Chef Ricardo Diaz is known for lying relatively low in the Los Angeles food world, even though he's responsible for some of your favorite tacos and tortas -- as the founder of Guisados and Cook’s Tortas -- and he hails from the Angeleno family responsible for the retro-favorite El Siete Mares Mexican seafood family restaurants. But that low-key approach is about to change, with two new high-profile projects.
This weekend, Diaz is opening Tacoteca in Santa Monica with restaurateur Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger, ChocoChicken) and mixologist Gilbert Marquez. He's also working on a Colonia Taco Lounge spinoff gastro-cantina concept called Colonia Publica, to open in his current hometown of Whittier in 2015 -- with a pop-up also starting this weekend.
FOR THE RECORD
Dec. 8, 3:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to mixologist Gilbert Marquez as Gilbert Vazquez.
"At Tacoteca, I'll be making the type of Mexican food that I personally like to eat, with international touches," Diaz said, though he added that it will not be fusion, "just accents."
The restaurant is slated to open in the former Charleston space on Saturday -- just in for the Santa Monica pub crawl.
Diaz's Tacoteca menu will include grilled octopus tacos with serrano-peanut salsa; guacamole with morita-mezcal salsa borracha; vegan mushroom and heart of palm ceviche; duck tamales; and pork belly chicharron quesadillas. The ingredient sourcing will be organic, local and ethical too.
"I was inspired by my love for mezcal, I felt I needed a bar to drink it in. All of the party can be found inside of that spirit: the depths and the highs," said Fleischman when asked about the inspiration behind Tacoteca.
The mezcal is where 27-year-old budding mezcal mixologist Marquez comes in, with cocktails such as El Aguacatero, with mezcal, avocado, green chartreuse, lime, sal de gusano; and Oaxacking, made with mezcal, pulque and toasted coconut milk.
As for Colonia Publica, Diaz's final menu is yet to be determined, but you can count on the city's first selection of micheladas made with craft beer. The micheladas will represent the Mexican flag: a green michelada made with a local IPA, herb-cucumber puree, lime and smoked salt; a white michelada made with wheat beer, grapefruit shrub and sea salt; and a red michelada made with Vienna lager, chipotle and bacon.
The opening date for Colonia Publica is to be sometime in early 2015, but for now until construction of the restaurant is done, Diaz will be hosting a weekend-only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) Mexican fideo soup pop-up starting this Friday, 3 p.m. to around 10 p.m. -- or until the soup runs out.
At the fideo pop-up, the ordering system is simple and similar to a ramen shop: You order a $6 bowl of fideo (made with a 14-hour pork-and-chicken stock) and then add on as many toppings as you'd like. Topping options are to include avocado, cotija cheese, roasted corn, black bean puree, cilantro chutney and fried wieners, but they will change every week. "It's a pretty hardy meal once you add all the toppings," Diaz said.
Tacoteca is set to open to the public Saturday. Service is to start at 5 p.m.
Colonia Publica's Fideo pop-up is to be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting Dec. 12, 3 p.m. to "closing time," which can be as late as 11 p.m.