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The Pandemic Closed One of America’s Best Mexican Restaurants. A New Pop-Up Is Bringing It Back.

Chef Ray Garcia's Broken Spanish is in residence at Hollywood's NeueHouse through March.

Early in the pandemic, when the world was mostly shut down, I drove to Downtown LA in search of comfort. Chef Ray Garcia wasn’t going to let his restaurant Broken Spanish go down without a fight, so he literally opened a window at the front and started doing takeout through it. I knew that’s where I had to be. That day I bought dinner and stocked up my freezer with a stack of his artisan tamales. I was back again weeks later when he partnered with Burritos La Palma and made sure to also get a signature slab of pork belly to go, too.

Encouraged by the fact that I had to wait in a long (and socially distanced) line for Garcia’s food on my second trip, I wondered, “Could Broken Spanish pull through?” Sadly, the answer was no. The reduced business because of the pandemic—mixed with the financial burden of occupying a large space a stone’s throw from Staples Center—caused Garcia to shutter Broken Spanish in August.

Fortunately, for a short time, Broken Spanish is back, thanks to a partnership with the private club and coworking space NeueHouse in Hollywood. Garcia will serve his inventive contemporary Mexican fare at NeueHouse now through the end of March.

Chicharrón at Broken Spanish.

Chicharrón at Broken Spanish.  Dylan + Jeni

The original Broken Spanish opened in 2015, when Garcia used his fine-dining training and experience at Fig in Santa Monica, Calif. to create his own take on Mexican cuisine. He treated Los Angeles, through its history and ingredients, as its own region of Mexico. He’d look at the foods he’d eaten as a kid, like pork chicharron from a carniceria, and wonder what his version would be.

“They’re really great, but is this the best I can do with that dish?” he remembers thinking at the time. “I want to present it in a way that excites someone like they’re having it for the first time.” That dish would become a beautiful hunk of house-cured crispy pork belly perfumed with garlic and lovingly dressed with microgreens.

He was among a group of chefs in California—including Val Cantu, Carlos Salgado, Gabriela Cámara, Wes Avila and Claudette Zepeda—who were showing diners a different way to think about Mexican food. They combined their fine dining techniques with Mexican flavors and culture, but then also played with tradition and subverted stereotypes.

The Broken Spanish x Neuehouse Hollywood pop-up kicked off on Thursday night and will run from Thursday through Sunday each week until March 27. Back are Garcia’s hand-pressed tortillas, tamales, chicharron and more. You can book a table through Resy, but don’t wait: they’re going fast.

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