The most recent restaurant news to come out of the Maravilla section of East Los Angeles was last year’s opening of a Denny’s, the chain’s first East. L.A. outlet. Now, a few blocks west of Denny’s on Cesar Chavez Avenue, a decidedly more upscale restaurant and lounge has opened: Cities Restaurant. Housed in a former furniture store, Cities has more in common with a downtown or Hollywood night spot than the nearby taquerias and panaderias. A bow truss ceiling of wood beams soars overhead above the 131-seat restaurant complete with exposed brick walls, polished concrete floors and a second-floor lounge overlooking the dining room. The menu ranges from $12 turkey meatloaf to $20 grilled rib eye steak and $11 passion fruit ceviche. Given the the neighborhood’s more modest eateries and low income residents, owner Oscar Macias said the question “What are you thinking? has been asked more than once.
But Macias, who grew up in the neighborhood a short walk from his restaurant, said is he is counting on Cities’ sleek surroundings and contemporary menu to attract new middle class residents as well as nearby office workers and downtown commuters heading home to the San Gabriel Valley. “There is nothing else like this east of downtown,” said Macias.
Cities opened about three months ago after a five-year-long effort, said Macias, who has been involved in opening up other Los Angeles area restaurant and nightspots. He wanted to set Cities apart from the other nearby restaurants that serve primarily Mexican food. However, Macias sees the opportunity to work with other nearby businesses – including Moles La Tia and a new restaurant now under construction across the street – to draw diners to this strip of Cesar Chavez east of the Long Beach Freeway. “The best way for restaurants [to succeed] is to cluster together.”