Fabulous Frogtown Fiesta of Food
Salazar – Los Angeles (Frogtown), CA
Sonoran-Stye Mexican – Last Visited: October 2020
Ever since we “discovered” Spoke Bicycle Café in Frogtown (an area located near downtown Los Angeles), we’d been hearing and reading of a Mexican barbecue restaurant named Salazar in the nearby vicinity. In July 2019, we decided to pop over and see what all the brouhaha was about. Since then we have visited on numerous occasions for both brunch and dinner, and the results have been mostly fantastic. (Below outdoor photos are pre-pandemic.)
Opened in 2016, Salazar is located in a former auto body shop with outdoor seating. Other than a small bar in one of the former repair bays, all the seating is outside (perfect for these crazy times).
The covered patio and olive trees provide needed shade, and the breeze from the nearby LA River helped to keep everything just right and so un-L.A. You can almost pretend you’re on vacation.
Rustic wooden tables of different sizes and heights are scattered about, but not so close that you can hear conversations. Music is softly piped into the background. It’s a lovely and relaxing setting. On our first visit, we arrived a little before 2 p.m. preparing to wait and were pleasantly surprised to be seated immediately. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
We started with refreshing spiked Aguas Frescas ($13; unspiked $7). We went the “spiked” route. Tracy tried the Peach Blossom (peach agua fresca, lemon zest, and simple syrup spiked with vodka), while I ordered the Sandias por Dias (watermelon agua fresca, lime, chili-salt rim spiked with tequila). These were perfect for a hot, July afternoon.
The guacamole, made with red onion, cilantro, Fresno chiles, queso fresco and toasted pepitas, is served with chips and house-made salsa vaquera. At $14 it seemed expensive, but after seeing the bowl on a nearby table we decided to give it a whirl. This is a generous serving of guacamole and is the first time ever we have received more guacamole than chips; which was great as we then had plenty of guacamole to go with our meals.
I ordered two soft tacos which were served on house-made tortillas. The Carne Asada with grilled skirt steak, salsa vaquera, cilantro and red onion ($4.50) and the al pastor, grilled pork, salsa vaquera, cilantro, red onion and pineapple ($4.25) were fabulous, garnering a “Wow! ” I thought I would like the Carne Asada taco best until I bit into the al pastor and got a bite of the caramelized pineapple with the pork.
There was also a Pollo Asado ($4.25) and vegetable ($4.00) taco options on the menu. You can also order these as a quesadilla ($16 carne asada; $13 pollo asado; $14 al pastor; $12 vegetable).
Some of the other brunch items included Caesar Salad, Huevos rancheros, a Machaca burrito, chorizo frittata and carne asada fries (saw these delivered to an adjacent table and they looked mouth-wateringly good). In fact, everything we saw come out of the kitchen looked tasty … we should have come with friends to try them all! Truth be told, we had actually come here just for the Esquites (street corn). However, it was not on the brunch menu (the waiter explained that the kitchen is too small for the full menu during brunch), so we decided to return for dinner in the near future.
Returning a few weeks later with friend, Dr. Paul, on a warm August evening to try the dinner menu. The smoke from the mesquite grill drifted over our table adding to the “I must be on vacation” vibe of this restaurant. Dr. Paul and I ordered margaritas ($13 ) When did margaritas start costing this much?) and guacamole, while we waited for Tracy to join us after work.
For dinner, we ordered the Esquites ($8) and Frijoles Puercos, black beans, pork belly, queso fresco ($8) to share, and Dr. Paul went with the carne asada and al pastor soft tacos.
I was surprised that Tracy, who never met a scallop she didn’t like, passed on the Grilled Scallops, cauliflower puree, crispy chorizo, mache ($22). Instead, at our server’s recommendation, Tracy and I shared the Kurobuta pork chop ($27), which he explained was a bone-in pork chop with a large fat cap (for flavor) which is cooked in Sous-vide for six hours and then grilled to perfection with an ancho chile sauce and served with grilled pineapple and peppers. While this was a delicious chop, it was mostly fat and only yielded four small slices for the two of us. In retrospect, I probably should have had them take it back, since on our next visit the server told us that is not the norm for the chop. Live and learn. I’m sure we’ll order it again. At least it photographed well.Other grilled items include a garden plate ($18); Aspen Ridge Hanger Steak ($28); trout ($24), Branzino ($36) and a 24 oz. bone-in rib eye ($58). We saw the Branzino come out of the kitchen and it was a beautifully plated whole fish with its head on…. Our fish fiend, Mary, would love it. All the mesquite grilled items come with tortillas and salsa vaquera.
We were going to pass on dessert, but Tracy had read that the Tres Leches cake ($9) was fabulous so we ordered one to share. Having never tasted this cake before, Tracy looked up the recipe and learned that a tres leches cake is a sponge cake soaked in three (tres) kinds of milk (leche): evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Topped with whipped cream and sliced almonds in a pool of sweet milk, this was definitely a winner.
Salazar was closed for quite some time at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, but has since opened back up. A few weeks ago, we needed another Salazar fix (one can only go so long without their tasty tacos, plus there was something else we had to try), so we joined friends Jeff and Cecilia for an early evening dinner.
The outdoor patio was spaced perfectly, and it was time to enjoy another sensational Salazar dinner. Handing the keys to Tracy, I ordered an Angeleno Old Fashioned; black corn whisky, mezcal, angeleno amaro, orange peel and burnt corn husk. It hit the proverbial spot. Jeff handed his the keys to Cecilia and ordered a margarita. We married well.
As I mentioned earlier, we were going to return to try the Hangar Steak and the Carne Asada fries when Covid struck so we had to wait … and wait, Wow, they were both worth waiting for! We must have been hungry as we ordered the Carne Asada Fries, Hangar Steak and Esquites. Oh, wait, I also ordered an al pastor taco to start.
The crispy Carne Asada fries were piled high with perfectly grilled carne asada, queso, chipotle mayo, diced red onions and cilantro ($16). “Wow! Wow!” If you go for nothing else, order this. Move over poutine, there’s another calorie-laden fries dish in town!We followed that up with a perfectly cooked, medium rare Aspen Ridge Hangar Steak with grilled veggies ($32) and a side of Esquites street corn ($8) – love street corn!
Another wonderful meal at Salazar was in the books. Although dogs are allowed here, we have not told Frankie and Remi yet, because they can be a little loud at times. Hopefully, they won’t read this. Plus, we have taken them to Spoke Bicycle Cafe before.
If you’re looking for a great meal in a relaxed and safe atmosphere, Salazar would be the perfect choice. I highly recommend getting advance reservations on RESY, as it has been full or near capacity on all of our visits, however walk-ins are welcome.
Of all the restaurants we have visited, this is the best patio experience, in my opinion. And remember these three words …Carne Asada Fries!
2490 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday/Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Parking: Street (free)