Who you gonna call when on the hunt for the best Mexican food in town? The world’s first tacorazzo, of course. Tacolandia host and LA Magazine food writer Bill Esparza lives, breathes and eats all things Latin American. So, while he does munch on classic street tacos and elote, he also has a wealth of knowledge and a fine-tuned palette for innovative Mexican food with a twist.
We’re not talking about standard Mexican fare served with hibiscus margaritas in an upscale setting for triple the standard price. Modern mexican is far more refined and legitimized than a $10 taco.
“Just because you put carnitas on a fancy plate doesn’t make it modern Mexican,” says Bill. ”It’s when a chef uses traditional Mexican techniques, like cooking underground, and then elevates the cuisine.”
South of the border, el rey of modern Mexican is Chef Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Cosme, Moxi, Eno, etc.) but here at home in SoCal, we have our own maestros. According to the Street Gourmet LA blogger, modern Mexican food in California that pays respectful homage to classic recipes has taken on it’s own genre: Alta California. Think traditional Mexican meets California ingredients and cuisine.
“Alta California reflects the Latin influence in LA from Guatemala, Peru, and even the cuisine in the San Gabriel Valley. In Mexico, there’s no international cuisine influence. Here in LA, you have the foods you grew up with, plus this multi-cultural influence,” Bill clarifies.
So, where does the terrific tacorazzo go for his Alta California fix? Here are six spots to try in SoCal and beyond:
Aguachile de Zanahoria. Image courtesy of @tacomaria
Foie gras taco. Image courtesy of @guerillatacos
Lamb neck tamal. Image courtesy of @brokenspanishla / @intheheartofthecity
Public Beer Wine Shop
Albacore tostada. Image courtesy of @publicbeerwineshop
Estilo Puerto Nuevo lobster. Image courtesy of @playaamor
Image courtesy of @galaxytacos via @readerandy
Hitting the road? Here are the best modern Mexican restaurants across the country, according to Bill:
Barrio Cafe in Phoenix —home to Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, Bill’s pick for best female modern Mexican chef in America; Eloisa in Santa Fe from John Sedlar—John is the first chef to introduce modern Mexican to the US; Carlos Gaytan’s Mexique in Chicago; and soon-to-open 52+ restaurant in LA by the famed Baja Cali chef Diego Hernandez.
More Mexican Food to Try in LA:
Best Tacos via Eater LA’s Elliot Farley
Where LA’s Celeb Chefs Get Their Taco Fix
As a food, drink and travel writer for mags like Nat Geo Traveler, Rachael Ray and Robb Report, Lanee Lee lives to eat and eats to live. She bows in awe of the almighty Tacorazza for the Alta Cali elucidation. Peep what she’s eating now @laneelee.
Header image courtesy of Galaxy Taco