For religious Yelpers, Chicas Tacos is the hot and new Mexican food restaurant in downtown, amongst 100 other local establishments from Guisados to Guerilla Tacos.
However, Chicas Tacos co-owner Chris Blanchard claims, “We are what L.A. deserves: a better taco.”
An Airstream trailer seats itself under yellow umbrellas in the parking-turned picnic area, which is just outside of the 700 square feet taqueria. The seafoam green and burnt sienna sign points in all the right directions towards the establishment’s mission to serve fresh, organic and non-GMO tacos. Chicas Tacos does not cut any corners with its Baja California-inspired flavors. Maybe in terms of parking, but that’s downtown for you.
Chicas Tacos has five taco options for $5 each: the fish, veggie, steak, chicken and pork taco. The steak, chicken and pork come in bigger portions, so just ask for the Mama’s Style. There are six salsas in varying levels of spiciness: the molcajete, morita, roasted tomatillo, habanero and pequin.
The drinks include fresh juices: Watermelon-cinnamon, lavender-cantaloupe, cucumber-lime mint and a whole coconut.When describing his restaurant in five words, Blanchard adds it is: “Bold, natural, organic, original and fresh.”
I tried the chicken taco on a 6” organic tortilla, which was jam-packed with the Mediterranean salad, feta, jalapeño slices and cilantro. The folks behind Chicas have paid careful attention to Yelpers as the meat portions have supposedly increased. The large cubes of chicken tasted like chicken, except its texture was denser. The chickpeas, Roma tomatoes and cucumbers kept the palette entertained. The jalapeño slices and cilantro combo took me back to ingredients as tasted in a bánh mì. For anyone who wants the comfort of knowing they have eaten a taco with minimal health repercussions, this is the place. For anyone who wants a $1.50, oily taco then turn the other cachete for that beef cheek.
Other menu items are just as carefully crafted. The fish taco is a mixture of beer-battered fish, Caesar salad, morita salsa and manchego. More than 30 ingredients make up the taco. The fish is line caught. The Caesar salad recipe is from Tijuana. The croutons are hand cut and cooked with butter on the stovetop. The certified non-GMO tortillas are made locally from La Princesita. The avocados for the guacamole are handpicked from Valhalla Family Orchards in Ojai.
The idea behind Chicas Tacos started more than 30 years ago when Chris and his brother Jon helped build houses in Baja California with their family. The brothers met Carmela and her family in Valle de Guadalupe. Carmela, nicknamed Chica, showed them her style of Baja-inspired cooking. Blanchard says her dedication to honest, natural and organic locally sourced ingredients inspired them. Thus, the restaurant was named after Carmela. The Blanchard brothers promised Carmela and the community they would not open the restaurant until the tacos represented the origin and heritage from which they were inspired.
The restaurant held its soft opening in May. The other two figures behind Chicas Tacos include Jon Blanchard and Nico Rusconi.
Street parking became a non-issue after seeing the ambiance and tasting the food. However, a single taco is more of a gourmet, ready-to-made bite as compared to the street regulation-sized tacos from Leo’s. Unlike cutting a pineapple and catching it onto a tortilla, Chicas Tacos’ intentions go further than the reductionist view of a taco.
The restaurant was design by BLVD745 who brought Ace Hotel to the area. The company is also developing the SOHO House Arts District and Hoxton Hotel.
For more info., visit www.chicastacos.com or call (213) 896-0373.