photo credit: Krystal Thompson
For fairly obvious reasons, 2020 has become the year of the pop-up. Metztli Taqueria was actually popping up before the pandemic radically reshaped LA’s dining scene, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, there’s no better time than now. Because this is one of LA’s best new taco spots.
Run by a married couple - Vanessa and Alejandro Silva - who met while they were both cooks at Jean-Georges in Beverly Hills, Metztli drew a lot of attention with sidewalk grill set-ups in Mar Vista and Mid-City last summer, then moved into a (mostly) full-time pop-up at Virgil Village’s Melody towards the end of 2019. And that’s where you’ll find them now, with (appropriately distanced) lines out the door waiting for their innovative quesadillas, tostadas, and tacos.
The food at Metztli blurs the line between neighborhood taqueria and experimental fine-dining, with tremendous results. One taco involves wild mushrooms doused in fresh tomatillo chile verde, then topped with melty queso Oaxaca, spicy pine nut salsa morita, and a slow-cooked egg yolk. They’ve also got flor de calabaza (squash blossom) quesadillas, dotted with house crema and served over blistered shishito toreados and pepián Guatemalteco - a light, nutty pumpkin seed salsa.
But the dishes that are truly going to blow your mind are the seafood tostadas, which feature a rotating selection of mariscos with some innovative twists. There’s their take on tinga, made with crab instead of the more common chicken, folded in with smoky, spicy chile and topped with onion-schmaltz salsa and their signature hibiscus-pickled onions. And their pulpo is reminiscent of Baja-style tostadas in flavor - light, fresh, and full of citrus - but it’s got a California summer produce twist, layering charred octopus with sungold tomatoes, pickled cucumber, and thinly-spread chipotle mayo on a hot, crispy tostada.
And while all of that sounds a little fancy, or perhaps a bit too complex, trust us when we say that Metztli’s menu is anything but. Like any great taco or tostada, these are perfectly balanced, striking just the right mix of flavor and texture. But don’t take our word for it - like we said, there’s no better time than right now to try it for yourself.
Mushroom Chile Verde Taco
Metztli’s mushroom taco is a staple of the menu. The wild mushrooms are soft but still chewy, the jammy egg yolk adds a nice creamy texture, and the salsas on top - fresh tomatillo chile verde and pine nut salsa morita - are subtle but herbaceous.
Metztli’s take on the traditional barbacoa taco is another winner. They combine adobo short ribs with Mexican furikake - nori, toasted sesame seeds, and dried guajillo - and miso peanut salsa macha we’d eat with a spoon.
The octopus tostada is a perfect example of what they do so well here - it’s crunchy, spicy, salty, and damn near perfect.
Metztli also supplies excellent breakfast burritos to Rocketship Coffee in West Hollywood. Get the ancho-marinated pork sausage or the barbacoa, which is made with the same short rib as the taco. Both come with spiced black beans, pickled hibiscus onions, hash browns, and soft scrambled eggs.