Between old-school sit-down restaurants serving heaping platters of food, the countless taco trucks that line the city’s streets, and taquerias galore, Los Angeles isn’t hurting for excellent Mexican options. But when heralded Mexico City-based chef Enrique Olvera opened the first LA location of ATLA on Venice’s buzzy Abbot Kinney Boulevard last month, he brought something fresh to the area: casual, homestyle Mexican fare with a coastal twist. Olvera, best known for his World’s 50 Best top 10 restaurant Pujol in Mexico City, opened the first wildly popular ATLA in NYC’s Noho neighborhood in 2017.
Unlike his Arts District restaurant Damian, which is the embodiment of a modern Mexican restaurant, the food at ATLA is more approachable: think quesadillas and tacos on handmade tortillas, guacamole topped with a flutter of herbs, and a handful of breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros that are served until 4 pm.
According to CASAMATA restaurant group brand director Erendira Diaz, Los Angeles was a natural fit for the next location of the restaurant: “LA has such strong Mexican roots already, and such amazing fruits and vegetables. You almost don’t need to do anything to them,” Diaz says.
Read on for what to expect at ATLA and how the Los Angeles location stands apart from the original.
“We’re making comforting Mexican food that is simple and flavorful,” says chef Marisol Corona, who is overseeing the kitchen at ATLA Venice. “The menu is designed to be craveable, focusing on authenticity, freshness, and seasonality.”
Although some dishes—like a savory Brussels sprout taco with spicy peanut butter, mushrooms with salsa verde, and a colorful salad of shaved carrots—are carry-overs from the NYC location, ATLA Venice has some dishes that are unique to LA. Corona has added barbacoa blanca, served with consomme, and a shrimp taco with chihuahua cheese, white beans, and pico de gallo to the mix. She’s sourcing from Los Angeles vendors, as well, using fish from dry-aged fish specialist The Joint Seafood and masa from local company Masienda.
“My favorite dish is the fish a la talla, because the quality of fish from Liwei [Liao] and his team at The Joint is so beautiful,” she says.
Cocktails include a bevy of margaritas, like an impeccably fresh classic version, a spicy iteration spiked with serrano, and a frozen strawberry option. The bar also mixes up a variety of classic cocktails, such as a bloody that can be made with vodka, tequila, gin, or mezcal; a mezcal negroni; and a vibrant daiquiri accented with grapefruit and lime.
For those looking for nonalcoholic options, ATLA has you covered with a handful of housemade aguas frescas, including a refreshing combination of palo santo, cucumber, and yuzu.
The 7,200-square-foot restaurant is marked by baby blue tones, light wood, and terracotta and antique accents in the sprawling dining room. With 66 seats inside and 44 on a greenery-lined patio, the aesthetic is a departure from ATLA in New York City, as well as Damian.
“It feels like you’re close to the beach,” Diaz says. “Damian, and our other restaurants like Pujol, are mostly done in dark colors like gray, slate, and black.”Diaz adds that the outdoor patio, which just opened on September 13, can also be rented out for private parties and events.
ATLA Venice is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 9:30 pm.
Karen Palmer is a pizza- and pasta-obsessed food writer based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram at @karenlpalmer.