Petty Cash Taqueria

Restaurant in Los Angeles

Upscale Mexican Taqueria

It is not wrong to wander into Petty Cash and think you got off at the wrong exit.  It is not wrong to cock your head sideways at the sight of the “RIP Playa” sign, or the colossal skull canvas (Creepy?  Totally.), and wonder if you’re tough enough to take on this trip-the-boulevard-fantastic taqueria.

And yet it would be so unlike Chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State, Republique (!!)) to steer you anywhere south of sublime.  And yet, someone over there is eating some sort of cheesy churro happenstance and is that a butternut squash dip in a mason jar?  It is.

Petty Cash.  With the rooftop garden, handmade to order tortillas, sushi grade seafood hand cut by a local Japanese supplier, the doors flung open and instantly culinary brows raised across the land.  They had me at the turquoise enamel mug of tortilla chips.

And what’s in a name?  A little Johnny Cash and a little Tom Petty is all.  Listen for subtle tributes through the airwaves.

It popped up in the Playa space just four months after their doors shut.  With a primary colored floor to ceiling exterior mural (it’s the woman who taught Chef Manzke how to make tortillas.  Cute, right?) beckoning Beverly passer-bys, it seems barely anybody is taking a pass.  The buzz is outrageous.  It is nothing, relative to the fare.

Cocktails at the massive mirrored bar beneath the artful dangle of exposed bulbs make you not mind the wait – walk-ins should anticipate doing so – and reservations are only accepted at 6pm and 10pm.  An irreverent and inspired list of libations (keep an eye out for Anchorman references and the occasional foul mouthed slip) put a tall one in your hand and one of those cute barbershop paper straws to your lips.  Inventive and tequila inspired (though cousins gin and scotch easily work their way in), they’re as pretty as they are potent.  With the burst of bitters and orange oils and poblano sorbet (uh huh), the stage is set for some serious spins on old favorites that grew up gorgeously.  Careful with The Paloma.  It’ll getya.

The Hamachi Ceviche?  Oh man.  That dish was summer in late December.  How did they do that.  What a beautifully prepared fish, citrusy, the tomatillo gives it just the right amount of zing.  The wild arugula and little gem salad, with its grapefruit and pistachios, get your greens in while preparing the palate for the sensations yet to come.

Like the Crispy Brussels Sprouts.  Jump back.  Crispy, flaky outer layers, plunked in a morita-cauliflower crema that banishes any bitterness that give these blooms a bad rap.  Don’t like Brussels sprouts?  Please come try these.  Mom will be so proud.

The Swiss chard quesadilla, another one to return for, an ode to those glorious grilled onions.  But the tacos.  Oh, the tacos.  The Baja Fish and the grilled maitake mushroom – simplicity gone transcendent.  This is where Chef Manzke has his moment.  My friends might argue otherwise (they were all about – some sort of sea urchin situation that left them smitten), but needless to say, none of us left unsated.  Hardly.

And yet we somehow found room for the little cinnamon dusted donut holes and the flan.  Don’t look for desserts on the menu.  Your server will let you in on them.

It is not the lightest meal you’ll ever eat and this is not the place to visit with your juice cleanse resolutions in tow.  No.  This is for diners who covet their Mexican cuisine but have had it with the has beens.  Who want to sate their down market hankering with a Bastide degree.  Petty Cash is where street food got all gussied up, went to culinary school, and came back home to stay true to its roots.  The seating is communal and the vibe is paradoxically casual for a spot so uncontestably hot.  Now seeing what Chef Manzke can do to a taco, I’m downright beside myself to see what he’s got going within the old Campanile walls.  But isn’t that LA for you.  What’s old is new, and what’s petty, is a revelation.

Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles

Petty Cash Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine Mexican
Need to book Advisable
Clientele Crowd is young and hip
Restaurant good for Couples, Bar scene, Meeting up with friends
Cost per head Medium
Dress Code Casual
Dining Options Dinner

Additional Ambience Information

Communal seating institutes a casual energy, yet it’s definitely upscale and a destination in it’s own right – particularly if Mexican food is your yen.

Additional Price Comments

Given the calibre of cuisine, prices are reasonable. It is easy to keep ordering and rack up your bill, but if you want to keep it on the cheap, it can be done. Cocktails from $9; Wine from $8 a glass, $32 a bottle; Bottled beer from $6. Munchies from $6; 6x Oysters $18; Tacos from $5.

Last updated on 07-04-2015

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