Aside from $7 cups of coffee and your friend’s brief bone broth phase, few things are more synonymous with the Eastside than Salazar. The Sonoran-style Mexican spot opened in 2016, and overnight, became the area’s ultimate destination restaurant. And rightfully so - the food was excellent and interesting, the outdoor patio felt like you were on vacation in Austin, and you got to brag to your coworkers the next day that you ate dinner in a place called Frogtown.
But much like your friend’s bone broth addiction, Salazar’s reign as one of the Eastside’s great restaurants was ultimately short-lived. There are several reasons why (chef turnover, increased local competition), but the main issue at Salazar is simple - the once-remarkable food has become decidedly average. But that doesn’t mean you should write the place off completely.
Whether you’ve been going to Salazar for years or just hearing about it, know the space itself is still great. In our Salazar review from 2016 (we gave it an 8.9 rating, by the way), we remarked that the desert-like patio and indoor/outdoor bar concept felt objectively different and mentioned that every LA restaurant should use both as blueprints. We still feel that way. It doesn’t matter if you come here on a quiet Tuesday night or for a boozy Sunday brunch, Salazar’s patio remains one of the best in town. It’s not about being well-designed or looking pretty on Instagram (though it’s definitely both of those things), it’s about creating a sense of escapism - as if you’ve left LA for a few hours and didn’t pay airfare to get there. Salazar still does that better than anyone. It’s the food that no longer holds up its end of the bargain.
To be clear, the food at Salazar is fully serviceable, and in the case of specific dishes like the coctel de camarone (jumbo shrimp cocktail), even memorable. But when you’re eating at a place that once served an al pastor taco so technically perfect you’d drive straight from LAX in rush-hour traffic to eat it, serviceable suddenly feels slightly inadequate. Is Salazar still worth a visit? Of course, but come with the expectation to snack and have some drinks with friends, not feast on a life-changing meal.
Even though the original translucent flour tortillas have been replaced by a thicker, less-revelatory version, ordering a plate of tacos is still a move we endorse. Throw in a spicy aguachiles for the table, keep the chips and salsa bowls replenished at all times, and you’ve got the ideal dinner situation at Salazar. The larger grilled-meat plates are all fairly mediocre, so skip that section en lieu of another round of palomas or a half-dozen oysters while you stand around the bar flirting with your date. Both of those things will serve you better in that scenario, anyway.
Sure, Salazar isn’t the game-changing destination restaurant it once was, but at the end of the day, no one needs to shed any tears about that. It’s still a great place to hang out and relax with people you like, and that’s a phase we hope lasts much longer than bone broth.
In a city where free chips and salsa are a birthright, paying $6 might seem offensive. But once you taste the thick, house-made chips and slightly smoky vaquera salsa, you’ll feel OK about it. Besides, refills are unlimited.
It may seem counterintuitive to come to a restaurant with a full menu and concentrate on the tacos, but that’s what you’re going to do here. The al pastor is our favorite, but as long as those house-made tortillas are wrapped around the outside, we don’t really care what’s inside.
This is our favorite dish currently being served at Salazar. Cooked right on the mesquite grill, the jumbo shrimp themselves are savory, slightly sweet, and what everyone will be talking about after the meal.
Plain and simple, this is a bad salad. On our last visit, it was basically a bowl of wilted mixed greens with some almonds, overripe peaches, and cubed goat cheese thrown on top. There is no reason to order this.
There are certainly better aguachiles around town, but we like this plate of raw snapper because it’s easily shareable and has a much-appreciated kick of heat at the end.