L.A. Is in Love with the Wood-Grilled Stylings of Northern Mexico

Salazar, an outdoorsy ode to the Sonoran steakhouse, is officially open in Frogtown

You’re outdoors sitting on school chairs, there’s wine chilled in a steel tub, and you and your crew are immersed in the delicious pleasures of northern Mexican culture. This is what the Sonoran grill is all about, and right now the format is hot as white coals.

At new northern Mexican taco places like Sonoratown, Sonorita’s Prime, and Loqui, flour tortillas take precedent over corn and carne asada—that’s steak grilled over wood—is the taco filling of choice. But recently, a new player, the most ambitious one yet, entered the game. At Salazar, chef Esdras Ochoa’s (Mexicali Taco Co.) ode to the Sonoran steakhouse, whole cuts of meat like flat iron steaks and pork chops are fire-roasted on a Santa Maria-style pulley grill.

Ochoa, who’s from Mexicali, comes from a region with strong culinary ties to Sonora, which monopolizes the rest of Baja California’s carne asada scene. So it was a natural progression that led him to pursue this project just in time to capitalize on the rising Sonoran influence in Los Angeles.

“It only took me 7 years, but I’m finally cooking with wood”, grinned Ochoa. I had commented on Mexicali Taco Co’s using gas instead of mesquite years ago, which makes it even sweeter that we finally have real carne asada. You can get great carne asada tacos at Salazar but better to get acquainted with Esdras’s Frogtown oasis by ordering whole surf and turf cuts with all the fixings.

In Sonora, paquetes, or packages, are a popular practice where you get a trio of meats, refried beans, salad, flour tortillas, quesadillas and salsa—perhaps some queso fundido and guacamole to sweeten the deal. Ochoa offers flat iron steaks, sliced and served on a board, pork chops and grilled fish with flour tortillas for preparing your own tacos.

Add a tableside guacamole ground in a molcajete, the heirloom tomato salad, and some of Salazar’s fancy bean dishes like frijoles puercos (whole beans with chicharrones instead of refried beans cooked with lard) from the lados (sides) menu. Don’t forget the salsa and get down to the business of assembling all those flavors along with a few strips of meat onto the flour tortillas.

Salazar, 2490 Fletcher Dr., Frogtown