In a time when chilly-press juiceries are relentlessly on development, and sometimes relentlessly costly, Jugos Azteca in Highland Park is maintaining juices previous-faculty. For the final 21 years, the tiny juice store on York Boulevard has been making Mexican-type fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, tortas, tostadas, Mexican-fashion gelatin and different easy Mexican snacks for the Latinos who’ve lived within the neighborhood for many years, in addition to a number of the newer residents who recognize the worth and the flavors of the recent and colourful drinks.

“We’ve got clients who’re ready for us to open at 5:30 a.m. daily to get a inexperienced juice for breakfast after which a torta for lunch earlier than they go to work,” stated the store’s proprietor, Efrain Peña, forty four, in Spanish, as he took a break from recording his day by day periods on Instagram.

The small, neon-inexperienced constructing that homes Jugos Azteca stands out from the remainder of the neighborhood’s newer type of muted colours. Indicators promoting all the things from “Ricas Tostadas” to “Diablitos” and the purple tables and chairs outdoors are as colourful because the juices themselves.

We’ve got clients who’re ready for us to open at 5:30 a.m. each day to get a inexperienced juice for breakfast after which a torta for lunch

— Efrain Peña

From left, Efrain Peña, son Raul Peña, spouse Veronica Rodriguez, and son Randy Peña. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Occasions)

Lately, the store has been getting much more clients, people who’re coming to satisfy the voice behind @jugos_azteca, on which Peña posts movies, a lot of movies, typically as many as 30 a day, typically racking up 5,000 views in a couple of hours. (Peña’s yr-previous account at present has 14,000 followers.)

“It’s gotten to the purpose the place he’s acknowledged by followers and stopped once we’re out consuming,” stated Peña’s oldest son, 20-yr-previous Raul, who initially taught his father how one can use the app. “At first I used to be like, ‘Dad! That’s a bit bizarre!’ However now, I see the expansion in our gross sales and the way far individuals come simply to attempt our meals. It’s superb.”

A lot of the movies doc the playful banter in Spanish between the parents who work at Jugos Azteca, together with Peña’s two sons — 14-yr-previous Randy helps out when he’s not in class — and spouse Veronica. On one video, Peña calls out Randy for not having a girlfriend and creates a hashtag for him (#buscandonovias); one other exhibits Peña slicing cucumbers with a knife instantly into his inexperienced agua fresca for a every day particular; in one other he narrates every layer that goes into their pambazo, a Mexico Metropolis-type grilled torta that’s dunked in pink chile.
Efrain Peña describes in his Instagram video the Pambazo with chorizo, lettuce, bitter cream, avocado to the left, and a salad to the fitting, with a quick shot of the hen breast being grilled. (Jugos Azteca)

Peña’s signature greeting is all the time “chavalones,” his goodbye “fierro,” and followers can typically hear his clients repeating the phrases to him whereas ordering juices and elevating their fists.

Peña stated he started making juices and tortas “out of necessity,” as an immigrant with solely a center-faculty schooling. Initially from Ensenada, Mexico, Peña moved to Highland Park in 1986. He met his spouse, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Morelos, Mexico, together with her household, whereas working at a Kentucky Fried Hen restuarant. Earlier than opening Jugos Azteca, Peña labored in over 20 totally different eating places — together with, from 1997 to 2000, a taco stand on Sundown Boulevard in Echo Park.

“I’m going into a few of these new locations opening within the space and I can’t afford something,” stated Elvira Aguilar, who has recognized Efrain and Veronica Peña since they have been all in highschool down the road, and stopped by for a carne asada torta. She’s been a loyal buyer since Veronica first began making freshly pressed juices at El Huarache Azteca, her mom’s restaurant (beloved locally for its huaraches, grilled and loaded sandal-formed disks of masa) 100 ft away. That was 21 years in the past, when Veronica and Efrain nonetheless shared El Huarache Azteca’s area to promote their juices. In 2008, their present area turned out there they usually moved their whole operation there. (You possibly can nonetheless order a juice from Jugos Azteca from the menu at El Huarache Azteca and somebody will run it over for you.)

Randy Peña, 14, pours a juice for a customer.
Randy Peña, 14, pours a juice for a buyer. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Occasions)

The recipes for the juices have been created by Veronica’s grandmother in Morelos, who developed the blends believing that they assist with widespread illnesses.

The medicinal purposes for juices have been utilized in Mexico for many years, and due to the current development of juicing in American tradition, Peña and his household have seen an uptick of their gross sales. And that’s along with the purchasers who come to the store on the weekends for the $1.25 tostada particular.

“I by no means would have imagined right now’s Highland Park,” Peña stated, although he additionally famous that “the neighborhood can also be lot extra tranquil than it was prior to now.” Smiling, his cellphone in his hand, he stated he’s not planning on leaving anytime quickly.

“My aguas frescas are $1 they usually maintain everyone completely happy,” he stated, “regardless of the place the client is from.”

5213 York Boulevard, Highland Park, (323) 254-4555, Instagram: @jugos_azteca.

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