For Barrio Star's owner and chef, Isabel Cruz, her Latino family's large, frequent gatherings have always revolved around food. She taught herself how to cook with help of friends and family from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico—and growing up in Los Angeles, she was also influenced by Japanese, Korean, and Thai flavors. Today, she infuses her global, modern recipes into five eateries spanning two states.
Within the vibrantly painted, chandelier-lit confines of Barrio Star, she incorporates unexpected influences into the menu of Mexican soul food; wild blackened-salmon tacos are adorned with thai slaw, pineapple, jicama slaw, and chipotle aioli, as well as cilantro and lime. Coconut permeates her Brazil bowl, loaded with rice, black beans, mango salsa, steamed greens, and a choice of meat. Isabel chooses local, organic ingredients whenever possible to forge her modern, healthier versions of traditional dishes. Her chefs make all the salsas from scratch, rather than rehydrating astronaut salsa, and hand press tortillas from just-ground corn.