Los Angeles is the hub for all sorts of Mexican food, from my favorite taco stand, Cactus, in Hollywood, to the famous little taco truck, Taco Arizas, in Echo Park. If there are so many Mexican restaurants in the area, then what makes another taco shop stand out in Los Angeles? And for a narrower focus in this post – what vegetarian options are out there besides a bean and cheese burrito?
Tinga is a restaurant that luckily is able to stand out in a different category – the gourmet Mexican taco for foodies. Tinga opened up a couple of years ago on La Brea Ave. as a small, casual sit-down Mexican restaurant with dishes that were inspired by Julia Child’s favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara – La Super Rica. Soft homemade tortillas and fresh and local ingredients make noticeable differences for the dishes. Although a little more costly than your average taco, there is something to be said about the quality of the food that makes it worth it.
People have been willing to shell out the extra dollars for Tinga’s food, as the restaurant has grown in popularity, expanding in the past year and taking over the space next door. The design of the restaurant has improved as well, with the exposed ceiling with lights draped like a wired chandelier. A large wooden communal table sits at the entrance of the room with potted plants on it. The newly expanded area has a Mod style with wood paneling and circular mirrors adorning the walls. Dark and intimate, yet good for groups, there is always a healthy dose of indie music filling the room.
The modernity of the restaurant reflects the style of the food, which although is centered on tacos, features an array of other traditional, yet contemporary dishes. One of the best side dishes Tinga serves up is the Elote Especial – a roasted corn dish reminiscent of the Mexican corn on the cob covered in mayonnaise and spices that are sold off of carts pushed on the streets in the summer. The sweet corn in this dish, however, it cut off the cob and mixed with a kick of lime, poblano puree, chili, and crema. Highly addictive and the taste is haunting. Try scooping it up with some housemade chips.
Tinga’s quesadillas are all inspired and innovative, yet keep with the familiar old-fashioned style. The Mushroom Quesadilla is full of Monterey jack cheese and has a spread of wild mushroom pate. The dish doesn’t lack in hearty servings of avocado, salsa and the housemade crema, complimenting the dish and binding it together full of flavor.
The restaurant excels in another side dish – Arroz Con Crema – a creamy risotto, that although is a little less complex in flavor from the other dishes, is delicious due to its simplicity. There is a comfort food quality to the rice dish, which is topped with salsa verde, pickled onion, and crumbled cojita cheese.
At a first glance, Tinga’s menu may look like a carnivore’s dream-come-true, but there are a variety of vegetarian items that are all creative and full of flavor. Grab a Mexican coke or a Dirty Horchata– an horchata with two shots of espresso – to compliment the meals.
142 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Mon. – Thu., Sun. – 12 pm – 9 pm
Fri. – 12 pm – 10 pm
Sat. – 11 am – 10 pm
$4.50 – $13.50