Earlez Grille and the Expo Line on April 29, 2012

by Jessica on April 29, 2012

Kid Hit Menu Items: Earlez Grille is especially known for its hot dogs, along with chili (or so we learned), fries, burgers, lemonade from the dispenser. Whole wheat bun options. A standing list of grilled foods, plus some other items such as tamales and Jamaican patties, and daily specials displayed on eye catching fluorescent sheets above the counter. There are a few pies for dessert, and a vegan cupcake. If you don’t like awesome attitudes and warmth served with your food, then don’t come to Earlez.

Adult Perks: Closest the drinks menu gets to anything boozey is ginger beer. Lots of vegetarian dishes.

Pros: Big mid-century fast food spot with great signage. As of this past weekend, Expo Line proximity. No hand dryers or electric paper towel dispensers in the bathroom (always a big concern for one of our kids). They’ve got a food truck, too.

Cons: Bathroom reminds me of some roadside gas station restrooms. They’ll be moving from this location in a few months as the Expo Line expansion impacts parcels surrounding the stations.

Changing Station: No

High Chairs: Yes

Parking and Access: Lot south of the restaurant, or take the Expo Line.

Other Tidbits: Sunday was the big event. It was our day to check out the brand new Expo Line, a hotly anticipated event in our household. We were woken up by a beyond excited five-year-old asking, “ARE WE GOING TO RIDE ON THE EXPO LINE NOW?” After our usual Proof Bakery and Atwater Village farmers’ market routine, we finally got to Union Station, botched plans with friends (note to self: clarify which Red Line station we prefer because the “back of Union Station” does NOT mean the same location to everyone), and hopped in a 1989 Blue Line car that had been repurposed for use on the Expo Line tracks. In that sense the Expo Line is bit disappointing, but the kids could not have noticed or cared less.

I was very, very aware of the date. No April 29th goes by without me thinking about Los Angeles on that day in 1992. All this past week I’ve been listening to stories and reading analyses of the state of L.A. twenty years later, reflecting on what’s been accomplished (police reform, cross-ethnic coalition building, lower crime rates etc.) and what remains to be done (adequately addressing educational inequities, reversing decades of racial oppression and economic injustice, improving infrastructure, pretty much everything else).

Once we were cruising along Exposition Boulevard past the slightly decayed City Beautiful splendor of Exposition Park I suddenly felt whopped by the weight of history. Then on the above-grade tracks, we passed over Earlez Grill tucked into a mid-century fast food spot just south of Exposition across from West Angeles church. It’d been on the to-do list for years, so I suggested to my husband we go there for lunch.

But the urge was more powerful than just a let’s-get-the-kids-hot-dogs-and-fries matter of convenience. With the memories of April 29, 1992 looping through my mind, there was a stronger emotional pull that needed to be reconciled. After I caught a glimpse of the Target which was the Fedco that was hit back in ’92, I suddenly HAD to get off the train and walk through the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition, a few miles south of where we watched the events unfold and hear the chaos ensue while friends in Santa Monica invited us over to swim. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to that party.

Folks love to talk about the geographic and social gulfs that in part define life in Los Angeles — some justified, others exaggerated. Yet as our world was turned inside out and upside down that evening twenty years ago, and as we freaked the eff out and packed our bags to hunker down with family friends a bit farther west where we thought the heat would be lighter (not such a wise move), it was absolutely true that ten miles meant not hearing the helicopters and the sirens or have a sense of what was unfolding. Although that unawareness was fleeting as the unrest spread and the citywide curfew was issued.

Because I couldn’t make it to any of the official commemorations, I could not miss the opportunity to be with my family there West Adams on this date, having a great conversation with the off-the-charts friendly co-owner and Brooklyn native Duane Earle — check out Brian Watt’s story on KPCC about the Earle brothers’ entrepreneurial journey in the context of 1992 — who treated our children with remarkable kindness, as he does every customer who comes through the doors at Earlez. He was even willing to talk geeky train specifics!

Feel free to dismiss this POV as selfish liberal sentimentality, but that sense of peace made clear again how for better or for worse, Los Angeles is always a city of surprises. I didn’t actively start my day craving a salve to the uneasiness that comes around during these anniversaries. I’m loathe to use the word “closure” because doing so would suggest that we’ve found a panacea for getting along and demolishing social inequities. It also implies that I was directly victimized by the ’92 uprising, which based on my privileges in this society is not true.

The emotional wounds, however, are fresh in a startling way all over again. The scars will collectively remain, so as long as sorting through issues of power/race/class will always be complicated. (I was surprised and annoyed that the Clippers, for instance, were trending locally on Twitter and not the 20th anniversary, which I understand is expecting way too much from social media.) As some of my friends have rightly pointed out, it’s easier to talk about the personal and political dynamics of say, 9/11 than the Los Angeles riots.

Anyway, you know all the rah-rah stuff people say about CicLAvia’s good happy civic booster vibes? Same goes for the Expo Line opening, without as much exercise and the crazy outfits. That it took place over the course of April 28 – 29, 2012 is something this city should be DAMN proud of.

Today proved to be a potent mix of optimistic and unsettling feelings. I thought about how we might talk about the chapter in Los Angeles history that remains current on just about every level when our kids are older. But at least for an hour, a spontaneous lunch at Earlez was exactly what we all needed, for entirely different reasons. We left the bright tiled dining room, full after having scarfed down sauerkraut-topped hot dogs, chunky fries and lemonade, waved goodbye to Duane who was busy cooking for a new rush of customers, and got back on the train.


3630 Crenshaw Blvd., West Adams
(323) 295-8886
Cuisine: American
Price: $
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Cicely April 30, 2012 at 10:50 am

Great piece, Jess. I’m impressed by how you managed to wrap trains, hot dogs and one of the most traumatizing episodes in L.A. history into one post! As someone who was in the wilds of New Hampshire when this all happened, I was really interested in your account.


Susan April 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I was in Santa Barbara during the riots, but vividly recall watching the coverage and constantly checking in with my parents. My dad was safely tucked in the Palisades having recently moved from Pico and La Cienega, one of the many riot hot spots and my mom in the Valley. I remember feeling helpless and terrified.

Thanks for thinking all of this over in this post. I think, or would like to think, that this anniversary (20 years???) is emotional for anyone who was there and/or is a native Angeleno.

Lovely to see you tonight at Canele. Your motherly instinct to herd my child as he darted was much appreciated!


Jessica April 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for reading! Susan, we stayed with my best friend’s family just a few blocks away from Pico & La Cienega instead of staying K-Town adjacent. Again, much of what happened was totally unpredictable. And hey, I was happy to do a bit of kid-chasing since I was freed up!


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