Boyle Heights, CA— Los 5 Puntos, the epochal Mexican food place located at a five way intersection from which it takes it name, is well-known for its carnitas and handmade tortillas. Very popular from its scenes in “Blood in Blood Out.” A cultural movie that was filmed in the Boyle Heights and East LA area; it depicts the Gangster life at one point here in Los Angeles. Los 5 Puntos offers fresh, juicy carnitas, and fresh salsas and guacamole made daily. They offer mouth watering Mexican food that satisfies taste buds for a large amount of people on a daily basis.
A couple years back, amid Aztec dancers, mariachis and customers, Los 5 Puntos celebrated its golden anniversary and the strong connection it has had with Eastside residents over the last five decades.
Stephen Sotelo, whose parents founded the store, said the reason for its longevity is its focus on quality food, customer service, reasonable prices and treating staff like family. In the midst of all this, Stephen and its employees find ways to implement sports into the daily work Schedule.
We can start with the Dodgers here. Majority of the employees are Dodgers fans. 90% are of Mexican roots and one big way they celebrate is by them all attending a Dodgers game together. It is not just any Dodgers game, they select Mexican Heritage Night and all the employees attend this game. Mr. Sotelo pays for all the tickets and even gives the employees cash so they can buy food and beverages. Mr. Sotelo is good to his employees and his customers, “I tell my employees, those people out there, they pay our bills. If you don’t treat them right, they’re not coming back,” said Sotelo, who has worked at the store since he was 12 years old. “I’ve grown up with a lot of my customers. They’ve been loyal to us.”
Los 5 Puntos, is extremely visible with its red and white sign overlooking the busy crossroads on the border of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles was founded by Vincent and Connie Sotelo, Both are Mexican immigrants. A picture of Vincent, now 96, a World War II Air Force veteran, hangs near the entrance of the store, next to photos of family and of Vincent with store employees at annual Dodgers game outings. Vincent retired from the family business 20 years ago. Connie, 76, still helps out twice a week, and daughter, Sylvia, 51, assists during the winter holiday season.
Before using social media and Groupon, most of Los 5 Puntos’ customers were Latino. Now, this spot gets patrons of all ethnicities.
“Hipsters are great because they’re foodies and they love the Internet and they’re Yelpers,” said Stephen Sotelo. “I would say the last three years, because of the [new] tables and social media, business is up 25 percent. It’s pretty solid.” The most popular item on the menu is the 2 taco combo with a 20-ounce drink for $6.99.
Monica Martinez Vega, 42, who has been working at the store for 20 years, remembers when celebrity cook, Rachael Ray, visited here and declared it as having the best tacos on the West Coast.
Inside the location, multi-colored piñatas currently hover over red and white Coca-Cola tables and stools. Behind the counter, large pots of meats simmer in their juices. And over a giant, 5-foot by 10-foot comal, two women make thick corn tortillas by slapping masa into shape.
Another manner in which sports is implemented into work here is that all of its employees adore the Mexican Soccer League or Liga MX. Stephen himself is a huge Chivas de Guadalajara fan. Various workers avidly follow other teams such as Club America, Santos and Cruz Azul. Stephen even granted permission on a huge Collaboration between, Pancho Villa’s Army and 3 mural artists. Pancho Villa’s Army is arguably the biggest fan base The Mexican Soccer Team has. The PVA Mural has been reported by ESPNFC, HugoTV and Fox Sports. It has been a popular destination by futbol fans whom swing by to take images of the mural as they savor some delicious hand made tortillas.
Even more important than baseball and futol, Stepehen is very passionate for hockey. He followed the Kings during the entire 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals. He not only is he a Kings season ticket holder, but he is a Los Angeles Lakers season ticket holder as well. He is also an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan and attends NFL games as much as he can because his business keeps him very busy through out the year.
When Los 5 Puntos opened in 1967, the family sold food by the bulk, including carnitas and handmade tortillas. Over the years, they also tried a butcher counter and at one point sold Mexican baked goods, but as time went on, they dropped the butcher’s counter and the pan dulce due to competing panaderias and carnicerias.
Then about 20 years ago, Sotelo and his father decided to focus on the bestsellers, carnitas and tortillas. They created a “Mexican super cocina” menu, which includes most of the items sold now, like tortas, burritos, tamales and chicharrones.
“We kind of adjusted with the times when we needed to,” said Sotelo.
Which might explain why Cinco Puntos is still in business in present day.