Basketball fans know the incredible things late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was able to accomplish during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but getting even the smallest glimpse of who Bryant was off the court has been special for admirers, especially since his tragic and untimely death a year ago.
That’s why a lowkey story like the one that Sports Illustrated recently published about one of Bryant’s favorite places to eat in the Los Angeles area–Mexican restaurant El Camino Real–is one of those personal anecdotes that helps fill the void that he left behind.
Yes, reading about Bryant’s affinity for carne asada tostadas isn’t the same as reading about how he once scored 62 points in only three quarters of a game, but try not to smile at the fact that customers of El Camino Real can order a “Kobe Bryant” special off the menu.
If you’re wondering what the “Kobe Bryant” plate includes, it’s a combination of beans, steak, cheese, sour cream and onion. Bryant’s first trip to El Camino Real was with his future wife Vanessa while they were dating. As a regular customer, Bryant would always order his food in Spanish. “To have him in our place, that was so special for us,” manager Rodolfo Garcia told SI.
After Bryant’s death, the Los Angeles Times mentioned El Camino Real in a story about Bryant’s “special kinship with Latino fans and culture.” El Camino Real quickly found new customers who wanted to eat at one of their favorite player’s favorite restaurants. Like many restaurants across the U.S. over the last year, business at El Camino Real has not been great during the pandemic. Garcia hopes 2021 brings less heartbreak than 2020 did.
“It was a really hard year,” Garcia says. “We had to support this restaurant and support each other and keep going. And we are hoping for a better year this year.”