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These Chefs are Defining Modern Mexican Food in Los Angeles Right Now

LA Weekly speaks truth about who's doing some of the most inventive cooking in town right now

Thomas Ortega at Amor y Tacos
Thomas Ortega at Amor y Tacos
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Alt outlet LA Weekly is on a tear this week, having rounded up some of the best stories about Mexican food from Long Beach to the Valley. In particular is a strong piece by writer Sarah Bennett about the rise of modern Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine.

Often described as Alta California Cuisine, this new contemporary take on long-running Mexican and pre-Hispanic dishes has been happening in earnest for the past few years, as chefs like Carlos Salgado in Orange County brings his restaurant Taco Maria to new heights with every menu change. And then there’s Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, who often marries thoughtful California ingredients with the backbone of a more traditional tortilla.

Ricardo Diaz of Bizarra Capital and Colonia Publica gets his own shout-out too, having taken over Whittier with a number of concepts that bridge the divide between old school Mexican restaurants and new school flavors. Diaz’s family is behind the El 7 Mares chain of seafood spots, but over the years the chef himself has jumped from helping to kickstart Guisados to the short-lived Colonia Taco Lounge.

Along there way there are nods to Thomas Ortega as well, whose massively popular Amor y Tacos in Cerritos continues to be a draw for much of the Southland. His new Playa Amor in Long Beach is a sleeker look at the seafood side of the Mexican food equation, but still doesn’t stray far from chef Ortega’s original roots as a Mexican-American growing up in greater Los Angeles.

Broken Spanish

Keep digging and you’ll hear about the beginnings of Sonoratown in a small Fashion District space in Downtown, all about Corazon y Miel in Bell, or how Salazar is turning the tables on what it means to actually dine out at a Mexican restaurant. The paper also, in a few separate pieces, dives deep into the world of Rocio Camacho and her famous moles, as well as Broken Spanish leader Ray Garcia, who continues to blow minds with some of the best regional (to Los Angeles at least) Mexican cooking anywhere in the United States. It’s a fun time to be eating well in Southern California, that’s for sure.