Where I Go: The Specter of the Cinema Café

My Favorite Diner Became a Casualty—and a Warning—of Merced’s ‘City on the Rise’ Ethos

Merced is a place for dreams and new beginnings. At least that’s how it was advertised to me when I moved there from the Bay Area to attend college at the University of California’s newest outpost, a campus intended to serve the Central Valley and invigorate the local economy. If the pursuit of an education brought me there, places like the Cinema Café—a restaurant nestled into the historic Mainzer Theater building—were what made me feel at home.

The café closed just before the pandemic, a victim of Merced’s own success. Ever …

If Small Towns Want to Survive, They Need a Plan B

To Fill Up the Storefronts Again, It Takes Talented, Enterprising Folks Who Aren’t Acting Alone

This country is littered with dying small towns that lacked a plan B, one they should have had in place before the mill shut down or the factory moved to …

Can a Bakery Betray a Whole Neighborhood?

Their Croissants Brought Pico Together but the Truth Broke Our Hearts

Neighborhoods need many things to thrive, and I’d argue prominent among them is a gathering spot for good food and coffee. Too few Los Angeles neighborhoods boast such a business, …

Transforming Trash Into Art

How a Riverside Taco Joint Became a Magnet for Community

I’ve lived in Riverside, and I’ve owned Tio’s Tacos here for over 25 years now. Growing up, I lived in a small town in northern Michoacán Mexico called Sahuayo. I …