This past Friday, Tinga, a new, casual Mexican restaurant, opened its doors on La Brea Avenue. It is the first sit-down endeavor for Chris and Jerry Baker, the husband-and-wife team who also run catering company The Food Matters. As the story goes, Jerry was visiting a friend at UCSB during the mid-80s, ate at the Julie Child-endorsed La Super-Rica, and immediately fell in love with the style of cuisine. Now, close to 15 years later, he has finally opened a restaurant inspired by the experience.
“That type of restaurant for Jerry at the time,” said Chris Baker, “was something that he had never seen. He had just started to get into food at the time. He was a painting contractor.” It was also around then that he began dating Chris, who was working for the family business, a gourmet grocery store in the Inland Empire which opened up during the 60s. “He [ate] a little of this and a little of that,” said Chris, “and it just took off. He knew what he wanted to do.”
Tinga's menu, which is still being tweaked, is mainly comprised of their own take on relaxed, modern Mexican cooking. Tacos use homemade tortillas, with options like chipotle flat iron steak; 72-hour cochinita pibil; and potato with pasilla peppers and chayote. Other menu items include goat cheese and black bean quesadillas; thick corn chip nachos with queso fresco and pickled onions; grilled corn salad; and watermelon salad with serrano chiles and lime. Dishes range from $3 for small sides, to $10.95 for larger fare.
“Sundays we have the regular menu,” added Chris, “but we add a few things like Pastrami sliders, and chicken-and-waffles.” For beverages, they have their own watermelon lemonade, horchata, tamarindo, and jamaica, as well as coffee brewed from beans which they roast in-house.
Chris Baker is also attempting to make the restaurant as eco-friendly as possible, especially after coming to the realization that the kitchen would be too small for a dishwasher and, thus, regular dishes. “I don't like seeing things going into the trash,” she said, pointing out that the plates are all made from harvested fallen leaves, and that the restaurant uses LEDs for lighting.
Tinga is cash only for the time being, and a phone number is on the way soon too. Business hours are still being finalized, but as of now, they are open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m.
Tinga: 142 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.
Noah Galuten can also be followed on Twitter via @ManBitesWorld.