Director Chris Weitz shot his new drama, A Better Life, released June 24, on location primarily in and around East Los Angeles. The film tells the story of a gardener and illegal immigrant (Demian Bichir) who is striving to keep his teenage son (Jose Julian) away from gangs. The movie follows the two as the father purchases a pickup truck to get ahead in business only to see it stolen.
"It's an adventure about the father and son learning to speak to each other and getting to know each other as they go in search of this truck," says Weitz.
During the course of the 38-day shoot, Weitz, the director of The Twilight Saga: New Moon and About A Boy (with his brother Paul Weitz), also discovered some of the area’s best places to eat, from authentic Mexican joints to one of the city’s most inventive Nuevo Latin restaurants. Here are his top five spots to hit when exploring the Mexican cuisine of L.A.:
1. La Parrilla Mexican restaurant in Boyle Heights: "La Parrilla means the grill and there are two things that are great. The fresh guacamole and the great regional music. The last time I was at La Parrilla, there was a man with a beautiful voice who played the viehuela, which is sort of like a giant ukulele or a shrimpy guitar. It makes a beautifully plaintive sound," says Weitz. 2126 Cesar Chavez Blvd., Boyle Heights, CA 90033
2. Rivera restaurant in downtown Los Angeles: "On the upscale side, we had our first actor and head of department get-together at this new wave Mexican restaurant. It's got fantastic, fantastic food and they also have probably the best selection of tequilas in L.A. Our star Demian Bichir's favorite tequila is Seven Rivers and they have that. So we had a bit of that and a good night was had by all." 1050 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, CA 90015
3. La Casita Mexicana restaurant in Bell: "They specialize in chile rellenos and they make it with a pomegranate sauce. It's kind of a white sauce with pomegranate and it's absolutely fantastic." 4030 E. Gage Ave., Bell, CA 90201
4. King Taco in Boyle Heights: “It’s the classic taco experience. The tacos pastor and carne asada are great and some of the distinctive things are the lengua which is tongue and head cheese and all kinds of things which sound really scary but are worth trying. I hadn't had lengua before and the experience was very good.” 2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Ave., Boyle Heights, CA 90033
5. Homegirl Café in Chinatown: "It's part of Homeboy Industries [a jobs and education and program that assists at-risk and formerly-gang-involved youth]. The salsa is really, really good and they just started selling it at Ralphs." 130 W. Bruno St., Los Angeles, CA 90012