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.
Tacos Uruapan takes its name from the hometown of its founder, who began his journey into culinary mastery nearly three decades ago with a simple taco truck on a street corner. Today, the Solorio family continues to own and operate the fruits of his labors, dishing out handmade cornmeal sopes, plump burritos, and the ever-popular tacos at a handsome Mission-style restaurant that commands the corner of a busy intersection with a thatch of palm trees and even a pint-sized turret. Kid-friendly nachos, bean burritos, and quesadillas abound, but so do traditional Mexican options including fried pork carnitas and beef head and tongue.
Since opening the original locale in 1985, Otaez Mexican Restaurant continues to churn out authentic Mexican cuisine backed by a fully stocked bar of tantalizing tequilas. Eyes dance across Otaez's lengthy menu before spotting a palate-pleasing appetizer, such as a skillet bubbling with melted oaxaca cheese and chorizo in the queso fundido con chorizo, or a fish tostada de ceviche crowned in avocado. Cooks cover their egg-battered pasilla peppers in hot sauce to protect the valuable cheese inside from dairy thieves with acid reflux. Blurry-eyed appetites can awaken with jazzy bites of cactus and egg scrambled in the huevos con nopales, and midday munchers grub on a host of tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. Feasting groups can also indulge in sips of house margaritas, poured after being carefully shaken by a bartender wearing three pairs of mittens.
You'll find much more than just ground beef, cheese, and beans in the burritos at 360 Degrees Gourmet Burritos. The burrito chefs here don't create standard run-of-the-mill Mexican cuisine?instead, they craft mouthwatering burritos stuffed with gourmet, healthy ingredients. For meat eaters, they can flame-broil steak and prawns, then wrap it all up with jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro, and red onions. Or, they can marinate chicken with garlic and lime, and add in a heaping helping of Spanish rice, black, beans, and fresh salsa. For vegetarians, they get even more creative, blending together tofu, broccoli, and mushrooms sauteed with lemon and garlic. And for international appetites, they have something special too?a section of the menu is devoted to burritos and burrito bowls that take influence from cuisines around the world. There's the Thai burrito, for instance, stuffed with spicy peanuts, bell peppers, carrots, and bean sprouts, as well as a curry burrito, a spicy-sweet mix of curry sauce, veggies, and raisins.
Molcajete's chef, Manuel Torres, focuses on a concise, refined menu of Mexican street fare at Molcajete, which is Spanish for mortar. A symbol of the artisanal and handmade, the mortar appears prominently in a mural in the restaurant's dining room and is a symbol for Torres's approach to meals. Familiar carne asada surprises with grilled American Kobe beef flank steak, and remarkably thick, handmade corn tortillas make a meal out of chanclas piled high with black beans, steak, lettuce, and cheese. Weekly specials veer into lesser-known regional specialties, such as the Yucatan's cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork dish, or Jalisco's torta ahogada served on the area's french bread offshoot, birote. Whether served inside or out on the patio, dishes arrive elegantly plated among perfectly formed mesas of tender rice, cups of black beans, or dollops of guacamole accented with dark purple cabbage.
The chefs at Restaurant & Taqueria Mar y Tierra prepare tangy dishes sourced from the sea and the earth. Six steak options share the menu with seven types of shrimp cocktail. Tostadas bear fresh cargo of citrus infused ceviche or shrimp. The restaurant's cooks also fry up fish fillets and turn out classic chicken enchiladas and chilies rellenos, which diners may pair with brews imported from Central America and East America.