Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December's SPIRITS with SPIRITS

GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual social gathering of regional ghost hunters and those that just like ghost stories. Open to all, from the curious skeptic to the passionate phantom pursuer. Make friends, and toast a ghost! Let's put the “Boo!” back into “booze.”

All those who attend will receive a free (square) G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you, without asking the staff about our group. (i.e. LOOK FOR SOMEONE WITH A GHOULA BUTTON)

THE DATE: December 13th, 2013 (Friday the 13th)
THE PLACE: El Carmen
8138 W 3rd St, Los Angeles (Map)
THE TIME: 8:00pm to the Witching Hour

NOTE: This will not only be the last SPIRITS with SPIRITS of 2013, it will also be the last one for a while. GHOULA will be taking a break from this monthly ritual, so that we can focus on other events in the coming year. Rest assured though, we do plan on bringing SPIRITS with SPIRITS back in the future since there are still so many haunted bars/restaurants we haven't done yet.


After the husband of Encarnacion Gomez lost an election for President of Mexico, and was executed because of political upheaval, she fled her native country to Los Angeles. Using family recipes, she opened El Carmen Restaurant in 1929. Shortly thereafter, word spread about this unique local eatery, and its easy to see why people were talking...

El Carmen has a few notable distinctions aside from the grammatical error in its name (which should be "La Carmen"), and its reputation as Diego Riviera's favorite local eatery...

El Carmen most likely invented the Mexican restaurant staple, the "Combination Plate," when they offered what was called at the time, the "Mexican Blue Plate Special," where patrons could mix-and-match any three dishes at a bargain price. They created a "build your own Taco" concept, where lettuce, tomato, and cheese were served one a separate plate, so the patron could put on as much, or as little, as they liked. All entrees came with a choice of soup or salad, so if you ordered the salad with your taco then you got two plates of lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Also, they were the first to mysteriously top their tostadas with French dressing. As strange as that may seem, a simple google search for "tostada" and "French dressing" will reveal many recipes and proof that this idea has found its way into the cuisine.

At one time, the menus of this local hang-out boasted it was the "oldest Mexican restaurant in Hollywood." Although we can quibble about whether its location is actually in "Hollywood" (which has no official boundaries), there is no debating that it is quietly one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles (84 years old). When lines began forming (around the block) at their first location at the intersection of 3rd and La Brea in the 1950's, they moved to their current location on Beverly Blvd. Today, that building has been divided with a wall, and El Carmen occupies part of the original dinning room (with a new entrance).

Around the turn of the century, this simple taqueria became a world-class "tequilaria" (with hundreds of tequilas to choose from), and more notably it adopted a Mexican masked-wrestling theme. For those unfamiliar with the pop-culture surrounding this national sport, tons of (now cult) movies were built around the superhero-like identities of these masked wrestlers, pitting them against supernatural forces (aliens, monsters, vampires, etc.). But no matter what chaos threatened the world in these quirky films, there was always time for a musical number and a cocktail in a swanky night club.

Is it any wonder, that a bar that pays homage to these larger than life figures would also have a supernatural connection? El Carmen is said to be haunted by a ghost, who moves objects, either making things seemingly appear or disappear, or turning electrical objects on or off. There is even an eternal candy bowl that it is said to magically refill itself. Although this sneaky spirit has never been (visibly) caught in the act, it is believed that this invisible force is El Carmen's founder, Encarnacion Gomez, popping in on occasion to check on (and fiddle with) things.

So, come out to Hollywood's oldest Mexican restaurant, and have a cocktail while the ghosts roam (or the vampires, or the werewolves, or robots, etc.)... if you dare!

(for more info about this ghost, check out "Gourmet Ghosts" by James Bartlett...)

(to read about last month's haunted location... )
(to see a map of previous SPIRITS with SPIRITS locations... )

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