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.
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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.
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.