Los Tacos founder Fidel Leos mined his experience as a maitre d’ and memories of his childhood south of the border to design Los Taco’s menu of authentic Mexican fare. Fillings such as shredded beef and fresh red snapper stuff the restaurant’s namesake tacos, and chefs also sling specialty steak dishes such as grill-kissed carne asada and lightly breaded milanesa onto waiting plates. Early birds dig into Mexican breakfasts such as chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, and meat-free forks can excavate a variety of vegetarian fare.
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."
The culinary pyromaniacs at El Vaquero pay homage to their homeland with poncho-patterned tablecloths, pictures of the cathedral in Guadalajara, and a specialty sandwich hailing from the state of Jalisco. Seated in the wicker chairs that line the cozy, sun-colored dining room, diners dig into a menu that features classic Mexican dishes such as chiles relleno, carnitas burritos, and tacos that can be ordered soft or crisped over the grill. Meanwhile, traditional art and black-and-white photographs look down from the walls, and a bell hangs by the register in case tongues are in need of a tiny fireman.
Qdoba's burrito baristas handcraft a catering menu of Mexican-inspired cuisine, customizable with a panoply of fresh ingredients for a taco, nacho, or burrito bar. Qdoba's culinary crafters craft succulent fillings for burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas, including protein-packing choices, such as slow-roasted pulled pork, adobo-marinated grilled steak or chicken, and spiced shredded or ground beef, with vegetarian options also available. Taste the gooey flavor accents of the signature queso sauce, a three-cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes, and jalapeños, the pinto or black beans simmered in cumin and onion, or the creamy, hand-smashed guacamole that's ideal for filling up Queen Elizabeth's diamond-studded guacamole chalice. Tortilla chips with salsa bar and desserts complete each catered event, and customers can opt for burrito-boxed lunches and any add-ons.