With the recent opening of Puesto, La Jollans only need to go as far as the Village to find Mexican street-style tacos. Owned and operated by brothers Eric and Alan Adler — both La Jolla High School alumni — the restaurant offers authentic fare with fresh, natural ingredients.
Its urban atmosphere is created by an interior of reclaimed brick and wood, with bright accent hues around the dining room. Original floor-to-ceiling murals by graffiti artist Chor Boogie represent a colorful “explosion” of candy falling out of piñatas.
“We wanted people to feel like they’re on the street in Mexico City,” said Eric Adler, a first-generation American whose family hails from Guadalajara and Monterrey.
Customers create their own unique meal, starting at a walk-up griddle, and select from a base of tacos, salads or guisado (grilled food) bowls. Meanwhile, tortillas of stone-ground maize are prepared before their eyes.
Next, they may choose their grilled foods. The meats are all-natural; the seafood is sustainable. A number of vegetarian options not commonly found in local restaurants are available, from zucchini flowers and corn truffles to cactus and potatoes with soy chorizo.
The next decision to be made involves the toppings, which include jalapeños, vegetables, and tinga with hibiscus, chipotle and onion.
There are several dressings for the salad lovers — including an aged-balsamic vinegar and the Puesto Vinaigrette with cilantro chile — and a half-dozen, made-from-scratch salsas for tacos or bowls, such as roja or verde tomatillo and Pistache, created from pistachio and jalapeño.
Side dishes can be added for an extra charge. Patrons can decide between chips, rice, black beans, vegetables and sweet Mexican corn.
For dessert, customers may “sweeten up” with frozen horchata or the Mexican Street Cup, a concoction of fruit and vegetables topped with lime juice, chile powder and sea salt.
To quench the thirst, there are draft and bottled beers, frozen margaritas and wine, Cool Hibiscus Tea, sodas and other assorted beverages. On Taco Tuesdays, tacos are half-price with the purchase of a beer.
Those who need a little bit of assistance in making a decision from the seemingly endless combinations can find recommendations on the back of the menu. Eric Adler’s favorite meal consists of a taco with all-natural chicken breast al pastor with tinga and cheese, and another with carne asada and guacamole.
Quesadillas are a simple entree for children. Bowls are ideal for takeout, Adler added.
Large windows provide views of The Athenaeum next door and various shops and businesses in the heart of the Village. Puesto tends to be most active between noon and 1 p.m. Families often come in around 4 p.m., “when they can have the place to themselves,” Adler said.