One of my all-time favorite food places is Porto’s Bakery and Café. After originally discovering their site in Glendale, I now regularly swing by their site in Downey to stock up on Cuban sandwiches, potato balls, and raspberry macaroons. Most recently I came by on Thursday, to pick up a birthday cake for my sister.
Whenever I stop by their Downey site, a massive colorful mural on the side of their parking structure always catches my eye. The lure of melt-in-your-mouth tamales is momentarily forgotten as the mural’s crazy, cartoonish jumble of activity takes over. It really stands out from the concrete, metal, and asphalt of the surrounding streets. It collages rich and vibrant scenes of what Downey is famed for: the birthplace of the Apollo Space Program and Space Shuttle, the Blasters, the Broiler, Taco Bell, McDonalds, and of course Porto’s. It showcases a mix of local restaurants, schools, landmarks, and art groups, and it features past, present, and personal references to the Downey community. Every time I see the mural, there is more to discover from it.
The mural, titled Downey Doodle-icious, is by Don Lamkin, a Downey native. Lamkin has no formal training in the arts, but his involvement with Downey’s local arts organizations, including the Downey Arts Coalition, helped bolster his passion for the arts. In 2014, the City of Downey awarded Lamkin a contract to recreate and blow up a smaller Doodle-icious collage of his alongside a wall of the Porto’s parking structure. The Art in Public Places fund financed it, and this was the first time such a contract was awarded to a local Downey artist. Doodle-icious has become a Downey cultural touchstone with prints hanging in local businesses as well as the homes of community leaders and residents. To me, this mural is what the L.A. area is all about: a massive, haphazard jumble of activity that allows creativity to flourish.