photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
La Santa Barbacha
We really like when places focus on doing one thing exceptionally well, and at La Santa Barbacha, barbacoa takes center stage. The tender shredded beef is slow-cooked and intensely aromatic, and really pops with the bright contrast of fresh cilantro and white onions. Tacos are the focus here, and they’re served on bright green and red tortillas—spinach and other vegetables are incorporated into the masa to give the tortillas a distinct color that makes every taco here feel like a present on Christmas morning.
You can also get the barbacoa on sopes, in chilaquiles bowls, and in quesadilla form. Whatever vessel you choose, you’ll want to add some fiery habanero salsa that adds a fruity and very spicy punch into each bite. There are a few other options—like carne asada and roasted veggies—but coming here and skipping out on the barbacoa would be like showing up to Franklin Barbecue and just ordering a sausage link.
La Santa is located at Native Hostel—the former hostel (now just a bar, cafe, and event space) that also plays host to the speakeasy-style omakase restaurant, Toshokan, along with a few other food trucks, restaurants, and a small tattoo parlor, where you can get some fresh “I ❤️ Tacos” ink while you wait for your food to come out. More importantly, you’ll also have access to the bar inside of Native Hostel, where you can order a couple of cocktails to go along with your meal. Grab a seat inside, where it’s always dark and very air conditioned, or post up at one of the colorful picnic tables outside. Then prepare to load up on as much barbacoa as you can (somewhat) comfortably put down.
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This is the reason you’re here. The meat is packed full of flavor and incredibly tender. These might show up on a green, red, or regular (corn-colored?) tortilla—from incorporating spinach and other vegetables into the masa—but if it changes the flavor at all, it’s incredibly subtle. It’s more of an aesthetic thing, and it makes eating them feel just a little more fun.
This is essentially a quesadilla filled with barbacoa, with just enough cheese spilling out from the tortilla to make some direct contact with the griddle, forming a nice, crispy layer. It’s incredibly rich, but also well worth an order.
This is one of our favorite things to get here. It’s a mound of refried beans, barbacoa, fresh veggies, and sauces piled on top of a base of lightly-fried masa. It’s like a tostada that you can cut with a fork, and each fork-full is packed full of flavor. This goes especially well with the fiery habanero salsa, but be warned: it packs a punch.