PHOTOS + VIDEO: Mexican Street Food Stepped Up at Petty Cash Taqueria

The new Petty Cash Taqueria on Beverly is symbolic of the transition happening to L.A.'s food scene, and to the country as a whole. What was once a more formal dining room housing John Sedlar's Playa restaurant has become an homage to Mexican street food, complete with graffiti art-strewn walls, bumping music, encouraged Expo marker tagging in the bathrooms, and flipped over fuel drums that serve as bar tables. The space is just as much faux-authentic as it is fabulous, and is a reflection of a zeitgeist that's embracing L.A's rich Latino culture and a democratization of fine dining.

RETNA, whose work was on display at LA's recent Art in the Streets exhibit at MOCA and at the parking garage at the uber-swank Cosmopolitan Hotel, is the artist who hand-painted the walls of Petty Cash. To further lighten things up, there's a shuffleboard in the back of the 150-seat taqueria, and chef Walter Manzke is talking about bringing a DJ in on the weekends. Shoot, at the end of the night, he even cleans out the cupboards and puts the leftover bits and bobs on top of chips in what could very well be the most decadent chilaquiles on the planet. (There are, after all, pig ears and uni that could go bad by the next day, and there's no sense in wasting that.)

The food might be more affordable than it was at Playa, but that doesn't mean it's any less refined. Manzke partnered up with restaurateur Bill Chait and Sedlar to open this modern take on a taqueria that you wouldn't be afraid to take your Midwestern grandparents to. It's not "authentic" street food per se, but that doesn't mean it's any less delicious. The re-conceptualized classics utilize local, seasonal ingredients, rooted in multi-generational tradition and technique.

Dishes that shine include the aguachile, a bright citrus-and-spice spiked Sonoran concoction that comes in a massive lava rock molcajete. You can customize your bowl to include any type of raw seafood you'd like—there are oysters, scallops, octopus, clams, and prawns, and they're all fresh as can be and bathing in a soup similar to that of the liquid from ceviche. There's also ridiculously more-ish goat cheese churros with a green mole and corn dip; a dip called The Bomb Dot Com made of guac and uni which, for the record, totally lives up to its name; and of course the ultimate dude food, pig ear nachos topped with a soft-centered poached egg.

To go along with all this crafty cooking is an equally spirited cocktail program by Executive Beverage Director Julian Cox and his trusty bar assistant Nick Meyer. There are several unique craft cocktails on draft, eclectic Mexican spirits served neat, and a cocktail list that includes drinks like the Gin & Chronic and The Banana Hammock. Again, don't be confused by the goofy names. There's some serious mixing going on here. In fact, the guys even have a centrifuge that they're using to clarify infused spirits before mixing them in their inventive cocktails.

There's a lot to eat and imbibe—and take in visually for that matter—but be sure to save room for dessert, especially the flan. It's got just the right amount of jiggle, just how we like it.

Check out our video of the video of the space and the dishes below: