Editor’s note: With the opening of the Expo Line’s extension to Santa Monica, locals have a new way to explore neighboring areas. The Daily Press will publish a weekly travelogue about what to eat, see and do near each of the stations along the Expo Line, continuing this week at the Expo/Western stop.
As connected and interwoven as Greater Los Angeles sometimes feels, it remains divided into distinct pockets. We tend to classify and categorize, perhaps to a fault, whether it’s by zip code, proximity to the coast or location relative to a freeway.
It’s a phenomenon that pops up in discussions of the region’s ethnic communities: There’s Sawtelle Japantown in West L.A., Little Tehran in Westwood, Armenia Minor in Glendale. We’re such a melting pot, we like to think, but at the same time we’re quick to separate and segregate.
Although these unique cultural clusters offer local windows into different parts of the world, the true magic happens in Southern California when there’s crossover and collaboration. It’s what makes L.A. so remarkable.
This is the prism through which to appreciate the existence of North African tacos — yep, you read that correctly — at Revolutionario, a quirky and casual restaurant west of USC.
International eats abound in the area around the Expo Line’s Expo/Western station. There are several Belizean joints within short walking distance of the Metro transit stop, while Paseo San Miguel and El Ranchon serve up pupusas and other Salvadoran food in the same part of town.
But the crown jewel of the neighborhood is undoubtedly Revolutionario, which is located at 1436 W. Jefferson Blvd., east of Normandie Avenue.
Culinary fusion has exploded in Los Angeles in recent years, from Korean barbecue sliders and banh mi burgers to cheesesteak egg rolls and sushi burritos, but this gem of a restaurant brings a fresh twist to the craze.
For starters, French-Algerian chef Farid Zadi’s place just looks different. The front window is emblazoned with a directive, “Join the food revolution,” and you’ll be asking where to sign up by the time you leave. The interior acts as a brick-and-mortar Yelp page, with glowing reviews scrawled by satisfied diners from all over the world: Venice Beach to Boston, Chicago to Texas, England to Iran and many places in between.
“North African … Tacos? Sign me up and take my money,” reads one written note, a fitting description for the dozens of dollar bills affixed to the walls with tape.
One side of the restaurant is lined with small posters featuring famous revolutionaries and tongue-in-cheek taglines. “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce,” reads a quote below a photo of Cesar Chavez. “It is always about tacos.” An image of Malcolm X is accompanied by a similarly snarky slogan: “By Any Taco Necessary.”
Small tortillas are perfect canvases for the impressive assortment of taco fillings. The beef brisket barbacoa is chunky but tender. The cilantro yogurt chicken is juicy, begging for a splash of green harissa sauce. And the duck hash, which gives potatoes a starring role, might be the best of the bunch.
Vegetarians, have no fear. How about a taco with falafel made with black eyed peas? Or shakshouka, a combination of sweet peppers, tomatoes and egg? Did I mention the chickpea tagine, which brings spinach and sweet potatoes into the mix?
The options seem endless, especially considering many of the taco fillings can be converted into burritos, bowls, quesadillas or sandwiches.
Supplement your meal with a side of fried cauliflower, which is sensationally spiced with salt, pepper, sumac, toasted wheat, sesame seeds and dried lime.
Somehow, while stuffing your face at Revolutionario, you feel like you’re taking part in a global campaign for goodness. Or, as one customer scribbled on the wall: “Uniting the world one taco at a time.”
Maybe we should first work on uniting Greater Los Angeles. But, hey, it could happen.
The Expo Line now has 19 stations covering 15.2 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. A regular one-way fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for riders using a TAP card. A daily pass good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. Visit taptogo.net for more information.