, soups & salads, mouth watering entrees, and even a children's menu is available. Steven & I were also pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. (And NO self respecting 5 star Mexican food establishment with class would dare NOT offer the King of weekend Chicano breakfasts, the time honored, immortal, MENUDO, which is served piping hot with all the fixings on Saturday & Sunday mornings).

First word that comes to mind is "exquisite." Next, comes "Class."

After a cool drink & appetizers, I dived into the sampler platter, which offers generous portions of cheese quesadillas, buffalo wings, nachos & taquitos, while Steven gorged on the large Carne Asada plate. Man! My Mom, GOD rest her soul, couldn't have done better! (Sorry , Mom! )

Watching us munch down part of his bill of fare, Billy smiled and proudly announced that the menu and delicious comida had been prepared by his executive chef and fellow TIERRA band member, brother Zoot~suiter Dale Villavicencio.

"We also offer live entertainment every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. We want to get the word out, not just to Chicanos, but to everybody that enjoys first class food, service, entertainment, and surroundings, LA CONGA is here to serve you...and we want to make it YOUR place, when you're out on the town, visiting the treasure spots of L.A.... like San Pedro!".

While the entertainment schedule is still being developed at the time of this writing, the Latino R&B/Jazz/funk group DW3 (Down with 3), of which Billy is a part of, along with his talented brother Eric, was scheduled to play the next night.

"We've already had a couple of packed houses with DW3, and I want to bring in other groups and entertainers from all over, that the good people of San Pedro will enjoy and appreciate drawing crowds & business to their fair city of "Pee~dro".

The upstairs ballroom , while still in the remodeling stage,will offer a roomier atmosphere, with a large bar, stage, and dance floor. A grand opening celebration show is planned for the near future, and YOU KNOW LatinoLA will be there!

With a new look and new owners, LA CONGA is going to be the place to be, and the first "slice of Heaven in 2007".

Leaving Billy & his staff and thanking them for their hospitality, Steven & I stepped out into the fresh San Pedro ocean air, stuffed like well satisfied kings in the Land of 1000 Dances. The whole afternoon had been a most enjoyable experience.

"So...what are doing this weekend?", I asked, as we drove back to L.A..

"Tomorrow, I'm coming back, bringing my wife, having dinner, and catching the DW3" Steven replied.

"...I was just thinking the same thing..." I said, as I sat back and enjoyed the ride back in the California afternoon sunshine.(...buurrp! Excuse me!)

465 W. 7th Street
San Pedro, California
(310) 833-3388
and tell 'em you heard if from Frankie Firme & LatinoLA!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul.

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