Caló Kitchen + Tequila hosts a distinctive ambiance where the intimacy of a small space meets the energy of modern LA dining. A one-lane walkway separates booths and a packed bar, with servers quite used to backing up or leaning in for patrons to pass in the same way a flight attendant would aboard an aircraft. Upstairs is slightly quieter, with the same artistic lighting calming the air and allowing you to take a breath, even if it’s to just enjoy the view of the shopping mall across the street.
Caló (Spanish for ‘slang’) puts an interesting accent on American Mexican favorites. The menu isn’t miles long like you’ll find in some full-service Mexican establishments, in the same way that the interior isn’t decked out with bright colors or filled with Mariachi music. Instead, Caló integrates a level of elegance in its ingredients to match its ambiance, while remaining both fun and indulgent.
Case in point with the shrimp and bacon tacos, profound in rich flavor and texture made all the better with a valentina cream sauce. Caló’s prime skirt steak nails it as well, bursting with a critical mass of umami that lusciously spills into a homemade tortilla. The carnitas, made with prime kurobuta pork and Mexican coca cola, can be cut with a spoon. And in traditional American Mexican fashion, Caló offers a few combination options that allow patrons to try a bit of everything—the seafood trio and Caló platter, to name a few.
Then, of course, comes the tequila part of the equation. Unsurprisingly, Caló has a meticulously crafted margarita menu, boasting everything from your traditional Cadillac to strawberry jalapeno and watermelon basil. Sadly, blended margaritas aren’t an option here [allegedly the bar doesn’t have room for a blender]. And if fruit pulp isn’t your thing, ask for your drink to be strained beforehand. Caló also boasts a healthy beer and wine list, including an intriguing and ever-so-subtle horchata beer.
Churros are undoubtedly the dessert of choice, filled with a traditional burnt caramel custard and served with chocolate sauce, thick house-made whipped cream and—for a touch of novelty—peanut butter for dipping.
Caló Kitchen + Tequila is located at 2191 Rosecrans Ave, El Segundo, CA 90245. Open 11a – 9p Sun – Thu, 11a – 10p Fri/Sat. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$85/person. For more information call (424) 269 – 2322 or visit CaloKitchen.com.
Irvine’s TRADE Food Hall houses some of the OC’s most intriguing under-the-radar casual eateries, with concoctions like rainbow burgers blowing up Instagram on the reg. TRADE’s offerings are not limited to just the stalls that surround the venue’s central dining area, however. The entire complex sports a broad spectrum of new-age hotspots, with cuisines that span the globe. You’re not going to find too many places that cover this much ground with such modest price points, and the joy of TRADE is the ability to try a bit of everything across one sitting.
You’ll unquestionably be drawn to Hiro Nori, if for nothing else than the perpetual line out the door. Among Orange County’s premiere ramen destinations, Hiro Nori serves up something ridiculous in its tonkotsu ramen. That rich, creamy broth is like no other, with tender pork that melts off your chopsticks and thick, hearty noodles that pick up all the flavor. Don’t pass on that black garlic sauce, which gives everything a pristine smoky quality. Their shoyu ramen is another masterpiece, and Hiro Nori rounds it out with a selection of bowls and Japanese fusion small plates. Is it worth the hour wait? The answer is with the beholder, and there’s only one way to find out. HiroNoriCraftRamen.com
Around 100 paces down the lot is KRISP, a modern café that serves up premium coffee, gourmet juices, and a variety of healthful entrees. KRISP’s menu epitomizes the millennial palate, with avocado toast galore amidst a slew of matcha-based drinks…and foods [matcha brownies anyone?]. They also spice things up, literally, with worldly goodies such as masala chai. You’ll inevitably find 20-somethings making the place their home for the day, working on their startup or the next great screenplay. KrispFreshLiving.com
If dessert is what you’re looking for, look no further than Sweet Combforts, back in TRADE Food Hall’s central hub. True to its name, Sweet Combforts specializes in chocolate-dipped Belgium Liege waffles, pressed with the honeycomb pattern that waffles had back when they were first created. They use pearl sugar to give their waffles an unreal texture, not to mention some crazy topping combinations. The churro crunch, complete with cinnamon toast crunch and a cream cheese drizzle; and the cookies and dreams, with Oreo cookie butter, Oreo crumbles and white chocolate, will put a sweet cap on just about anything. SweetCombforts.com
Hiro Nori, KRISP and Sweet Combforts are located at 2222 Michelson Dr., Irvine, CA 92612. Hours and prices vary, but expect lunch and dinner service 7 days a week and to leave spending less than $20/person at each venue.
Taste Walk Glendale is an LA food event like no other. While most culinary extravaganzas take place in remote locations, Taste Walk Glendale has the restaurants serve on their home turf, dishing out bottomless samples right outside [or inside] their doors. It’s the adult trick-or-treating of food festivals, with guests going door to door for the next sumptuous bite…and yes, there’s candy too.
This year’s event drew more than 40 food and drink purveyors from Glendale’s seemingly endless list of restaurants. The half-mile stretch along Brand Blvd, from the Americana at Brand mall to just north of the famed Alex Theater, was teaming with live entertainment and booths emblemizing Glendale’s ever-evolving food scene, featuring timeless icons and new players alike.
The historic Porto’s Bakery & Café served its legendary potato balls, as well as an enticing selection of sandwiches and sweet pastries. Just down the road were Rockbird’s ridiculous chicken sandwiches, coated in a just-spicy-enough sriracha glaze or a just-sweet-enough honey mustard. Mr. Furley’s Bar, new to town, offered up its signature pretzels, which were about good enough to make you rush through the door and order a dozen had it not been for the festival taking place.
Khinkali House served up its famous Georgian dumplings and Gauchos village made a rich Brazilian chicken stroganoff in garlic rice. The night, however, went to Rainbow Asian Taco Truck, where the panang curry tacos were nothing short of heaven in a tortilla, followed closely by its ‘geisha’ tacos, wrapped in crispy seaweed.
With a route that could easily entail 3 hours of walking, guests could feel a little better about themselves when indulging in custard from Shake Shack, assorted mocchi from My/Mo Mocchi, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Lolli & Pops many goodies, ranging from ‘crack cookies’ to bacon chocolate and the one-thought-extinct Jolt Cola.
Proceeds from Taste Walk Glendale benefit Glendale Arts and the Alex Theatre, with a portion of the proceeds going to support youth arts programs. For more information, visit TasteWalkGlendale.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.