Last night, my friend Natalie and I attended Los Angeles Magazine‘s “Social Hour” at Petty Cash Taqueria‘s new location in the Arts District in DTLA, to celebrate their taco-centric July issue, which contained many articles on that quintessential Mexican fare, including Bill “Street Gourmet LA” Esparza’s expanded LA Tacopedia and his 25 Best Tacos list.
On yesterday’s program were Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, and Petty Cash Taqueria chefs Walter Manzke, Fabian Gallardo, and David Chavez, serving a set menu. LA Mag’s food editor Lesley Bargar Suter made a brief speech to kick off the event.
The dishes served were superb, as expected from this collection of chefs. Highlights included Avila’s lobster mushroom (fungus, not crustacean) taco, Salgado’s elote y maiz taco with huitlacoche, and the Petty Cash chefs’ charcoal-grilled octopus taco.
As great as the food was, getting it was occasionally an exercise in frustration. To be clear, staff was friendly and earnest in their attempt to provide great service, but the manner in which the food was served left much to be desired. Dishes came out of the kitchen in no particular order and seemed to be served to tables at random.
Some tables received all their courses nearly right away, while others received a few dishes and then had to wait an hour or longer for other courses to arrive. Many had to share a single dish from a particular course amongst multiple people, while other tables received a dish for each person. Some eventually had to leave the event without getting to sample all the courses, per comments I came across on social media.
[Note: Please read the update I added at the bottom of the post that addresses most of the service issues we had/saw at this preview event. And keep in mind, of course, that this was essentially a soft-opening, so service issues are not unexpected.]
The issue, I think, was that LA Magazine and Petty Cash Taqueria underestimated the demand and, wanting to accommodate as many people who wanted to attend as they could, oversold the event. Halfway through our meal, Natalie and I were asked to share our table with some latecomers, who turned out to be the lovely Caroline on Crack and her “plus-one” Jay. The space was certainly at capacity, noise levels were off the charts, and the kitchen could not quite keep up with the demand.
The high demand obviously bodes well for the future popularity of the restaurant, and I don’t think the issues we experienced were any indication of how regular service will be once Petty Cash Arts District opens to the public, since it wouldn’t normally operate as it did last night.
However, since they are hosting two other Test Kitchen events this week, one tonight and one tomorrow, I hope PCAD keeps to a reasonable cap on the number of attendees to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s issues.
Getting back to the food, here’s a “taste” of the courses served last night, the aforementioned highlights from the guest chefs and Petty Cash:
Update: I asked Darin of Darin Dines and Misty of Noms, Not Bombs for their input on how the second night of the test kitchen series went, compared to my description of the first night experience, since they both attended night two. The menu format was changed, with set appetizers, but each diner had to choose 3 out of 7 available tacos, so more a la carte ordering. This seemed to have brought bring some order (no pun intended) to the flow of food out of the kitchen.
Darin and his date had arrived early, was promptly seated, and received all of his food fairly quickly. Misty and her date arrived 45 minutes after the event started, waited in line for about 15 minutes to enter, but could not be seated at a table right away. She opted for the bar, which had two available seats. It did take much longer for her ordered tacos to arrive, though she received more guacamole and chips during her wait. Both thought the service was better than I described from the first night, so I’m glad to hear improvement.
– – –
Petty Cash Taqueria
712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021