There are a lot of things to love about brunch. You get to sleep in. Coffee flows freely. Foods that should rightfully be dessert are served as an entrée, and a lot of things come topped with a fried egg. You get to hang out with your friends for a few hours in the daylight and talk about stuff other than work. But there's one really important thing about brunch that we don't celebrate here on Brunchographers quite as often as we should: Day Drinking (and yeah, I just capitalized that).
Day Drinking isn't always on the forefront of our brunching agenda - the need for both responsible driving and budgeting generally deter us, and, let's be real, we'd usually rather spend our money on a loaded waffle than on alcohol. But there are some places that were made for Day Drinking - where you can kick back, relax, and laugh the day away with your friends, and where the drinks are good enough to spring for an Uber. Salazar is one of those places.
Located in a former auto body shop in L.A.'s Frogtown neighborhood, Salazar's dining area is almost entirely outdoors in what was probably once a parking lot. It feels well-worn and comfortable, kind of like your grandma's backyard, with faded multicolor school cafeteria chairs and simple wooden tables arranged beneath a few trees and a pergola, with potted cacti and succulents lined up atop bright blue painted walls. It's packed with young, hip Westsiders and their dogs and/or children (we spied a few attempting to climb the trees - oh, to be a kid again), yet it is somehow unpretentious and welcoming. This is the sort of place where you want to spend an entire day, slowly sipping tequila and enjoying the sunshine while you nibble on tacos and street corn.
What was once the auto body shop's garage now holds a colorful bar area, while the office has been transformed into a kitchen with a view - thanks to huge windows around the outside, you can watch the experts barbecuing meats over a grill and making homemade tortillas by the dozen. This wood-fired grill is what chef Esdras Ochoa had been dreaming of as his next venture after making a name for himself with the wildly popular Mexicali Taco & Co. (which is so good, it's a standard on just about any "Best of L.A." list). Even at brunch, you can enjoy large portions of his expertly grilled steak, pork, fish, or vegetables, though with all the tempting starters, breakfast options, and tacos, you may not make it that far down the menu. The offerings here are Sonoran-style Mexican food, a cuisine that is not commonly seen here in Los Angeles, but will be familiar to those from Arizona and New Mexico, as well as Calexico, CA, where Ochoa was raised.
The concept of making a reservation at Salazar is perplexing, particularly because as is stated on their amazing website (please, do yourself a favor and click that link), there is "NO PHONE YET." Thankfully, you can get by without a reservation just as easily. The wonderful cocktails from the bar will make you forget that you're waiting for something other than another margarita, and there's plenty of room for you to lounge around outside and shoot the breeze with your friends while you wait for a table to open up. Oh, and in case you've got a hangry person in your party, you can always order up a few snacks at the bar.
To kick off our Day Drinking, we sampled the Prickly Pear Margarita and the Cranberry Spritz. Both were gorgeous in color, especially the almost neon pink margarita - which was also the more fun and flavorful of the two. It was tart, sweet, and all around a fun cocktail. We were hoping for a bit more of a tart punch with the Cranberry Spritz, but it was still tasty and it certainly packed a wallop.
At around midday on a busy weekend, the wait for our table wasn't long as we expected it might be (we hadn't even finished our first round of drinks), and the short amount of down time offered us a chance to peruse the menu. We started with some guacamole (because why not?) and the Carne Asada Fries. The guacamole was just as delicious as you'd expect; topped with creamy queso fresco and some pumpkin seeds for added crunch.
The Carne Asada Fries are a perfect bar food: a huge pile of deep fried potatoes, topped with heaps of meat and drizzled with sauce - basically, exactly what the doctor ordered to accompany some Day Drinking (or perhaps to help you recover from whatever Night Drinking you did the day before). They're decadent, rich, and oh-so-satisfying.
From the desayuno portion of the menu, we chose the Green Eggs & Yams and Chilaquiles. Green Eggs & Yams were another classic L.A. "all-my-favorite-things-in-a-bowl" moment: a base of vibrant purple kale topped with yams (a.k.a. camote), cheese, pepitas, and a gloriously crispy fried egg. There was a fun play on flavors between the sweet yams and the salted dressing, and the eggs and cheese added some creaminess into the mix.
The Chilaquiles were exactly what you'd want them to be: a big bowl of once-crisp tortilla chips, made soft with gobs of deliciously spicy sauce, cooled off by a heavenly combination of cotija cheese, crema, and avocado, and of course, all topped with a fried egg that was crispy on the edges and runny in the center. This dish is a heartwarming bowl of goodness that will satisfy even the hungriest of tummies.
And because we couldn't resist (who would want to?), we ordered up a few tacos, too. While simple, these were really delicious and full of flavor. Each was accented with a robust, smoky salsa and some pickled onions for acidity, and was wrapped in those soft, heavenly handmade flour tortillas. The standout filling was the Al Pastor; its perfectly cooked meat showed off what that Santa Maria-style barbecue could really do.
Salazar is a little bit like a home-away-from-home, as comfortable as your own backyard, but with significantly better food. Bring your kids, your dog, your mom, your dad, or your great uncle. Here, everyone will find something to love - especially if they're into tacos or Day Drinking. And who doesn't like at least one of those wonderful things?
2490 Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90039