For Alejandro Guzmán, it all started at El Taco Loco. Born and raised in Mexico City, Guzmán moved to Los Angeles when he was nine, and his career in the kitchen began just four years later, at his mother’s Mexican restaurant in North Hollywood. Starting at the bottom, he was washing dishes and cleaning tables before graduating to the grill. Since then, Guzmán has worked in some of the finest kitchens in LA, from Sqirl to Egg Slut to Le Comptoir, where he rose through the ranks to become sous chef when the restaurant won a Michelin star in 2019.
When Mexico City’s Terraza Cha Cha Chá set their sights on opening a sister restaurant in the Arts District, Guzmán was the ideal choice to run the show. Since opening in early 2021, Cha Cha Chá’s rooftop has become coveted territory. Most weekends it’s tough to get a table at the stylish outdoor spot, and during this year’s rambunctious hometown Super Bowl, 1800 Tequila tapped Guzmán to run all their event programming, pairing reposado and blancos with his carnitas and ceviche as the Rams marched to victory. Guzmán’s menu is synonymous with excellent Mexican food in LA, and it’s clear his food is starting to get noticed on a national level. “Los Angeles was founded and settled by Mexicans, so there are obvious throughlines in both cities,” he tells InsideHook. “The tricky part is finding and enhancing them without being too obvious. I don’t like to recreate Mexican dishes directly because in Los Angeles they would be out of place. I rather aim for a flavor profile or experience found in traditional Mexican cuisine and magnify it using California abundance.”
When he’s not catering massive Super Bowl parties or manning a kitchen of his own, the chef happily embraces “California abundance” on his day off. Here are five Guzmán-approved spots for eating and drinking in the City Of Angels.
“Republique on La Brea is my favorite sit-down breakfast. Walter and Margarita Manzke run a beautifully choreographed machine over there, and while their dinner is fabulous, during breakfast I have more excuses to eat Margarita’s bread and pastries. They have a great coffee program, and that dining room looks even more beautiful during the day, if you can believe that.”
Lunch: DTLA Cheese (at Grand Central Market)
“My favorite lunch on a day off is the grilled cheese sandwich from DTLA cheese at the Grand Central Market; it comes with house pickles and mustard. The quality of cheeses and meats is obvious when you walk by the small stand in the Grand Central Market, and no matter what you order, they do a wonderful job of getting out of the way of their product. Everything is properly seasoned with the right textures and temperatures — simple food is usually the hardest to execute and they do simple very well there.”
Snack: Installation Coffee
“A cold brewed coffee and a pastry is my usual pick me up. My favorite in LA, you’ll find me at Installation Coffee in DTLA. They make the most delicious cold brew, they call it 50/50, and it’s equal parts cacao and coffee steeped cold for 24 hours and served over ice. The fatty richness of cacao complements the coffee so well that you won’t want to add any sugar or cream to it. I usually drink my coffee black, so having it with the added cacao flavor profile is a definite treat. They also carry pastries from Bread Lounge so whatever is leftover by the time I make it in is usually what I’ll have with it.”
“Bavel in the Art’s District is my favorite tried-and-true choice for a dinner out. The food, service and ambiance are so dialed in at Ori and Genevieve’s Middle Eastern restaurant that everything seems to just happen by magic. The food and drinks are always delicious, the space is always impeccable and the service is always comfortable. A must when you’re in LA.”
Drink: Chatterbox/Slipper Clutch
“Chatterbox / Slipper Clutch on Broadway is my favorite casual bar. Chatterbox is a full cocktail bar upfront, and Slipper Clutch is the dive bar-inspired concept in the back. It’s the perfect place to have a delicious martini and polite conversation to start and a beer, a cigarette and a spirited argument to end your night.”
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