Salazar, Frogtown, Los Angeles

Salazar! So glad I was in town to be part of the first wave of people to enjoy taquero Esdras Ochoa's and Billy Silverman's new grill 'n picnic spot at the outer corner of Silverlake.

At first I had to Google the word, just to see if it officially meant anything. I do speak the muy excelente taco Spanglish. Turns out it was the name of the former owner of the space. A garage don't cha know, for many years. My imagination started to run and I pictured a chop shop straight outta Fast and Furious.

Whatever it was, it is now a premium place to enjoy fabulous cocktails and delicious tacos 6 nights a week (closed Mon.) and one glorious day of lunch with your friends, family, and pets on Sunday from 12-5.

As a testimony to its early popularity, the place was already filled to the brim at 12:09 on a Sunday. I thought they handled the "Holy Lunch Rush, Batman" very well. They acknowledged they were backed up, they apologized, brought more chips etc. It was a beautiful day. No problem.

To my eye, team Salazar is doing everything right. Really fun and friendly staff and management. Creative cocktails abounding; Apricot Sour Beer anyone? How about an Horchata cocktail? OH YEAH. The tacos? As to be expected from half of the team behind Mexicali Taco & Co., they were superb.

I was especially impressed by the pastor taco. Yes, it had the right amount of pineapple. Yes, it was served on an AMAZINGLY FRESH, yet soft, yet chewy, yet thin and translucent, yet no breaky, flour tortilla. OMG. Taco perfection. Salsa? Check; Smokey, plus salt and a roasted tad of sweetness. Divine. I did slurp directly from the salsa cup. I admit it.

Plenty of stuff for vegetarians to eat. A nice taco with grilled onions, potatoes, and spinach.  3 kinds of beans, one of them sans animal. A very filling whipped potato and sausage side order (easy to leave the sausage off.) An heirloom tomato salad which was so delicious it didn't even need the heirloom tomatoes! (A wonderful mix of baby cress, grilled fresh corn, paper thin sliced radishes, requeson cheese and red onion.) For those days when the tomatoes may not be cooperating with perfect sweet ripeness, I say, grill 'em!

     Whipped Potatoes with Red and Green Chorizo

    Heirloom Tomato Salad

In the kitchen, which you can see into from the patio, is the kind of BBQ that Esdras and Javier used to pull out of their pickup truck during the early days of Mexicali Taco in a parking lot in DTLA.

Now chef Esdras is sporting a nice white coat and looking very handsome, I must say (cough, cough) as he ably manages the kitchen in pursuit of the kind of quality and creativity we have become accustomed to when his name is on the taco marquee.

    Veggie Taco. Folded by me. Served flat.

    Esdras Ochoa cooking up a taco storm.

The overall dining experience was just so pleasant. I loved the meat-laden wooden planks. I loved all the tin camping gear (plates, pots of beans, salsa cups etc.) Even the check comes clipped to a mini piece of wood. Seats are comfortable. Shade is ample (sure they could use a few more umbrellas - especially for the hostess!) but that is an easy fix.

On a second pass at Googling the word Salazar, I see that it has Basque origins meaning 'old hall.' This fits! You will also be saying the word "czar" every time you speak the name out loud. Need I explain? A great outdoor gathering place in a cactus garden, peppered with the creative souls of Los Angeles, good friends, and tacos. Yum.

Buen provecho!
2940 Fletcher Drive, LA 90065
Contact them on Facebook


Chicas Tacos, Downtown LA Taco Diner

Hello DTLA! Back in town for taco hoppin' and it's really nice (although daunting) to see all the progress and hipster-izing of the previously forlorn DTLA continuing on at freight train speed.

I have had the privilege to work in the Fashion District not 1, but 3 times between 2000 and 2012.

The changes since I have been living in Mexico the last 4 years are impressive. The best part might be all the fine food establishments lining up in re-vamped vintage buildings. It feels like LA finally has some history besides entertainment.

Some of my favorite DTLA restaurants have been anything by Josef Centeno, Bottega Louie, Church and State and now Little Sister. In fact, Downtown LA is reminding me of San Francisco more and more each day and here comes a giant Bloomingdale's sized Whole Foods to brighten things up.

I was very excited on Wednesday, to park 3 blocks away and pick my steps through rubble and construction barriers to be almost first in line to try the new Chicas Tacos.

A fabulous neon sign, a very colorful 50's diner feel and a very friendly staff welcomed me. Lots of eaters there around 2pm, but not the insanity of a line out the door (which might be coming soon.) They plan to open evenings mid-June and now that summer weather is here, the al fresco adorable picnic patio will be much appreciated.

How were the tacos? They were good! Dang good. I especially loved the thin but chewy, fresh tortillas and all the beautifully cut veggies that were part of each taco. I couldn't see eating more than three as these are normal sized tacos and not street silver dollars meant to be inhaled by the half dozen.

