When it first opened in 1979, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill was a simple taqueria in Los Angeles. Its open kitchen gave patrons a front-row seat to watch chefs transform fresh ingredients into bold, memorable Mexican dishes. Today, the original concept has evolved into a booming franchise, but each location works on the same principle: add a modern twist to classic Mexican food. Chefs continue to work in an open-kitchen environment where they concoct seven types of homemade salsas—laced with ingredients such as fire-roasted roma tomatoes, cilantro and garlic, and even mango—to complement carne asada tacos, Los Cabos shrimp burritos, and hefty bowls packed with chicken, fire-roasted veggies, and plenty of cheese. The kitchen crew also assembles large breakfasts of eggs and chorizo, as well as huevos rancheros for early risers.
Chino's Rock & Tacos pairs authentic Mexican eats with a socially conscious cooking philosophy, and serves them both in a party-minded rock 'n’ roll atmosphere. Two double-item combo plates can include crispy tacos and chimichangas that scale mountains of spanish rice with pinto beans led by chicken or beef sherpas. Mouthwatering fish tacos filled with grilled mahi-mahi, ahi tuna, or shrimp are fashioned with sustainable seafood practices, and the enchilada packs your choice of chicken, beef, or cheese into a pillowy tortilla. Popular bottled beers such as Corona wash down free chips and salsa, or supply the high notes during glass-bottle family-band showcases.
Instead of bellying up to a bar, visitors to Avant Tapas & Wine can savor ambrosial tastes—such as Inception chardonnay, Hitching Post pinot noir, and Falcone syrah—at the Wine Wall. Here, a dispensing system measures out exact pours of 52 wines hailing from California’s other wine country—the prolific central coast. Visitors immerse their taste buds in sips of diverse varietals from 20 regional wineries, such as Ground Effect Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo and Hoyt Family Vineyards in Malibu, all produced next door at Terravant Wine Company and enjoyed in Avant’s industrial warehouse confines.
Guests can also pair wines with the celebrated cuisine of chef Robin Reynolds, who harnesses her extensive culinary training and her roots as a Santa Barbara County native to infuse her morsels with local flavors, from hormone-free rib eye to produce picked from nearby organic gardens. While swirling vibrant reds or sweet whites in their glasses, diners take in live music three nights a week or peruse the establishment during tours.
At first glance, the menu of Restaurant Open might appear simple and static with a selection of sandwiches and burgers. This, however, is only half of the story. Each day, the restaurant's chefs post daily specials, and here is where the restaurant shines. Not only do they "freestyle" improvised, off-the-menu dishes after conversing with patrons, but they also mingle in nearby markets and chat up vendors, looking for interesting ingredients to convert into the specials for that day's morning and afternoon. A quick browse through a photostream shows off delectable selections. Tri-tip filets sizzle on a grill, ready to be cut and put into tortas, sandwiches, or the mouths of passersby. Noodles swirl with veggies and sesame oil to be converted into lo mein, while fresh cuts of fish and whole lobsters rest on ice. Other specials—detailed on the restaurant's whiteboard—include meatball sandwiches and honey batter-dipped corn dogs.