What does Echo Park’s Citibank building have to do with Warren Zevon and Burrito King?

Not much but somehow Eastsider readers were able to find a connection. Last week, an Eastsider story on Echo Park’s tallest structure, the Citibank building,  generated a comment from a reader who noted that country rocker Gram Parsons once posed in front of the tower for a photo that became a book cover. “I like to think of [the image] as the Abbey Road of Echo Park,” said the reader who goes by the alias Palmero. Wait a minute, said another reader named Mr. Rollers. Parsons actually posed in front of the Burrito King at Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street – what is now the Citibank tower is in the background. Palmero conceded that point and then provided a link to a clip of a 1977 Dutch documentary showing another legendary musician –  Warren Zevon – paying a visit to the same Burrito King. That is how we ended up with the above video of Zevon talking up machaca burritos at the corner of Alvarado and Sunset in Echo Park. Where will The Eastsider comments lead to next?


  1. Speaking of Warren Zevon & Echo Park, I’ve got a question for anyone who lived here around that time. In Zevon’s song “Carmelita,” he talks about meeting his dealer on Alvarado street at the Pioneer Chicken Stand. For as long as I’ve lived here (which I admit isn’t very long), there has not been a Pioneer chicken stand on Alvarado. Did there used to be one, or was Zevon so strung out on heroin he had his streets mixed up?

    • Not sure … but there was a Pioneer Chicken close by on Echo Park Ave, close to Sunset up until a few years ago. Now I think it’s the Ceasar’s Pizza.

  2. An even better version of the Gram Parsons photo at Getty Images

  3. Awesome video. Great prices back then!

  4. There was a pioneer chicken on Echo Park ave where the Little Ceasers is now. I’ve always been told that was the Pioneer Chicken referenced in the Linda Ronstandt song which I know realize Warren Zevon penned. But I didn’t live here then — I fact I don’t think I was alive then.

  5. I’ve always preferred to think of Zevon’s skewing of Echo Park geography as poetic license, but we may never know.

    There are quite a few shots of Parsons in front of the Burrito King – they may even be from more than one photo session.

  6. That knowledgeable Mexican “John” was my father.
    A beloved brother and friend to many.
    Miss you Pops!

  7. There WAS a Pioneer chicken stand on Echo Park Avenue where the Little Ceasars is, now but that is NOT the original building ,

    Go back, waaaaaaaaaaaay back .

    When they razed the old pioneer market and build the newer pioneer market ( now walgreens and that equally nasty market ) they replaced the older stand with seating and the building that now houses Little Ceasars .

  8. IN 1977 I was still living on E. Edgeware Rd in the bungalow courts. Rent was $90 dollars a month. We knew the “other” side had musicians like crazy in the hills. Jackson Brown lived on Cornonado Terr, my then friend Karon lived next door, her brother was the neighborhood Dr. Feelgood. Remember Jackson’s song Cocaine? Driving down Scott turning down Main??? My friend BABU was percussionist for David Lindley, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Rwate, in a band called El RayoX. They would all show up up Babu house and jam, he lived on Allison in the little bungalow close to the alley 2nd flr. He was eventually fired for drug overuse, he was found dead of O.D in Mac Arthur Park. AS a studio musician BABU played with then all ZEVON, PARSON’S, We lived in Angelino Hts for over 20 yrs. survived the Cocaine wars, the gang shootings, The Rodney King L.A Riots, The Echo Park gang members where on the roof of the business keeping looters at bay sad part is they looted GERRY’s a local 40 year plus business that catered to the Latino community. Mother’s made there kids take stolen stuff back, but when someone does you wrong , oh well you all know, you walk away. It was DIFFERENT in those days. My Question to you all who moved here for the kool place it is, do you want to see more commeralization of Echo Park?. 7-11 want’s to move into the corner on Berekey and Glendale, don’t we have enough traffic? What happens to the MOM and POP stores, BELLY UP? NOT so KOOL my friends.
    Luiza Padilla-Mavropoulos
    on FaceBook

  9. @ Sean: What a nice tribute to your father – sorry for your loss.

