Kid Hit Menu Items: Tinga has a plain cheese quesadilla for $5.50 if the mushroom or chicken varieties get vetoed. Chips have a seriously great crunch and heft, but the guac is spicy, and rice comes combined with cream, salsa verde pickled onion, and Cotija cheese. I’d hope for plain rice, but no dice. Regular handmade tortillas, however, worked just fine for the baby who tried to shove the whole thing in his mouth. Good to know for his sake that they break down quickly and aren’t as much of a choking hazard as I’d feared. (Whether or not that makes for a good traditional tortilla is another matter.) Choosing between watermelon lemonade and jamaica aguas frescas ($3.75) might be tough, so go a little crazy and get a few.
Adult Perks: For my first solo visit I went with a couple different types of tacos, which come two to an order. So that still leaves most of the menu — including the namesake spicy stewed chicken tostada platter — plus daily specials for future visits. I wasn’t wowed by the cochinita pibil, which was a big lumpy, soft mass without other textural nuances, but that spicy habanera salsa is no joke. Completely freed up hands are needed if you’re going to order the flat iron steak tacos, with thick tender strips of steak, queso fresco, tomato avocado relish, shredded lettuce, pickled red onions, and sweet peppers ($8.50). It’s a piled-up-meal-on-a-tortilla kind of deal, not a modest-amount-of-meat-easily-folded-in-hand-and-eaten-with-a-few-bites affair. A sliced up quesadilla would be a more sensible choice. No booze, I believe.
Pros: Fast and casual, Tinga has friendly and quick counter service. And I finally remembered to use a Blackboard Eats discount! I like what they’ve done with the place for Halloween, too; the baby really wanted to grab those menacing ravens perched around the room.
Cons: The space takes some careful negotiation. Hard stools aren’t comfy.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes. Tinga has one lovely substantial high chair with a big tray (see above), so if you don’t get seating on the wider-aisle side of the communal table, it’s awkward to use. The baby felt like he was a mile away when we sat opposite each other at a two-top. So make sure to grab your places on the preferable side of the big table, or you’re in for kind of a stressful meal if you happen to be alone with a high chair-needing kid.
Parking and Access: Metered parking on what can be a busy block with a lot of demand.
Other Tidbits: Apparently inspired by La Super Rica (where we always stop by when we’re up in S.B. because it’s so damn good, even if the haters say it’s not totally authentic blah blah), nouveau taquería Tinga opened up on La Brea between 3rd and Beverly a few months ago. The La Super Rica association signals Tinga’s creative approach to many items, meaning it’s not a place for hardcore street food experts and purists. Yet Tinga’s location is historically fitting, since the original City restaurant that launched certain careers is down the street. It’s easy to miss among the home décor showrooms, clothing stores, and the hulking American Rag complex. Anyway, J. Gold thinks “the aisles are wide enough to accommodate strollers, and you will usually stumble over a Bugaboo or two during the day,” but actually only one side is wide enough. And that’s the side where the ordering queue falls. I think the narrow space is a challenge for tiny kids and strollers, but older ones will be just fine and the flexibility can be quite fam-friendly. They might also enjoy deciphering the section of the menu board that’s written backwards; or they can cheat and look in the mirror across the way.
142 S. La Brea Avenue, Mid-City
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon – 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.