Steven Paperno, raised in the kitchen of his parents' delicatessen, has been working with food all his life. By the age of 18, he already owned a food manufacturing company, a job that took him all over the Americas. While in Central and South America, he sampled some of the cuisine and found himself dreaming of bringing those small-village flavors to America. So, he sold his company in order to start a new one, one dedicated to infusing organic, local ingredients with the flavors he tasted abroad. He called the new joint Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill.
Inside any Sharky's location, the chefs use certified-organic beans and rice to complement flavorful Mexican entrees. Guests can observe cooks in the open kitchen as they prepare all-natural chicken with no added hormones and all-natural Angus beef. Wild-caught seafood is hand-selected for quality and chosen according to the recommendations of the West Coast Seafood Watch, which aims to prevent overfishing by encouraging restaurateurs to buy sustainably caught seafood. Mesquite grills and stone-fire ovens lend their kiss to each dish on the menu, locking in the flavor that Steven so wished to re-create without the hassles of a trashcan fire.
Though it sounds like a mixed drink, the campechana cocktail is actually a meal. Diners spear shrimp, octopus, and chunks of white abalone as they swim in cocktail sauce flavored with avocado and cilantro. The seafood stew is just one of Cabrera?s house specialties, which populate nearly half of the Mexican eatery?s menu. Other specialty dishes include steak ranchero, marinated sirloin served alongside grilled cactus and jalape?os, and salmon con salsa de arandano, a fresh, pan-roasted fish steeped in cranberry chipotle sauce. Traditionalists can take comfort in the eateries? abidance to serving food on plates rather than mini hovercrafts, and south-of-the-border staples such as mole-drenched chicken and burritos blanketed with melted cheese.
Doña Rosa Bakery & Taqueria serves up fresh, fast, and authentic Mexican favorites derived from owner Blair Salisbury's 100-year-old family recipes. Enjoy breakfast all day long with sweet baked goods ($1.30–$1.60), huevos rancheros ($7.10), or chilaquiles, a plate of scrambled eggs and crispy tortilla chips drenched in red or green sauce, queso fresco, and sour cream ($7.25). Domestic and imported beers ($3.50) or salt-garnished margaritas ($1.95–$4) wash down lunch and dinner burritos ($7.25) and tortas ($7.50) customized with an array of marinated meats, and vegetarian nachos ($7.75) sate those whose teeth tremble in anticipation for non-meated meals. Late-night shrimp soft tacos ($3.35) perfectly fit into mouth openings shaped like a shrimp soft taco and can be capped off with flan ($4).
Although they specialize in cuisine from across the southern border, the chefs at Lupita's also craft many of their Mexican delicacies with ingredients from across another border: the one between land and sea. They fill enchiladas with crabmeat, toss shrimp in a spicy ranchera sauce, and roll grilled, boneless tilapia fillets in flour tortillas with bell pepper, onion, and tomato. To round out the menu, this culinary team whips up other Mexican staples, such as chili relleno, beef or chicken taquitos, and burritos filled with ingredients such as chorizo and chicken asada.
The family responsible for the rise of Casa Del Rey has been designing Mexican eats worthy of kings since 1972. Every day, chefs whip up house-made chips and salsa, stacking them alongside meals prepared in 100% canola oil without the presence of harmful substances such as trans fats, MSG, or radioactive beans. Whether catering for large groups or reloading the restaurant's tables, they tackle traditional dishes such as huevos rancheros, chili Colorado, and specialty burritos, and they also prepare fresh and hearty salads for health-conscious consumers. Both Casa Del Rey locations have full bars with domestic and imported beer, margaritas, and house alcoholic and nonalcoholic smoothies. The Sierra Madre shop welcomes private diners to a small banquet room and claims territory out on the sidewalk, where patrons can savor their meals while celebrating man's invention of sunshine.
Big-time food critics don?t usually write about fast-casual joints, saving their words instead for Michelin-starred spots with white tablecloths. But they've made a telling exception for Se?or Fish, a Mexican-seafood outfit launched by siblings Enrique and Alicia Ramirez in 1988. Soon after the restaurant opened, writers from publications such as the Los Angeles Times began to praise the Ramirez's fish tacos, which were inspired by those sold along the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Crowds began flocking to Se?or Fish's tiny Highland Park kiosk, hungering for the ocean-fresh fish and handmade tortillas they?d read about in the papers.
Three decades later, diners are still flocking to Se?or Fish, which has evolved into five popular locations throughout LA. Enrique and Alicia remain deeply involved in the restaurants' daily operations. We talked with Enrique about the highlights of his iconic eatery.
On Finding Fame: ?[In 1988], a top reviewer from the Los Angeles Times reviewed us. Once we got that review, tons of people started reviewing us?Molly O'Neill, a food critic in New York City, did a story on us on the front page of the food section in The New York Times. Afterwards, when people were on vacation [from New York] and came to eat, they?d mention it.?
On the Scallop Taco "Not too many people have ever had a scallop in a taco. It?s kind of a novelty. We use 10-20 scallops, which means there are 10-20 per pound, so it?s kind of jumbo scallop. And all of our seafood is wild?free-range from the ocean?as opposed to farmed."
On Guadalajara-Style Carnitas "Our carnitas are traditional to Guadalajara, where our family is from. We make it every day and use good-quality, expensive protein."