Speaker Anthony Rendon is California’s Assembly foodie

A man holds up a cone.
California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon with a cone of chongos zamorano (a type of curdled milk) at Tocumbo Ice Cream in Anaheim.
(Gustavo Arellano / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, July 15. I’m columnist Gustavo Arellano, which means I can have opinions. And I’m reporting from my beloved hometown of Anaheim, the perfect place to conclude my weeklong stint. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my dispatches, gentle reader, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!

Since it’s Friday, I figure I’ll leave ustedes with two Anaheim restaurant recommendations to check out this weekend. Tacos Los Cholos offers awesome tacos packed with meats grilled over a gigantic outdoor grill. Afterward, head across town to Tocumbo Ice Cream, which makes the best Mexican-style paletas and ice cream — think a lot of regional fruits like maracuya, mamey and guanábana — in Southern California. But you don’t have to take my word for it — just ask California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

I’ve kept in touch with him ever since he appeared on my 2019 podcast about the 25th anniversary of Proposition 187. We don’t really talk politics much — our conversations are mostly about literature, but especially restaurants. The man knows his food! We’ve shared meals in Little Saigon, at my wife’s place and especially in various spots across his southeast Los Angeles County district. So when Rendon told me he was going to be in O.C. to connect with Assemblymember Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), I told him to hit up those spots.

We arrived at the popular taqueria right before the line went out the door. He ordered tacos of chorizo, pork rib and slightly melted panela cheese with a chile güerito on top. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they liked to try places,” he said as we waited for our lunch. Family favorites included Tommy’s and a carnitas spot off Indiana Street near the 5 Freeway in East Los Angeles. But he also loved the spectacle of dining, a trait he got from his grandmother, who was the cook at a retirement home for priests in Silver Lake.

“I once read in a book that people would pay to see Napoleon eat at banquets,” he said as we both dressed our tacos. “It just says so much about us.”

The speaker makes it a point of asking assemblymembers when he visits their district to pick a restaurant where the two can talk shop. “It’s a reflection of the person, but also of a place,” Rendon said right before biting into his carne asada taco. “It’s a way to figure out both.”

He suddenly stopped talking. “You can taste the smokiness. The smell goes through your nose and out your mouth. The tortilla is great — you can taste the corn.” Rendon kept chewing, then tried to continue his point but couldn’t. “Damn, this is really good. Comforting like a backyard BBQ.”

After we scarfed down our lunch, the two of us headed to Tocumbo. There, Rendon told me the Assembly is trying to get the state out of the way of regulating food vendors. I mentioned how Anaheim — a city mired in an FBI investigation over allegations of corruption that went all the way to City Hall — nevertheless found the time to harass street vendors. One of them: Tacos Los Cholos, who graduated from their street-side spots to now have two locations (sources say a third is in the works).


“We’re kinder than a lot of cities are,” Rendon said as we ordered our ice cream — Mazapan for me, chongos zamoranos (an ice cream made of cinnamon-flavored curdled milk) for him. “As Dems, we fashion ourselves as champions of the little guy, and [helping street vendors] is the perfect example to help.”

We stopped to enjoy our respective cones. The Mazapan tasted just like its namesake candy, a powdered peanut confection that holds a Proustian power over me. Rendon smiled while finishing his. “This is really layered!” he said. “The subtlety.”

Before we left, I asked Rendon to plug a favorite spot in Sacramento, in his district, and a wild card. “323 Tacos for up north — get the asada and lengua,” he said. “Burrito House in Bell, for their chile relleno burrito and handmade flour tortillas. And then that Laotian BBQ spot in Stanton — in that food hall out there....”

Kra-Z-Kai’s BBQ?

“Super! Spicy, fresh, incredible.”

Damn, Rendon knows spots in Stanton? California’s democracy is safer than I ever imagined....

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.



