Sparr Heights, the sleepy north Glendale neighborhood that straddles Montrose, was apparently in need of a taco shop, and an epic one at that. So local chef Michael Ruiz, who spent the past year cooking Cajun cuisine at Preux & Proper in downtown’s Fashion District, returned to the area to open his own restaurants, starting with a taqueria.
Ruiz is no stranger to Sparr Heights. The chef lives nearby and previously ran Ingredients and Bistro Verdu, both down the block from Epic Taco Shop. “The intent was really just to offer something different up here," Ruiz says. "The takeout options are pretty limited.”
The space features wood tables with red metal chairs, a communal pink picnic table and rock posters of legends like Jimi Hendrix, Joy Division and Radiohead. Other decor consists of Day of the Dead imagery, including wall-mounted statuettes and skull printouts that customers can color, sign and stick to the wall.
A blackboard menu touts a focused menu starring, you guessed it, tacos. “Tacos are a near perfect food,” Ruiz says. Fillings for the griddled corn tortillas include salmon poké with soy, radish, scallion, cilantro and avocado; sweet potato with onion, chipotle-peanut salsa and cotija; and a throwback taco that includes shredded beef with pickles, iceberg lettuce, shredded yellow cheese and pico de gallo. Other hearty proteins include adobo-braised chicken, carne asada and pork belly carnitas, as well as a vegetarian option made with potato and green chili.
If you’re looking to dial up the flavor, three squeeze bottles come filled with house-made salsas: salsa roja with guajillo and tomato, salsa verde with tomatillo, cilantro and jalapeño, and "TNT" made with habanero and guajillo. Customers can also snag sides of stewed pinto beans, guac and chips.
So far, Ruiz is pleased with how the small community of Sparr Heights has taken to Epic Taco Shop “We are looking forward to expanding our offerings in the coming weeks,” Ruiz says.
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Epic Taco Shop, 3527 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale; (818) 369-7998, epictacoshop.com.