Chef Ray Garcia is stepping into the booming ghost/virtual kitchen space with both feet, teasing plans on social media for a new delivery-only restaurant called MILA, short for Made In Los Angeles.
“It’s a taqueria, in the Ray Garcia sense,” says the chef, who currently owns and operates Broken Spanish in Downtown, and previously ran B.S. Taqueria from a separate space not far away on 7th Street. “It’s going to have a lot of focus on technique and ingredients.”
The new operation won’t be a rehash of B.S. Taqueria under a different name. The recipes and formatting are unique to MILA, and Garcia believes that the ghost kitchen model makes the entire thing dramatically different, and more scalable.
“It’s not B.S. Taqueria,” says Garcia. “It’s not going to be a cut and paste of what we’ve done before. It’ll be in the spirit of what a lot of people liked about B.S., but we made it different.”
The plan is to open MILA in the coming weeks, working a delivery radius that extends across Downtown to start, as Garcia will begin by using the existing Broken Spanish kitchen to make all of MILA’s tacos. The menu will begin with six main items — three meat tacos and three vegetarian tacos, including things like a take on calabacitas, and several sides.
Future locations could spread the brand further across the city, using existing ghost kitchen spaces in areas like Koreatown, the Westside, Hollywood, and even Pasadena. “It’s a brand that will be here a while,” Garcia says, “knock on wood.” MILA will be available on all the usual delivery apps; customers will need to order in advance, and will not be able to simply walk up to Broken Spanish to order MILA food, though Garcia does hope that expanding his name into the ghost kitchen realm could ultimately help bring more customers to his sit-down restaurant as well.
More and more, big-time restaurant operators have been diving into the ghost kitchen/delivery-only restaurant model as a way to both shore up lost business because of the pandemic, and to ensure a robust business for the future as delivery become more and more a part of everyday life — coronavirus or not. In recent moths corporate behemoth SBE has jumped into the virtual kitchen space with several different delivery restaurant concepts, as has H.Wood Group. On the smaller scale, longtime Culver City fried chicken restaurant Honey’s Kettle has signed a deal to expand into new swaths of Los Angeles with its own delivery restaurant idea.
“Part of it is liberating, and part of it is frightening,” says Garcia of moving into the delivery space while still running his popular sit-down restaurant Broken Spanish in Downtown. “I like the challenge of trying to establish some sort of experience and connection with the guest, through the food itself.”
“The current environment has sped things up a little bit,” says Garcia of the current uncertain business climate. “It’s changed the variables in the equation, at least for the foreseeable future. Having extra square footage really isn’t a benefit. I’m in Downtown LA, across from a convention center, a sports arena, a music center — who knows when they will open again.”
MILA begins early next month for lunch and dinner, starting at five days per week, with plans to expand both hours and locations in the future. Garcia says that MILA will also eventually act as an “umbrella” brand, paving the way for Tacos MILA, Tortas MILA, Burritos MILA, and beyond.