Tortilla con Amor — the name speaks for itself. Anything with the name “love” behind it is coming from a good place. TCA is a Mexican-inspired curbside food stand based out of North Hollywood, operating primarily on the weekends. It exemplifies what is most enjoyable about the cuisine itself, as well as the whole pop-up, renegade restaurant culture that has come to define the culinary landscape of L.A., culminating in the recent legalization of street vendors.
Many chefs are now using this outlet to showcase their culinary prowess and cook the type of food that reflects who they are, what they love, and the story it tells about how and why they cook for a living in the first place, giving them the freedom of expression through cooking food that is close to their hearts.
Chefs Erik Lopez and Ashley Rodriguez are doing just that, cooking the food their mothers made with love. And you can taste the TLC in every bite of their creations. The pair met and fell in love while they were working for legendary chef Suzanne Goin, and both have years of extensive culinary training between them. They started a family together with a baby boy and are currently expecting a baby girl. They decided it was time to branch out on their own.
“Our reason for branching out is that we always had the desire to have our own business venture and wanted something to be ours and family-owned. It's super scary but a dream come true. The fact that it's become a reality is amazing,” Rodriguez tells L.A. Weekly on a cold night in NoHo. “We want to expand and grow Tortilla con Amor as a business and have people taste our food and hope they love it as much as we do.”
The food is fresh, pure and whimsical. Lopez says, “It's essentially Mexican cuisine with our own twist. We offer the basic taco-spot foods — tacos, burritos, quesadillas — and make all of our food from scratch but with that touch of a mother's love. We love our food and love all the people behind our products.”
All of the tortillas are made by hand and cooked right before your eyes. The taco trio comes with carnitas, asada and chorizo, garnished with cilantro, chopped onions, cotija cheese and chipotle crema. The condiments table offers juicy lime wedges and thin, perfectly sliced red radishes to accompany your meal. The red and green salsas are tangy, spicy and memorable. Lopez says they braise the carnitas and marinate the meats overnight using recipes they grew up with.
“I make a good mulita,” Rodriguez says. “It's cheesy, hearty and made with cilantro lime tortillas.” The amount of lime and cilantro in the masa is just right. The mulita is made with two tortillas with jack cheese in the middle that melts out, sealing the edges with perfectly crisp yet chewy, fried cheesy goodness. Then it's topped with braised carnitas, onion, cilantro, cotija, chipotle crema and guajillo chili sauce. The crispy melted cheese gives the mulita a nice texture and is a deal at $4 per order.
The loaded quesatrilla, priced at $7, is shareable, with three kinds of meat, cheese and salsa. The marinade used on the asada and carnitas blend together nicely and create a savory and juicy experience.
The couple plans to expand the menu and is flirting with the idea of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. “Many people have told us not to open a restaurant, that it's a bad idea and horrible commitment,” Rodriguez says. “That would be the best thing for us, to open and have our own place where we can create more magic and more love. If there are other people that are doing the same thing, do it anyway and work harder at it. You have to want it enough to not let anything break your spirit. Just do it.”