Peter Cheng

The street-food master celebrates his cookbook release by parking his food truck in the Arts District space.

Andy Wang
October 23, 2017

It’s Friday night, and chef Wes Avila is standing in the vast Arts District space where he’ll be opening one of the most anticipated restaurants in Los Angeles.

“Right now, we’re inside the back pantry of Guerrilla Tacos,” he says. “This is going to be a wood-fired oven, a wood-fired grill and a wood-fired al pastor, the only one in L.A.. We’re going to build a separate hood just for that.”

Avila, of course, is known for serving some of L.A.’s most inventive and delicious tacos out of his food truck. He’s known for slinging wild boar tacos and uni tostadas and truffle quesadillas that you eat on sidewalks in front of coffee shops. He’s known for turning foie gras into street food. He’s known for using organic Kernel of Truth tortillas. He’s known for regularly changing his produce-forward creations based on what’s at the farmers' market, for serving tacos with squash blossoms and purple potatoes one week and tacos with cauliflower, olives and dates another week.

Peter Cheng

“It’s straight-up L.A.,” Avila says of his food. “It’s a very strong influence from Mexico because it is tacos. But for the most part, it’s pretty eclectic as far as influences I’ve taken from everywhere.”

And again, it’s all been happening out of a food truck. So the potential for what Avila can do in an actual restaurant seems limitless, especially in L.A., where chefs don’t concern themselves with limits.

“Over here on the West Coast, we don’t have a lot of rules,” Avila says. “We don’t have an old guard. So it’s like a lot of young guys are saying, ‘I’m just going to do the food I learned from my parents, but with my refined touch from working with great chefs.'”

Avila is a chef who went to culinary school in California and France. He spent time honing his skills in the kitchens of Michelin-starred legend Alain Ducasse, as well as standard-bearing L.A. chefs Walter Manzke and Gary Menes. But he realized what he ultimately wanted to do was combine his classical training with local produce, premium proteins and deep cuts of meat to upgrade the taco experience in Los Angeles. 

Now he’s got a beautiful new cookbook that showcases tacos with ingredients like sweet potato (his best-selling item), lobster, pig’s head and duck heart. That’s why he was at his Arts District space last Friday. He was celebrating his cookbook release with a blowout bash where his truck was parked outside.

Peter Cheng

When Avila opens his restaurant at 2000 East Seventh St. in early 2018, he’ll have an 80-seat dining room along with a 40-seat street-facing patio. He’ll have a full bar for micheladas, margaritas and so much more. 

He’s already been playing around with the wood-fired Traeger grill/smoker he recently got.

“I’ve been smoking whole goats, smoking briskets, smoking vegetables,” he says. “I have a lot of experience in other stuff, but I wanted to keep it pretty rustic. So that’s why we’re doing a lot of wood-fired here.”

Beyond the kitchen, the dining room, the patio and the bar, the restaurant has a big outdoor area in the back where his truck was parked last Friday. I ask Avila if he might use the back for additional seating.

“That back is actually going to be parking,” says Avila, whose restaurant space is in a buzzing, crowded-at-night neighborhood that’s home to Bestia, The Factory Kitchen, Everson Royce Bar, Fritzi Coop, EightyTwo and other hotspots.  “Parking is more valuable in the Arts District.”

This is such an L.A. story: You start with a food truck and end up with your own parking lot.