Cha Cha Chá finally opens its mostly outdoor rooftop space in the Arts District on Friday, March 19, after a nearly two-year buildout. This DTLA restaurant is the sister spot of Terraza Cha Cha Chá in Mexico City, with a similar mid-century modern, Acapulco, and Palm Springs-inspired space. There are differences between the two, notably a familiar LA chef who not only introduced longstanding family recipes to the menu but is trying to install a fair workplace from its opening.
Mexico City-born, LA-raised chef Alejandro Guzman’s kitchen is an airy and peaceful space with wide windows overlooking the activity on Third Street. A bright yellow floor is a cheery addition to the cooking area — a detail that separates it from the uninspired kitchens typically found behind dining room floors. Guzman and chef de cuisine Francisco Moran’s intention is to make sure staff are treated well; Guzman says the two bonded over building a better work environment for the 16 back-of-house employees.
The team will prepare and cook Guzman’s dishes where his childhood recipes and Los Angeles upbringing meet his experience at Sqirl, Eggslut, and as sous chef at Gary Menes’ Le Comptoir. Guzman has an easy approach to his food, where he wants people to simply taste the technique, but not talk about it.
There are traditional starters like aguachile and ceviche, but also chicharos de sierra with fresh peas, serrano aioli, and crispy potato — a revamped family recipe. Cha Cha Cha sports a tacos and tostada menu, but also mains like a hearty pipian mole over cabbage and rice, grilled fish, charcoal roasted chicken, and a pork shoulder confit carnitas with braised beans and pico de gallo.
It’s been a long road for the Grupo Palmares in Los Angeles. In mid-2019, the restaurant group announced plans for a summer 2020 opening. That date was pushed to October, only one month before on-site dining was banned throughout Los Angeles County.
Bryan Tetorakis — formerly of the Varnish and Coles — will manage the cocktails and bar. And architect Lena Kohl incorporated the Downtown skyline into the design, as well as 150 plants that outline the hand-tiled patio. There’s plenty of room for social distancing between tables, as well as a more cordoned-off private area on the rooftop.
Cha Cha Chá appears ready for socially distanced outdoor dining, but it’s really waiting for the end of the pandemic for broader opening hours and more safe capacity. Until then, operations will be limited to Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 until 9 p.m. Reservations available on OpenTable.