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Salazar Is Still Worth The Wait After More Than A Year In Frogtown
Salazar doesn't take reservations. How could it? Over a year after its opening, the Frogtown hot spot still doesn't have a phone.
Tucked away on a sleepy corner of Fletcher Drive near the L.A. River, Salazar isn't the place for drive-by ogling; the restaurant is almost completely obscured from view by tall black fencing, giving the impression that it's some incognito celebrity's crash pad, rather than a Mexican restaurant open to the public. Salazar's determinedly weird website is equally impenetrable in its own way, boasting goofy neon-yellow text, GIFs aplenty, and Comic Sans typeface straight out of the late '90s.
Once you get past its barriers, though, Salazar boasts a wealth of breezy open space worthy of an Instagram influencer's rustic-chic wedding, in which the obligatory L.A. succulents and hip pastel chairs mingle with towering trees and hot-pink bougainvillea. Contrived phone absence and ironic website aside, there's not much pretension at Salazar, in the air or on the menu; sure, there are occasional concessions to the prevailing winds of the L.A. food scene (hello, charcoal lemonade and three different kinds of cold-pressed juice), but overall, the Sonoran-style grilled-meat joint feels surprisingly down to earth.
Salazar has been open for business in Frogtown since 2016, but lately, bar-crawlers en route to brand-new neighborhood watering holes like Frogtown Brewery and Zebulon have been pausing outside Salazar's gates to ask one another, "What smells so good?" These days, the answer tends to be "brunch"; while opening chef/partner Esdras Ochoa focused on perfecting Salazar's dinner-and-drinks game before departing for Hong Kong last spring, new chef Jonathan Aviles is priming Salazar to dish out savory weekend brunch plates to the hungry, hungover masses of Frogtown. The shrimp quesadilla is a popular morning order, but Chef Jonathan favors the machaca con huevo, a Mexican beef-and-egg scramble that he says reminds him of his childhood in Pasadena.
Salazar's hearty, inventive dinner menu lives up to its hype even in the wake of Esdras's departure, with the Jonathan Gold-approved handmade flour tortillas more than holding their own against the expertly-charred grilled meats they're wrapped around. Even the vegetarian taco doesn't feel like a dietary compromise, loaded with a robust mixture of sweet potato and two kinds of mushrooms guaranteed to fill you up.
Surprisingly, it's the starters and sides—like the roasted beet salad, the impossibly fresh-tasting seafood tostada and the spicy carrot-jalapeno salad—that are most worth the often-prohibitive wait at Salazar. Sure, the mesquite-grilled hanger steak and pork chop entrees live up to the hype, but Salazar's sun-soaked outdoor seating area feels best suited for a casual summer night of shared small plates and sugary cocktails, not sawing laboriously through a giant hunk of meat.
For their part, the sugary cocktails in question pack a punch; they might be pink and pastel in hue and come served with dainty daffodil garnishes, but don't underestimate these drinks' alcohol content. After a single swig of Salazar's rum and mezcal-infused, deceptively sweet horchata, you might find yourself drunkenly ordering an extra serving (or three) of tacos al pastor. Luckily, Salazar isn't the kind of trendy spot that rushes you through your meal, so you'll be free to make yourself at home in the restaurant's breezy, secluded patio—which used to be a Mazda repair garage—until you've sobered up enough for the Lyft ride home.
Salazar is located at 2490 Fletcher Drive in Los Angeles. They are closed Mondays, open 10am-10pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays, open 10am-12am on Fridays and Saturdays, and open 10am-10pm on Sundays.
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