La Comida leaves downtown after split with Avenidas

In the photo above, Betty Schneider, 95, enjoys a laugh at the last lunch La Comida will serve at Avenidas senior center at 450 Bryant St. in Palo Alto. Post photo by Allison Levitsky.

Daily Post Staff Writer

After 39 years of serving subsidized meals to seniors in downtown Palo Alto, La Comida moves 4 miles away to Stevenson House today, making yesterday’s lunch of chicken cordon bleu, ravioli and steamed broccoli feel like a “last supper” to some longtime diners.

La Comida is moving out of the Avenidas senior center at 450 Bryant St., where diners have long found camaraderie and convenience along with their $3 lunches usually accompanied by live piano performances.

Other activities, like a trivia group, will likely disband with the move. The new location will provide very limited parking, and the dining room won’t accommodate nearly as many guests. Seniors were told that after the move, they wouldn’t be allowed to linger too long at the table after eating.

“We’re going to be fighting to get in,” said Greg Jones, 72. Jones said he walks to La Comida four days a week.
Avenidas is also moving temporarily to Cubberley Community Center while the building at 450 Bryant St., which is leased to Avenidas from the city, is renovated.

As Avenidas planned for a smaller dining room, La Comida pulled out to explore other facilities that could accommodate their average of 150 diners per day. When it didn’t find any, Avenidas had made other plans, said Bill Blodgett, president of La Comida’s board of directors.

Downtown space wanted

La Comida is set to operate at Stevenson House for the next year. Blodgett said La Comida, which has four paid employees and a rotating group of 50 volunteers, is now seeking a space downtown to continue the program. Many seniors live downtown and utilize both La Comida and Avenidas, so being located nearby is hugely important.

“We’d be thrilled to be back (at Avenidas) as a permanent space,” Blodgett said.

Kenny Huo, a 55-year-old architect, and his 97-year-old father, Kin-Jian Huo, walk the five blocks to La Comida every day. Because of the difficulty of transporting his father’s wheelchair, Kenny Huo said their daily ritual wouldn’t continue.
Many seniors who dine at La Comida go every day and live in the neighborhood.

A second home

“It has been my second home since I retired 12 years ago,” said downtown resident Danielle Dossier, 75. “It’s my social life here.”
Annick Tronik, 84, who lives three blocks from Avenidas, said she comes to La Comida for “the human contact” more than for the food, which she said could be hit or miss.

“Otherwise, you eat alone above the sink,” Tronik said.

A good sport

Betty Schneider, 95, has been coming to La Comida since 1993. Stevenson House will be less convenient for her, but she still drives, so she’ll make the trip.

“I’ll give it a try,” Schneider said. “You really have to make it work and you have to be good-natured about it.”

La Comida will reopen at Stevenson House on Tuesday with a lunch of hoisin chicken, brown rice and steamed vegetables. How many longtime diners will show up is yet to be seen.