In Hollywood, across from the ocean, Taco Beach Shack was quiet on a rainy Monday night. On a concrete patio, chair backs leaned forward onto tables to stay dry. A table of sisters watched their toddlers run around obstacles like a three-cone drill. A pair of guys sat at the sheltered outdoor bar drinking El Presidentes, mocking Pandora's Sister Christian song choice. The bartender, a 20-something doppelganger of Carla Hall, joined their impromptu karaoke.
I weaved through the patio with my dog to make my way toward the bar. A lumberjack of a man sitting solo at a round table, smoking a pipe, asked my dog's name: a question that was an opener to talk about himself. "I have eight German shepherds on 36,000 acres of land in New Mexico," he said, followed by the purse of lips on his pipe and a cloud of smoke. "Well, that's lucky," I said. "Nope. It's the result of a very smart business plan," he said, followed by a rattling off of his work history while I listened politely, edging my way toward a drink.
Even on a quiet night, Taco Beach Shack attracts
characters drawn to a beachside location, funky vibe, cheap beer, and a diverse selection of tacos. The shop that debuted at the end of 2010 is owned by hoteliers and real estate gurus Alan Lieberman and son Nathan of South Beach Group.
I craved chef Stuart Snowhite's 12-hour smoked briskit [sic] taco but, alas, they were sold out. Instead, I ordered the Korean short rib and kimchi slaw, the Baja-style mahi on a soft flour tortilla and the carnitas on a fried crispy taco.
Snowhite, part owner, joined the Liebermans venture after a series of stints cooking for professional athletes, including Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks. Each of his tacos arrives in its own basket: savory meats or battered fish topped with slaws, salsa, crunchy radish, cheese, and chopped cilantro, accompanied by a hot sauce and a salsa. Tonight it was chipotle and salsa verde.
Once I tried all three of my tacos, the bartender leaned over: "Which one do you like best?" she asked.
"The carnitas," I replied. I can't get enough pork that's essentially a confit, having been slow-cooked in lard and finished off crispy.
She looked at me as if I were crazy. "Really? I love the short ribs and that special sauce," she said of the kimchi that's mixed with something creamy, like an aioli: "an in-house secret," she said. "But the brisket," she said. "It's amazing. You gotta come back."
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