Deysi Serrano of Milpa Grille | Photo courtesy USC Photo/Ron Mackovich

Boyle Heights — Stop by Milpa Grille on Cesar Chavez Avenue and you will find some staples of Mexican food — like tamales and sopas — as well as new takes on old favorites, like a taco made with a cactus tortilla. But if you are looking for a side of rice or a burrito, better look someplace else.

That’s because Milpa Grille is devoted to a pre-Columbian version of Mexican food before rice was introduced by the Spaniards from Asia.

“Our concept goes back to Mesoamerican times, when corn, squash and beans were staple foods,”

co-owner Deysi Serrano told USC News

. “Hernán Cortés brought rice and wheat to Mesoamerica. We go back much farther than that, thousands of years, when milpa sustained the people of Mesoamerica.”

Serrano —  who took a USC small business program for women, minorities and veterans — and her partners opened Milpa Grille on a stretch of Cesar Chavez where a Jack-in-the-Box and more traditional Mexican-American restaurants compete for customers.

The restaurant’s menu features three ingredients often referred to as the “three sisters”: corn, squash and beans.   The goal is to create tasty and nutritious dishes.

Photo courtesy USC Photo/Ron Mackovich

“We’re part of a new pathway, and we want to grow this beyond Boyle Heights, into East and South L.A., to provide more healthful food options,” Serrano told USC News. I’d like to see a health trend in our neighborhoods, more restaurants that move away from that stereotype that Mexican food isn’t healthful.”

Milpa Grille is at 2633 Cesar Chavez Ave. near Mott Street.


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