‘It’s inhumane’: Dogs at L.A. animal shelters go weeks or months without being walked. The city department largely relies on volunteers, rather than city employees, to walk and exercise dogs — a system that’s being stressed as more dogs come in. Los Angeles Times

People kayak down a river.
Kayakers paddle the Los Angeles River with guides from Los Angeles River Kayak Safari, a group advocating for ecological restoration in the river.
(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

Environmental groups allege L.A. River Master Plan was approved without proper review. Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, accusing officials of violating state environmental laws when they approved the Los Angeles River Master Plan last month. Los Angeles Times

Ankler Hot Seat: U.S. Rep. Karen Bass. The L.A. mayoral candidate sits down with the Hollywood-focused podcast on what she’ll do for the entertainment economy. The Ankler

Support our journalism

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


‘Poetic justice’? GOP congressman with anti-LGBTQ past tries to win over gay Palm Springs voters. Rep. Ken Calvert is facing a challenge from Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, in the 41st Congressional District in Riverside County. Los Angeles Times

Newsom slams red state governors on D.C. trip, stoking speculation about his future. Was I dreaming, or did KNX News 97.1 say Gov. Gavin Newsom will probably seek Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat instead — or was that Channel 9 News at 10? Los Angeles Times

In an effort to reach Latino voters, RNC opens Hispanic Community Center in Bakersfield. GOP going for that rancho libertarian vote, I see.

San Diego beach communities seeing uneven enforcement of sidewalk vendors under new ordinance. America’s Finest City is no better than Santa Monica, folks. KPBS


In Vallejo, investigations of police take so long, officers kill again before reviews are done. Where’s the homie Ali Winston when we need him? ... KQED

Our daily news podcast

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you’ll love our daily podcast “The Times,” hosted every weekday by columnist Gustavo Arellano, along with reporters from across our newsroom. Go beyond the headlines. Download and listen on our App, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and follow on Spotify.


L.A. County on track for indoor mask mandate as deaths, hospitalizations rise. We should’ve never dropped the mask mandate in the first place, but what do I know? I’m just a guy who has never contracted COVID-19 despite being in more risky situations than you should ever hope to be in ... while masked. Hey, maybe I’ll write a columna about that.... Los Angeles Times

California went big on rooftop solar. It created an environmental danger in the process. And this is why we can’t have nice climate-change things. Los Angeles Times

On a brutal summer day, one California town ran out of water. Then the fire came. When a small fire ignited Tuesday in East Otosi, there was no water to put it out. Los Angeles Times

Angered by climate denial, a Times photographer embarked on a watershed journey. Last time Luis Sinco and I worked together, we were at the “victory” party of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Los Angeles Times


Who’s the artist celebrating Latino diversity on Instagram? Q&A with Pholk Giant. May Alfredo Ponce be the second-most famous Sanger native after NFL Hall of Fame coach Tom Flores. Fresno Bee

How House of Prime Rib’s Joe Betz became a San Francisco icon. At 83, he’s a living history book filled with remarkable San Francisco tales. SFGATE

Intentional unhoused communities in Berkeley. For 17 months in 2015 and 2016, unhoused residents in Berkeley created their own encampment community at a post office called Liberty City. Jstor Daily

Hot property: Johnny Cash’s quiet retreat for sale. Who wants to live in Casitas Springs, Calif.? Who knows where’s Casitas Springs? Who cares — it’s Johnny Cash! Cowboys & Indians

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at


Los Angeles: sunny after morning clouds, 84. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 72. San Francisco: Partly cloudy, 67. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 80. Fresno: Sunny, 105! Sacramento: Sunny, 98.


Today’s California memory comes from Rafael A Chavez:

When we arrived in Los Angeles, in the 1950s, our parents loved shopping in downtown. On Broadway they went to the May Company, Bullock’s or the Broadway department stores. If they expected to make a day of it, my brothers and I — we were all under 10 years — were dropped off at one of the big movie theaters, the State, the Los Angeles, the Warner on 7th & Hill or the Paramount on 6th, to watch one of the matinee features. When done shopping, they picked us up and we all walked over to Clifton’s Cafeteria for an early dinner or late lunch.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to