Guerrilla Tacos founder Wes Avila is opening a sandwich shop in Chinatown this weekend
Less than three months after stepping down as head chef of Guerrilla Tacos, Wes Avila is back in the restaurant game.
The 42-year-old Pico Rivera native and acclaimed taquero will open his latest project, a sandwich shop called Angry Egret Dinette, in Chinatown on Saturday.
“It’s a super skeleton operation with a tight menu,” Avila said. “It’s just me and two cooks in the kitchen putting out food. Basically we’re doing it old school, like the early days of Guerrilla Tacos.”
Though he’s still finalizing the lineup, Avila plans to serve his take on the Mexican torta: two-fisted sandwiches on toasted birote rolls stuffed with ingredients such as grilled suadero (beef belly), prosciutto or crispy chicken thighs. Just don’t expect him to call them tortas on the menu.
“They’re tortas in spirit, but if I say it’s a torta shop, there’s people who are going to complain about paying $12 for a torta, even though they’d happily pay that for a sandwich. I definitely learned that lesson selling tacos.”
The menu will also feature bowls of shaved ice (“I bought a machine a couple years ago when I got really into Hawaiian food”) and a few sides, but Avila wants to keep things focused to start. Eventually he plans to make use of a wok range in the restaurant’s kitchen to serve stir-fried dishes, including his recipe for the Okinawan-Mexican-American dish known as taco rice.
“It’s all going to be inspired by Alta California, inspired by L.A.,” he said. “Kind of taking the food I’m known for and expanding that a little further.”
Located in the former Lately space at Mandarin Plaza, the restaurant is equipped with what these days might be considered pandemic-friendly features: a built-in takeout window and a spacious (and shaded) outdoor patio, which customers can dine at if they don’t feel like taking their sandwiches to-go.
As for the name, Avila said it came to him after seeing two egrets battling over a fish during a bike ride along the L.A. River — no doubt an epic sight for any local waterfowl enthusiast.
But why launch a new restaurant during a pandemic in the first place? Avila, who left his position at Guerrilla Tacos in August and recently finished consulting on a project at the Ace Hotel Kyoto, blamed it on a case of idle hands.
“I had nothing to do and I was getting restless,” he said. “I told [my wife] Tanya that as soon as I found somewhere with a takeout window and a patio, I’m going to jump on it and start cooking. Yeekai [Lim] from Cognoscenti Coffee ended up telling me about this space and it all came together.”
For now, the plan is to serve lunch for at least three months, perhaps longer if business is good.
“There are no investors or anything, I’m just kind of bootstrapping it right now,” he said. “If we can be here long term that’s great, but for now I’m just stoked to be cooking again.”
970 N. Broadway No. 114, Los Angeles, instagram.com/angryegretdinette
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