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When Chicas Tacos Founder Chris Blanchard opened his little taco stand in downtown L.A. in 2016, it was at the height of the downtown renaissance and everybody was thinking big. After much trial and error and the realization that Angelenos weren’t ready for a six-inch taco, Blanchard and his partners, brother Jon, Nicolo Rusconi and executive chef Eduardo Ruiz opened their ears and their hearts and adapted to the city’s tastes.  

Almost five years to the date, Chicas Tacos has opened its fifth fast-casual restaurant in the Venice Whole Foods market, the group’s third location since January 2021. In addition to Chicas Beverly Grove, Blanchard teamed up with longtime friend Cedd Moses to anchor a spot in Pouring With Heart’s newly restored Firestone Building on LaBrea at the All Season Brewing Company. There’s also a Chicas in the heart of downtown Culver City.

Chicas Tacos inside Whole Foods Venice (Michele Stueven)

“The challenges were great, but we also had a lot of fun,” Blanchard tells L.A. Weekly at the Whole Foods ribbon cutting in Venice. “We’ve learned from the mistakes we’ve made along the way. We put too much protein on the line, had excess food at the end of the night and wished we could donate it. We started out thinking L.A. was ready for a six-inch taco at $5 a piece and we learned pretty quickly that L.A. loves its street tacos. Simplicity is really key in the fast-casual space and one of our biggest hurdles was fine-tuning our menu, which we’ve done now five years later.”

But, according to the Long Beach State graduate, the joy, the panic and the excitement are pretty much the same opening a fifth location with a whole new set of post-pandemic challenges like the nationwide issue of hiring and staffing. 

Ruiz has created some new menu items exclusive to the number one Whole Foods Market  location in the Western U.S. in Venice, including a grilled fish taco, leche de tigre ceviche and added more plant-based options made to fit the Venice community. Their signature Impossible and beer battered fish tacos topped with a Caesar salad, nachos, burritos and bowls are also on the menu as well as a mind-blowing hibiscus pineapple agua fresca. They also offer two pizzas: Choriman Red Chicken Chorizo with queso fresco, house salsa, morita salsa and pickled jalapenos as well as chipotle bbq chicken. 

Fish tacos with Tijuana-style Caesar salad (Courtesy Chicas Tacos)

“I grew up in Orange County and through my church The Vineyard spent a lot of time doing missionary work in Ensenada, Rosarito, San Felipe and developed a real deep affinity for Mexican food and culture as did my brother, Nico, and chef Eduardo Ruiz from Tecate,” says Blanchard. “We all learned how to cook and became better humans by way of learning from the strong matriarchs and their families in those regions. Chica’s Tacos pays homage to all the great women in our lives and we look to employ a larger percentage of female team members as we continue to expand.”

 

LA Weekly