Real Mexican Glass Bottled Coke

Let me start with the price, because I can see that many taco lovers will be all "What? Five Dollars? What?" But parking at the meter was $2 for under an hour. If you park in a lot across the street it will run you $6. Prices are up! Especially in LA but the quality and the creativity make this taco worth it.

BTW at my very guilty pleasure, low-brow, comfort food dive, greasy crispy chicken taco place (Hello Fiesta Grande in S. Pasadena) the a la carte taco is $4.50 and it's OLD school.

So the tacos definitely get the Taco Maven's stamp of approval... all except the fish taco. While I love the idea of a caesar salad stuffed in there, word on the street is that the fish for the taco is tilapia and most likely farmed tilapia because fresh tilapia is harder to get.

I hope the kitchen can correct me on this since 'freshness" and "wild caught" are big words on their website. Fish is such a dangerous things these days... with polluted waters and bad farming practices which result in weird bi-products like DDT in your fish. Now that's the real "What?????" So. I personally stick to shrimp tacos as I find the higher quality is easier to procure... but I imagine that would be a $6 taco if Chicas were to offer one.

Veggie Taco - Full of Flavuh and Veggie Goodness

Steak and Crispy Potato Carne Taco

Of the 3 I tried... The steak, the chicken and the veggie, the veggie was the one bursting with flavor. It was friggin' delicious. I also loved the crispy potatoes in the steak. The actual quality and texture of the meat wasn't anywhere near close to Mexicali Taco but then it probably wasn't grilled over a bbq fire either. The overall enjoyment of the beef taco was very tasty and stimulating. Their hot salsa was also terrific. The pork taco included chicarron so what's not to like?

I also hear tale of something called "Mama's Style" a la the In-n-Out secret menu. I was hoping it was a crispy taco but to the best of my understanding, it's 4 stacked flat tacos of your choice with extra cheese between them and eaten like lasagna perhaps. Sounds tempting as a dinnertime variation.

Usually, I avoid chicken tacos out of boredom, unless it's a creeeespie, but again, the combination of elements totally worked! The chicken taco had a nice Mediterranean salad on top and even a few garbanzo beans. The chicken was reddish with flavorful seasoning.

Mediterranean Chicken Taco
They also have a delicious-looking collection of creative fruit waters. No jamaica or horchata here. Instead they offer Lavender-Cantaloupe water along with Cucumber-Mint and Watermelon-Cinnamon. I'd like to try to confirm the sweetness level because normally I don't like to waste my calories on liquid sugar! More chips please.

How I wish Chicas Tacos had existed when I was slogging away in the clothing biz. I could have walked right over for a snack, which most people seem to be doing. I saw a lot of cute to-go boxes stacking up for people presumably eating in their offices. The classic pink bakery box with tacos nestled within and the words "Until Tomorrow" stamped on the side in Spanish, was cheerful indeed.

Hasta pronto Chicas y buena suerte!

Chicas Tacos
728 S. Olive St. Between 7th & 8th Street DTLA
Open for Lunch 11-3


Las Cazuelas del Don, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

When you enter Las Cazuelas for the first time, you notice three... no, four things.

1. The charm of the small but clean and shaded patio seating area.
2. The charm of the owner.
3. The charm of the brown, clay pots sitting near the kitchen.
4. How clean and peaceful it feels.

Alberto (the Don) of Delicious Tacos

I had previously sampled their deliciousness at the San Jose Farmer's Market, held every Saturday during November - May. They only had two choices that day: Fish & Beef. I wasn't quite sure what I was eating but it was so damn good I vowed to hunt them down at their (new at the time) location. This was back in 2013.

Recently, I finally found my way there... Not hard to find. Just a block above the main highway on Malvarossa which is one block toward Cabo, past the very popular 2nd hand store, Back to the Rack.

Back to the tacos!

The menu is a conversation piece. 7 deadly sins and 5 wicked combinations of grilled meat, 1 chicken and 1 vegetarian - all seasoned perfectly and then slow cooked in a cazuela pot for several hours. Rich and delicious, you can choose how you want it served: a taco, tostada, vampiro etc. The pots are imported from Tlayacapan in the state of Morelos not far from Mexico City. The tradition of cooking in them was passed down from the owners family.

Chicken 'Lust' Vampiro Style with Melted Cheese

'Envy' or 'Gluttony.' Gluttony has bacon. Envy, Chorizo

Even the chips were clean and simple, not too greasy, properly salty with complex salsas. Truly the ideal dining experience when you are visiting a foreign country and even more so if you are a local relying on other local business owners to keep high standards of quality and cleanliness. Can't say enough about this!!!!

Hongo Vegetarian 'Pride.' Meaty and Mighty.

Currently open from about 1pm - 9pm. Local telephone: 624 130 7386