Seven miles north of Los Angeles is the lovely city of Glendale, with its super fancy outdoor mall and its charming park. But the purpose of my visit was not to pick up a lipstick at MAC or sit on a bench under a perfectly blue sky. No.
I was on a mission to find un palo de trapear.
Sure, I have a regular mop, but I also have the nagging voice of our family friend that’s a clean freak: “El mapo no limpia como la frasada. Que va.”
I can’t confirm that there’s any science behind that assertion, but there is something comforting about the sound of water being squeezed out of a frasada and into a bucket, and then splatted on to a t-shaped stick, as it emanates the scent of Mistolin throughout the house and, if you use my measuring skills, down the block. So, I set out to find my fabled cleaning wand, and after some internet sleuthing, I found a promising lead at an off-the-beaten-path bodega called El Mambi.
Walking in the store I was greeted by a produce section that included malangas. Malangas! I don’t even eat malanga, but I picked one up and held it to my face. I felt like I was coming out of el periodo especial. Further down the aisle there was guayaba in cans and bars and combined with dulce de leche, as well as and all things Goya and Badia – and then I had to remind myself to stop squealing because I was scaring the patrons. Of course I found my palo de trapear and much more. I don’t remember how much I spent, but it wasn’t much. Really, I was so giddy that the bodeguero could’ve charged me whatever he wanted.
Esto se pica y se extiende
Just down the street from El Mambi, is La Cubana Restaurant. This family-owned business has been around for as long as the exilio. It’s now run by the daughter of the founders, who is my tocaya and a master of frijoles negros. Don’t expect over-the-top decor or cloth napkins. This place is like you’re at your cousin’s paladar, where you go for yummy comfort food at a price that feels like you’re getting a friends and family discount. The menu isn’t overwhelming, which is refreshing, especially when all you want is a simple bistec a la plancha to celebrate the purchase of a palo de trapear.
If you go: El Mambi Market is at 328 E. Chevy Chase Dr. and La Cubana restaurant is at 801 S Glendale Ave. – it’s approximately a five minute drive from one location to the other.
What to eat at La Cubana: Obviously, frijoles negros. Also add some tostones to your meal for good measure.
Don’t leave Mambi without buying: Stock up on velas para los santos. Safety first.