Modern Mexican Food Booms in L.A.

Steve Arroyo is cooking up Escuela
Steve Arroyo is cooking up Escuela Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Even if you swallowed Ivy Stark’s mierda about L.A.’s Mexican restaurant scene last April, it would be hard to argue her point today. The introductions of restaurants like Rivera and ill-fated Provecho to Downtown once felt like a foreshadowing of a post-modern Mexican movement that now appears to be blooming in a few different forms. Today’s most notable projects are not only arriving from homegrown or Mexi-Cali entrepreneurs, like the ones flipping the script at Natura or Cacao Mexicatessen, but from an assortment of known and unknown names honoring the cuisine both traditionally and with a spin.

Seemingly everybody in L.A. these days looks interested in opening Mexican restaurants. The past few months have introduced contributions from Armenian-Americans at Benny’s and Te’Kila, Vietnamese-tinged tacos at Xoia, a well-received tribute by impassioned gringos at Tinga, corner taquerias for Hollywood club-goers and Downtown business drones, and the realization of so many Westside Mexican food nightmares with Playa Cantina’s kickless salsa and sour-cream blanched burritos. Then there are expected new Mexican projects from Steven Arroyo and Bell’s Casita Mexicana, plus emerging powers like Luna that debuted at East L.A. Meets Napa. And don’t get anyone started on the tequila cocktail craze or Korean tacos and the endless variations they’ve spawned.

The most notable, no doubt, are the celebrities of Mexican cuisine currently washing over L.A. While John Rivera Sedlar is setting up ambitious plans for new R26 and keeping Rivera vital with a new menu concept, two gifted imports are making a huge splash. Today finds the instant infusion of two Richard Sandoval restaurants at Santa Monica Place, as well as a third, Raya, recently opened in Laguna Nigel. Meanwhile Red O is the restaurant on countless lips these days, due to the reputation of consulting chef Richard Bayless. The restaurant might soon expand with a west side location and given the demand, already needs it.

Hopefully, the trend continues adding accomplished and daring new Mexican to our streets and helps us do some much needed catching up with the major cities of our southern neighbors. And who knows? With Wolfgang Puck going full-circle with his passion for high-end Chinese eats at WP24, maybe that new restaurant coming to the Malibu Pier should just be a simple taqueria.

Modern Mexican Food Booms in L.A.