Circumstances between Point A and Point B today put me driving in a driving rain past Leon Cigars, a hole in the wall on Sixth Street, just west of Western Avenue. I first learned about this well-kept Koreatown secret while working within spitting distance of it about a decade ago. In fact, not being much of a smoker, my last stogie was probably one of Leon’s from around that time when I would occasionally step inside the small shop on my lunch hour where an elderly gent could be found at a table behind the counter crafting his authentic Cuban-style magic surrrounded by stacks of tobacco leaves. He’d get up eventually and I’d get myself a couple of his hand-made Leon No. 1’s.
In the few times I’ve happened past the place over the years since I quit working in that area, I was sad to see what looked to be a long-gone Leon’s. The sign in the window looked pretty much the same, but it was always dark inside. I figured with the advanced age of the proprietor maybe he either retired or even passed away.
As such it was with some astonishment on my westward way this soggy morning that I glanced at the shop and found it fired up and fully functional. Beyond the counter I even made out the white-haired top of someone working at the tobacco table. Returning from Point B the same way I’d come I scored a parking meter a couple doors down and made my way inside to find it as aromatic as I remembered it, and Leon as no-nonsense, too. When he finally arose from his worktable I asked for two Number Ones and laid a ten-spot on the glass countertop. Instead of grabbing two from the display he made an about-face to the table and pulled a couple fresher ones he’d more recently rolled. Nice.
“It’s been a loooong time,” I said as he slipped each cigar into a protective plastic sleeve. I was hoping he’d bite and start a converstation, but instead he just smiled and turned to get a book of matches for me. “Keep the change,” I told him and he thanked me in mid-turn back to his table.
Leon Cigars: 3956 1/2 W. Sixth Street, 90020; 213/385-3375 (map)