If you haven’t been by Diablo Tacos, billed as “urban taco fabricator and crafter of fine micheladas”, you’re missing out on a relative newcomer that’s making quite the impression at the crossroads of Silverlake and Echo Park. They serve a selection of six signature tacos and two seasonal tacos daily for lunch and dinner. And don’t think for a second that “signature” is code for “expected”. They range from things like butter roasted Maine lobster with key lime crema, and refried brioche to braised pork belly with caramelized banana and Thai peanut relish to maple fried chicken, with purple kale and Red Rooster vinaigrette. Hungry yet?
We chatted with Summer Stearns of Diablo Tacos about how she’s (along with executive chef Angel Flores) dealing with the haters, surprising the industry, and generally living the American dream. Turns out, the whole thing is far from sinister. In fact, aside from Diablo’s maddeningly addictive twist on the Michelada, we found the place to be downright heavenly.
How did you get into this business and how did it prepare or inspire you to open Diablo Taco?
Well, I started bartending back in college and that’s when I really fell in love with hospitality and all the challenges and logistics that go along with serving people. I was lucky enough to wonderful, passionate mentors at both Patina and Gordon Ramsay, who really challenged me to be the best. After having those experiences, the next logical step seemed to be opening my own restaurant. Working for yourself is the dream, right? So that’s really how it all started.
Ok, so why the taco? Here in LA, taco places are literally everywhere.
We’re native Angelenos! To us, the taco is like a sandwich. It’s casual, it’s comfortable. We were initially attracted to the idea of small plates, but that concept is less accessible to some people. So we spun it. It’s the unique flavors and combinations of small plates, but more approachable. And portable!
Were you met with resistance initially?
Definitely. On the internet, it’s so easy to be negative. We felt some backlash against the idea of “another taco joint”, but we really believed in what we were doing and believed other people would, too. And so far, they have.
How about the hurdles you face as a female restaurateur? How has it been to start out a young entrepreneur in the business as a woman?
You know, it is what it is. There are a lot more men in the industry. And I still get people asking to speak to my supervisor, just because they don’t believe I’m the one in charge. So there are definitely obstacles. It’s a man’s world, but I’ve got big plans, and I’m tough enough and resilient enough to do it. So I just keep plowing through.
That really seems to be going well for you! Tell us how these crazy popsicle Micheladas came to be.
It’s kind of a funny story. I was walking around the flea market at the Rose Bowl in July with friends – it was over 100 degrees and we were dying. I just blurted out that I could really go for a Bloody Mary popsicle, and that was it. Plus, I’m a big beer fan. Putting the two together in a twist on the Michelada just made perfect sense. That’s why we also feature a lot of local and craft beers – I mean, tacos and beer, how can you go wrong? Then we went even further and created another version with Japanese yuzu fruit and fresh lime juice paired with a cherry cider, plus our seasonal option. Right now it’s a blood-orange pop paired with Hefeweizen.
So with all the unique flavors, what’s your go-to meal at Diablo?
You mean, besides the micheladas I just spent 5 minutes talking about? Definitely the maple fried chicken taco and grilled sweet corn. That taco is one of our best sellers and it’s so good. Plus, the corn has this great mix of cheese and creamy citrus and truffle oil. It’s the best.
To check out the menu, see hours, get connected to their social media, or plan a party at Diablo (can we come?), check out their website here.