Before entering PettyCash Taquería, you may note "RIP Playa" tagged right outside the door; this would be a nod to the Beverly Boulevard space's previous occupant, John Sedler’s Playa. Save for that reminder, though, you may fail to recognize its old self: Gone are the dim lighting and the intimate tables. Instead, the bright, open space is filled with graffiti dancing on the walls, communal tables and, as is fashionable for painfully cool places these days, very loud music. This is PettyCash—Mexican street food as reinterpreted by Los Angeles chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State). Crispy Brussels sprouts are nicely amped-up by Morita-cauliflower crema ($9), a beautiful ceviche negro made with mahi mahi, squid ink, mango and peanuts ($14), and, of course, tacos, at about $4 each, are filled with ingredients such as Berkshire pork, grilled octopus and nicely marinated al pastor. Overall, what you have is truly an upscale taqueria, and quite a good one at that, though its name does make one suspect there’s as much irony at work here as there is homage being paid to Tom and Johnny.
Eat this: The pig ear nachos ($12) are delicious, with crispy strips of pig ear layered with the tortilla chips, a subtly spiced crema poblana and a perfectly soft-boiled egg ties this ultimate party food together. And while you probably can’t go wrong with any of the tacos, the tacos dorados ($4)—potato tacos, rolled, fried and served with avocado, tomatillo and cotija cheese—will satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike.
Drink this: The cocktail menu was developed by mixologist Julian Cox (Rivera), so it’s no surprise that the drinks here are as delicious as they are creative. Try the strong Oaxacan Old-Fashioned ($8), with reposado tequila, Oaxacan mezcal, housemade agave and orange oil. For times when only a cold brew will do, there are also a handful of craft beers on tap.
Sit here: For groups, the communal tables are fun and lively.
—Tien Nguyen (August 21, 2013)
Chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State) takes us on a trip South of the Border, taking over the Mid-City eatery formerly known as Playa. Design elements of the previous iteration remain (screened garage door, large bar, patterned tiles, bulbed chandelier), while a rock 'n' roll vibe—the restaurant takes its name after Tom Petty + Johnny Cash—brings new life to the eatery and menu. Graffitied walls, a back shuffleboard table, creative cocktails and hip-hop-meets-punk playlist make for a fun, laid-back after-work and dinner hangout, while tacos and other Mexican small plates satisfy stomachs. Don't miss the ceviche bar of land (pork ceviche, anyone?) and sea—try the ceviche negro ($12) with grouper, squid ink, mango and peanuts or aguachile from octopus ($8) to sea urchin ($14) served traditionally in a molcajete. The main attraction? Tacos—don't miss the spot-on fish tacos ($5) that pay homage to Manzke's San Diego roots. Other must-haves pay homage to CA with an obligatory Brussels sprouts dish ($7), served crispy with morita-cauliflower crema, and locally grown (as nearby as the restaurant's own rooftop garden) produce for the baby green salad ($8). We can't get enough of the crispy chicharónnes ($6), served alongside addictive, housemade pineapple-carrot hot sauce, and pig ear nachos ($12), stoner food at its best—salty, crunchy and topped with an oozy soft-boiled egg. —Katherine Kims (June 13, 2013)