Downtown Los Angeles. The hidden gem of the city. The place to find culture, deals, and amazing food. The Santee Alley, or “Los Callejones” as Latinx folks call it.
Here is the guide to the Los Angeles Santee Alley:
What is Santee Alley?
The Santee Alley is located in the heart of Olympic Blvd and Los Angeles. It is also known as a flea market. It is the home to several Latinx families that sell their produce, products, and electronics.
It is the place to find the best discounts/deals for your own personal needs.
Need a new charger? Need a new carpet for your living room?
The Santee Alley has LITERALLY everything you need!
What exactly do they sell there?
From fresh-cut fruit seasoned wit Tajin to delicious bacon-wrapped hot dogs, The Santee Alley sells a variety of materials in separate divisions. To handbags, jewelry, and shoes. The Santee Alley has a variety of street vendors who offer the same to similar materials at different prices.
The whole alley is embedded with crowds and culture. People all over Central and South America come together here at this alley with their families to spend quality time with them during the weekend.
The Santee Alley requires long hours of walking to see all that they offer. To knock-off Airpods that work the same as the regular AirPods, to Doc Martens being sold for $20.
What’s the vibe?
” Un Dollar, Un Dollar, Barato, Barato..” (“One Dollar, One Dollar, Cheap, Cheap”) are the consistent murmurs from these vendors you hear as you walk. The Santee Alley is lively it brings cultures and families together.
The entire place will have you surrounded by people who want to sell you things. The only silence you will get is when you step into a street vendors boutique.
How do I find the BEST deal?
Never settle for the first street vendor who offers you a price for a product. Try to settle for less. If a street vendor is selling a product for $30 bucks settle for $15 and come up with a negotiation.
If a vendor is hesitant to sell for less, look somewhere else. Finding the same exact product at a lower or similar price is guaranteed. Just because you don’t have luck with one street vendor doesn’t mean it will be the exact same throughout your Santee Alley experience. If a street vendor wants to sell, they will, by all means, converse with you to sell at a reasonable price.
Use phrases such as “That other street vendor down the block offered me this at *insert made-up price amount*” The street vendor is not going to know that you actually spoke with another vendor for another price. Lie. This will intimidate them and make them feel like you will buy off someone else, putting their business at a disadvantage.
More times than you think, the street vendor will settle for the price you made up and sell you the product. Santee Alley is the place to negotiate prices and communicate with people.
What is there to eat?
The Santee Alley requires various hours of walking to see all the products that they are selling. You’re going to get hungry! Make sure you carry cash with you at all times! They rarely accept debit or credit cards.
Look for carts and trucks of food. If you’re a picky eater give it a shot! Cooking bacon-wrapped hot dogs in the middle of the street may not seem like safest, but it is! Most of these street vendors are checked by the Health Departement and are approved with the letter “A.”
Try it! Step out of your comfort zone! Their hot dogs are super delicious! You cannot have the full Santee Alley experience if you don’t eat one of these infamous hotdogs!
If you want a quick snack, look for people going around with their carts. They sell items such as waters, fresh-cut fruit, chips and “Duros de Harina” (Puffed Wheat Wheel Chips). These snacks can be topped off with lime juice, hot sauce, and Tajin.
If you’re looking for more of a “sit-down” lunch, there are several restaurants that surround the alley. These restaurants offer a variety of traditional Latinx foods. Dishes such as Tortas (sandwich cake), Tacos, Burritos, Nachos, Caldo de Res (Beef Soup), Sopes (Soft tortilla with meat), etc. are served.
People will be coming to you left and right with a menu on hand asking you to dine at their restaurant. Several dine-in lunch options are presented at the Santee Alley.
When should I go?
If you want the FULL Santee Alley experience, go on a Saturday morning. Usually, street vendors offer their best deals and prices to their products on Saturday mornings.
The Santee Alley gets packed, like REALLY packed. Traffic and parking in Los Angeles is unbearable, hectic and overwhelming. Get there with enough time to find parking in one of the parking lots/structures.
People will start filtering in at around 10am-11am. Make sure you carry cash to pay for parking and to purchase the items in the Santee Alley.
Supporting your local street vendors is very important. Downtown Los Angeles is currently facing a Gentrification issue. Gentrification is the process of renovating and constructing a certain neighborhood to bring in more middle and high-class residents.
This can be observed in the Grand Central Market that is currently being reconstructed and bringing in “Hipstery” vendors such as “Egg Slut.”
Gentrification is pushing out the initial Latinx vendors that resided in Los Angeles out and bringing in big-branded vendors into Downtown Los Angeles. This can also be seen in the Santee Alley, where traditional street vendors and restaurants owned by families are being pushed out due to price/rent increases and businesses like “Tutti Frutti” are coming to be.
Gentrification is a controversial political topic when it comes to urban planning. Los Angeles holds a large Latinx culture/population in Downtown Los Angeles, gentrification allows for the removal of that culture and traditional vendors owned by families.
The Santee Alley is holding onto that traditional Latinx culture in downtown Los Angeles. We hope this guide to the Santee Alley brightens your senses to visit and navigate it like a local.
Will you support the local street vendors in the Santee Alley? What do you look forward to seeing/purchasing from the Santee Alley?
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Journalism MajorCalifornia State University Dominguez Hills