Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

THE SUNDAY DRIVE: HOW ONE HIP L.A. RESTAURANT AIMS TO TURN A FROG INTO A PRINCE

March 20, 2017
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The reason most of us continue living in Southern California, paying exorbitant mortgages and leases, is so we can be on the ground floor for whatever is trending next. As L.A. goes, so goes the nation. So when we hear about something new or edgy in the LA metropolis, even if neither turns out to be true, we have to investigate. It’s the FOMO factor – The Fear of Missing Out.

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about Salazar, a former auto body shop-cum-taco eatery on the corner of Fletcher Drive and Ripple Drive, on the cusp of Silver Lake in a gritty, but quickly gentrifying community known as Frogtown, which takes its name from a Bible-like plague of red frogs that long ago hopped out of the nearby Los Angeles River.

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Ironically, where you could once drive your old beater into one of collision repair bays for an estimate, you now barely have time or room to pull up your vehicle to drop off your guest while you go in search of parking down Ripple. There are no parking signs posted in front of Salazar, but the warning only adds to the allure of the place, right?

Enclosing Salazar’s is a bougainvillea-covered wrought iron perimeter. A shorter blue concrete wall creates a second inner perimeter, which also defines the eating area outlined by several palms — in sort of a cacti-filled Sonora desert meets Maui theme. The main entrance is a converted driveway inch-deep in gravel. A corrugated black fence forming another boundary adds to the space’s industrial chic.

Up a short flight of stairs on the second tier is the bar area. If you’re fluid levels are low, you can fill them with assorted wines, craft beers, cocteles, sabrosas and aguas frescas. I had a Chelada for $7, which is a Modelo Especial beer with salt and lime. A simple Corona with a lime wedge would have tasted better, however.

In what was once the office area is now the grilling station and homemade tortilla-making section, reminiscent of San Diego’s old town, where I first fell in love with house-made tortillas.

A steady plume of mesquite smoke, and, of course, a steady stream of interesting-looking people, only adds to Salazar’s seductive charms.

As for the menu, it’s minimalist Mexican. The mid-day menu basically consists of tacos (carne asada, pollo asado or al pastor) served on house made flour tortillas for $3.75. Salazar also serves a vegetable taco on a corn tortilla chanterelle, with pickled shiitake and roasted potato.

They’re delicious but small, so plan on ordering a few.

Carne asada fries are hard to resist.

Another play, if you simply want to lean back in your chair and people-and-puppy watch in an open, convivial atmosphere, is to order the carne asada fries for $14 and nurse a beer or two. If you’re still hungry, then order the tacos. The fries have a robust garlicky kick.

Everything in this industrial oasis seems a tad over-priced, at least initially, until you realize you are no longer in Frogtown, but the “it” town.

Salazar is one more example of L.A. reinventing itself. It’s not quite authentic, but it is audacious – a hospital for injured cars transformed into a healing garden of Sonora-style comfort food.

If you want to stay relevant in a constantly changing Los Angeles, it’s definitely worth a Sunday drive.

Salazar is located at 2490 Fletcher Drive in Los Angeles. It’s closed on Mondays.

 

My house-made tortilla is under construction.

Just north of the restaurant on Fletcher, you’ll enter Atwater.

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