    Here’s a photo of my wife in front of Burrito King around the same time. The laminated L.A. Times column that they had in the window also appears in the film clip if you look closely:


  10. Creative Maladjustment

    Don’t forget Tom Waits and his 1975 album Nighthawks at the Diner:

    “Gusty winds at times around that corner of Sunset and Alvarado.”
    –“Emotional Weather Report”

    “Yeah, you ask yourself out, you know. Some class joint somewhere. The Burrito King or something.”
    –“Intro” to “Better Off Without A Wife”

  11. Yeah, I know Little Caesar’s used to be a Pioneer Chicken… it wasn’t that long ago. But, that’s not on Alvarado street!

  12. Well Yeah Jeremy ,
    And that’s why people responded to your question .

  13. and your nonsensical answer is why he is still confused…

  14. I think jojo got into some of Zevon’s secret stash!

  15. No really , I have my own stash …………..thanks.

    I got it on the corner of sunset and alvarado ,or at the pioneer chicken that doesn’t exist on alvarado but on echo park avenue .

    And I was standing in front of the burrito king and ended up having my photo taken in front of the citibank building .

    Than I had a moment of clarity and thought , I think jeremy and ryan should get back on the bus to the Westside .

    Echo Parker , since 1956

  16. If you try singing the line as, “He hangs out down on Echo Park Avenue at the Pioneer Chicken Stand” you might understand why Zevon wrote it as he did.

  17. @ Rollers: Touche. He should have written it as “He hangs out down on Alvarado Street at the Burrito King stand.” 🙂

  18. I’ve also heard that Jackson Browne (native Highland Park-er) and Glenn Frey lived on Laguna Ave while they wrote “Take it Easy”.

    It’s sad about all the houses in the video that are no longer there.

  19. What a fun post, thanks to the contributors who dug up the links!

    I actually have that Gram Parsons book and I never even noticed the photo was in the neighborhood!

  20. The Burrito King looked awesome back then! I wish it still had all those colorful little signs! It also seems like the liquor shop got sliced in half to make room for the smoke shop.

  21. we love echo park

    so cool to see all the craftsman homes that have been destroyed on Alvarado and Sunset– wow. that was cool to get a glimpse.

  22. And his hair was…

  23. It is sooooooo great to have grown up in the neighborhood and draw on my memory and remember the way Echo Park was , than being a “newbie” and have to refer to old photos to see how Echo Park was !
    Awesome !

  24. Agree, we love, on seeing the old houses, grand things. On balance the intersection is still instantly recognizable.

  25. JEREMY ~
    I believe I can answer your question. Unfortunately, however, the Pioneer Chicken Stand mentioned in Zevon’s great song is long gone.

    Back when I was a kid, (1969 through the mid- ’70s) my Grandfather used to take us to Dodger games. He would take the 10 Freeway, get off on Hoover Street, go north and then turn on to Alvarado Street where it intersects with Hoover. We’d continue on Alvarado north past MacArthur Park, pass under the Hollywood Freeway, cross Sunset Blvd., and then turn right on Scott Ave. which would take us right up into the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

    Well, right on Alvarado Street, on the east side near the Alvarado/Montana Street intersection, there used to be a Pioneer Chicken Stand. And I can still distinctly remember seeing all these scroungy looking characters hanging around the place every time we passed by. (My Grandpa had Dodger season tickets, so we passed by the Chicken Stand a lot!)

    At that intersection today is a grocery store. I believe a grocery store was always there (although not necessarily the same chain). So, the Pioneer Chicken Stand was essentially in what would today be the western edge of that grocery store’s parking lot.

    I’m convinced that this is the one Zevon referred to in ‘Carmelita’ because it meets the criteria: it was directly ON Alvarado Street and just 3 or 4 blocks from Echo Park itself, and it was a haven for hippie-lookin’ dudes who probably weren’t waiting around there for the freshest batch of chicken to arrive.

    ~ ProvDog

  26. there was a pioneer chicken at 8th and alvardo in the mini mall.
    i was the cook there for 3 months between nov. 1968 and feb 1969.
    it was a crazy area then.if anyone is interested, id be happy to elaborate.

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