One of Houston’s most celebrated chefs is packing up and heading for Los Angeles, as Hugo Ortega arrives with big plans for a 2019 restaurant debut. The 2017 James Beard Foundation Award-winner for Best Chef: Southwest (and five-time nominee before that) is landing at the Beverly Center with a new project known as Mi Almita.
Mi Almita exists currently only as a pop-up, with backing from (who else?) Michael Mina. The San Francisco-based Mina has been making room for Ortega inside his constantly-rotating Mina Test Kitchen, but now the project is going permanent down in Los Angeles — just don’t expect the place to actually open until 2019.
The move to open at the Beverly Center is a calculated one for Mina, Ortega, and the property owners themselves. Mina has been helping to curate the entire dining experience at the Beverly Grove mall, from a top-floor food court to the recently-opened Cal Mare on the ground floor. That project by chef Adam Sobel also started as a Michael Mina Test Kitchen experience.
As for what to expect with Mi Almita, look for Ortega’s signature Mexican-by-way-of-Texas menu that has been so popular at places like Xochi and his namesake Hugo’s. There are moles and coastal Mexican specialities on the current menu at the Test Kitchen, though that will certainly expand with more space and a dedicated kitchen in Los Angeles.
In the meantime, expect a slew of other projects to come alive at the Beverly Center, from Mina’s The Street food hall to a barbecue restaurant from Ayesha Curry and and a diner expansion of the previous Easy’s Burgers pop-up that went down in Chinatown a while back. Add in competition from nearby modern Mexican restaurants like Verlaine, and it’s shaping up to be a busy time for Ortega, Mina, and the entire Beverly Center.