After Steven Arroyo served chorizo tacos at last summer's East L.A. Meets Napa event, there was a lot of chatter around the blogosphere about his newest project, Escuela, the small taqueria he planned to open around the corner from the original Cobras & Matadors — on Stanley Avenue, literally 50 feet from Beverly Boulevard.
As is often the case, the news was a bit premature. The space was nothing but an office before, and they had to build out everything, including a whole kitchen. At the time, Arroyo was at least six months out, not including the usual permitting and code delays.
But with new signage spotted, it looks the day has finally arrived: Arroyo hopes to debut his new breakfast, lunch and late-night taco spot on March 15.
Arroyo's love of Mexican food isn't new. He opened Malo in Silver Lake in 2003, bringing beef-and-pickle tacos to the world. He sold his stake in in the restaurant in 2008, but said he always wanted to open another Mexican spot — and not just “another L.A. mediocre Mexican spot.”
“I grew up in a family where food was celebrated, not just the flavors, but also the textures and colors,” says Arroyo. “My mother was a really good cook, and my grandmother had a little taqueria in East L.A. Our food is really personal.”
Escuela is tiny, only seating about 20 people. “It's the size of your bedroom,” Arroyo told his friends on Facebook. There will be breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and it will stay open as late as the neighborhood allows: he's hoping for 2 a.m. The menu will only have three or four mainstays, plus a few specials; the kitchen doesn't have room for much more.
“There are some really incredible tortillerias around here,” Arroyo says. “Too many people do mediocre tortillas with no flavor, but they're making them by hand which is supposed to be better. If we find a good flour or corn tortilla made fresh daily without preservatives, then we'll go with that.”
Arroyo dipped his toes in many projects over the years, opening Church & State and then selling to his partners; experimenting with additional outposts of Cobras & Matadors, various spots next to Rita Flora, and South Pasadena's 750ml and the short-lived pizza place that followed, but he still knows longevity. The original Cobras & Matadors celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.