5/10/2013 06:13:00 PM

Petty Cash Taqueria's Chef Revealed, Opening Soon

This is why LA is the biggest small town in the country: About a month ago, at a random party with a random group of people we didn't know, without anyone knowing what we do for a living, someone started talking to us about a new taqueria "or something" that was going into John Sedlar's just-shuttered Playa on Beverly Boulevard. We heard some chef names bandied about, but we kept mum until things were confirmed. We now have the goods, and it's the last chef you'd ever expect to be cooking tacos. Although he did once wow us with pig's ears nachos...

Emails were sent out earlier this week to LA Street Food Fest fans to preview Petty Cash Taqueria before it opens because, well it's all street food, and we put two and two together. The whole thing is very hush-hush: The windows are still papered, no chef names are revealed and for the dinners, you have to enter through the back door. What we've learned is that none other than Walter Manzke is collaborating on this semi-authentic taqueria with Bill Chait and various chefs from East LA and Baja, including Guillermo "Oso" Campos Moreno from Tacos Kokopelli. The menu is based on Mexican street-food classics but elevated, things like those Manzke pig's ear nachos we fell in love with at Test Kitchen, chicharrones with pineapple-carrot hot sauce, Cook's Ranch pork ceviche, tacos filled with carnitas and salsa verde, "East LA" short rib guisado with nopales, and gulf prawn adobo. Prices are kept in check. It's probably not cheaper than your favorite truck, but there's a chance it will be much better.

Since this is a Chait project, naturally Julian Cox is in charge of the drinks, and he's come up with things like an Oaxacan-inspired Old Fashioned on tap, margaritas, beers on draft and non-alcoholic stuff like cinnamon-spiked dirty horchata made with long-grain brown rice and pecans.

The space has been completely overhauled, now with communal tables, hand-painted murals by LA street artist RETNA and the little-used back room with picnic tables, bench seating and shuffleboard(!). After the previews, the restaurant should open in a couple of weeks.

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