While jugo, licuado, raspados and helado (juice, smoothies, snow cones and ice creams) are common in parts of East Los Angeles, Fruteria Huerta sticks out like the fox in a chicken coup in Alhambra. Neighboring establishments include a Yoshinoya, a liquor store and several Chinese businesses.
The all-women staff can’t pin down when the market first opened. One throws her hands in the air and says, “Ocho años,” (eight years) and points to herself, because she is sure that she’s worked here that long.
According to the employees the produce is purchased from vendors throughout the state, but mainly from the Downtown area. There are crates of nopales (cactus vegetables) stripped of their spines. They are green, succulent and ready to be chopped and added to a dish, either fried or boiled. Aguas frescas (water refreshments) are fruit drinks that contain no additives, but the colors are so vivid that you’d swear they were artificial. They come in sandia, frescas or mango (watermelon, strawberries or mango) and most abuelitas know that the best way to serve this type of drink is to pitch the container in a bed of ice and ladle out the juice — never using a strainer, because that would remove all the pulpy goodness. The most popular drink, according to the women, is a vampiro. It contains oranges, beets, carrots, celery, lemon and the flavor is cool, yet a bit alarming with all the vegetables and fruits fighting for your palate. Its name comes from the blood-red stains that get all over your shirt.
If you ask nicely anything can be put into a drink and yes, you can ask in English or Spanish. The store’s main customers are Latino and this is no surprise, but on one visit a Chinese man walked in to buy a pineapple. No joke or punch line. He just wanted some fresh fruit.
Fruteria Huerta, 1705 Valley Blvd.