First Looks is a preview of newly opened and soon-to-open restaurants. These are not full reviews, but they should give you a little insight into what the restaurant is like.
There’s a kind of confidence that comes from experience. The ability to get outside your own head, for instance. So when chefs Ryan Parrott and Chris McKenna came up with the idea for their new taco restaurant, OSO on Paseo, they stopped worrying about being “authentic” and just decided to make good food.
“We’re just two white guys making tacos,” said McKenna, who’s executive chef of the new concept.
Tacos. That was the beginning and end of the idea for the restaurant, said Parrott, culinary director for Humankind Hospitality. There were no musts or cannots or rules of any sort; just a mandate to make tasty food.
“We said, ‘Let’s make some tacos and see where it takes us,’” Parrott said.
I’m no cartographer, but my guess is it’ll take them to some long lines full of happy customers, because I got to taste a few of the dishes and my appetite is most certainly whet.
The small restaurant is bright and light with big windows that will make for great Instagram posts (if that’s your thing). The decor is tasteful and simple and there’s a big bar with TVs for watching sports (or other televised things, probably).
In the back, McKenna is whipping up tacos that are spun out of taqueria favorites and a few that come from his and Parrott’s fevered imaginations.
Rather than chips, they’re putting out duros, a fried Mexican pasta that I found completely and immediately addictive. The texture is light and reminded me favorably of pork rinds. They’re seasoned with Tajin, giving them a spicy pop and a touch of lime’s sourness.
Street corn (aka elote) is a personal favorite out in the world, but this preparation makes it so easy to eat, it could become a problem for me. They roast corn shucked off the cob and toss it with chipotle crema, cotija cheese and top it with crushed Takis corn chips.
Guys. GUYS. This stuff is hardcore delicious. Whatever you get, you better get this, too.
I got to try the carnitas taco (my love for carnitas can be seen in this recipe) and, woo lawd, I may need to up my game. This was sultry, salty, supple shredded pork with a big punch of flavor. I was putting it between my cheek and gum, like a Minor League pitcher.
The tortillas are heavy duty corn tortillas and I can appreciate that, because these tacos are loaded for bear. (Speaking of bears, check out the one staring in the window.) The pork is topped with salsa verde and house-made escabeche and finished with a crumble of freshly fried chicharrone. Baby, this taco was for real.
Vegetarians and vegans, as with all other Humankind restaurants, are welcomed at OSO with open arms and open mouths. The cauliflower picadillo comes in heavy and comes in hard with big flavors that I don’t always associate with veggies. There’s tomato and green olives and golden raisins and crunchy pepitas and sweet onion. This is a whirlwind of flavors that are a fussin’ and a feudin’ and then it all just kind of clicks. Texturally, it’s insane. Every sense is engaged.
Behind the bar, Jeffrey Alan Cole (recently beverage director at The Ambassador before joining Humankind) is whipping up some redonkulous drinks. That’s right. They were donkulous and then Jeff just re-donked them and here we are.
The Oaxacan banana daiquiri is bonkers good. I don’t order daiquiris — not because I’m too manly, but because they’re usually garbage — but I’ll order this thing too many times and get a weird nickname. Count on it. Fruity, light, sweet but not sugary. He’s also making strawberry margaritas and doing high-end swirls for any of you who are missing The Mont.
Cole’s a local alcohol all-star and this is certainly a coup for Humankind, but man, OSO is going to have some straight up silly delicious drinks. Plan your brunch accordingly.
I didn’t get to try the burnt ends taco or the cheeseburger taco or the burritos or the nachos or the sopa verde or the churros or you know what, I didn’t get to try lots of stuff and I’m going to remedy that ASAP. If I can get a seat, because this place is going to be packed for sure, as well it should be.