There is a staple of liquor stores, street fairs, school cafeterias and tailgate parties in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma (but not so much in Los Angeles, yet) that involves a snack-sized bag of Fritos, a heaping ladle of Hormel chili, maybe some day-glo orange cheese shreds and that's it. Then there is the Frito Pie in a Bag that you can get at Comal, Texas-raised Briana Valdez' new-traditionalist Tex Mex restaurant-in-progress. Comal's executive chef, Theresa Gluck, doesn't toy with the salty-spicy fundamentals of the dish or the grab-and-go, novelty part -- it's still food in a Frito bag that's been opened lengthwise. But her chili Colorado is made of braised chuck perfectly spiced with dry roasted chilies and topped with tomatoes, a blend of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, crisp iceberg lettuce, sour cream and slices of pickled jalapeño. One bite and it's gone in a breath.
Comal doesn't have a permanent location yet -- Valdez is currently looking at spaces in Silver Lake -- but sometimes they'll throw all-you-can-eat tasting events in a friend's backyard. For $10 you get FPiaB, breakfast tacos, brisket sandwiches, respados and frosty-cold cans of Schlitz and PBR. Flour tortillas come hot off the namesake comal (a cast iron griddle). Valdez taught herself to make them by putting up a photo of her beloved grandmother La La, blasting tejano music and letting the spirit of abuelita guide her. She is also a triplet, which has nothing to do with Fritos, chili or bags, but you have to admit is cool.
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Yes, it's that time of year again, or almost. This is one of over 400 pieces that will be appearing in our upcoming Best of L.A. issue, out October 6th.