Cauliflower nachos. Do I have your atencion?

Chicken Adobo Taco and Cauliflower NachosThe increasingly bougie Santa Fe Ave has one more reason to feel superior: Petty Cash Taqueria opened a couple of months ago next to the Bread Lounge. I’ve eaten at the Petty Cash in Hollywood with a large group and they were very accommodating. It was a great choice for a fun night out with friends: the menu is funky; ambiance is lively.

But, I discovered later that the restaurant’s name has a meaning and the significance is deeply embedded in the chef’s romantic remembrances of Tijuana trips that somehow involve a reverence for Tom Petty (great Floridian) and Johnny Cash. The name Petty Cash is also the name of a cover band that the chef apparently saw in Tijuana. This is all public record. This cover band must have inspired a sort of spiritual awakening in the chef on that hot, steamy night in Tijuana. The walls are covered with lyrics from the two musicians and huge photos of them performing and/or drinking.

The Petty Cash site states that the chef is a “huge fan” of both Petty and Cash. Hey, I like Public Enemy and Elvis Presley, but you don’t see me naming a restaurant “Public Presley” … actually, that’s pretty good.

Consistently pretty every time.

Consistently pretty every time.

My favorite dish is the Cauliflower Nachos. Holy shit, these are amazing and packed with flavor. As Tom Petty would say, I feel like a real “American Girl” when I’m chowing down on these. Fried cauliflower florets, crispy kale, fresh peppers, crema, queso, I’m in love. I usually get the $9.00 half order, but I fucked up once and ordered the $14.00 version and I was stunned by how big the plate was. I was almost embarrassed; it was the size of a pizza. I was not too shy to eat the whole thing.

I’ve tried all of their tacos, and haven’t been disappointed. The only thing is: you have to be prepared to spend maybe $6.00 for five or six bites. I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty sure that’s $1.00 per bite. I guess you could take smaller bites and feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Chicken Adobo on blue corn tortilla and the sublimely greasy pork belly carnitas are $4.00 each and so worth it. I like to squirt that sweet, green pineapple salsa on my tacos, but not so much the spicier red salsa. I’m trying to avoid the morning after “Ring of Fire”, as Johnny Cash would put it.

Speaking of tortillas, on one of my recent lunches I was seated alongside a kitchen manager guy who was talking business with some potential vendors. Maybe they were trying to impress me, since I was obviously concentrating on the latest issue of Masa Quarterly (“Bringing you the corniest news – since 1986”). There was a lot of wheeling and dealing going on, but the most memorable line was: “If my tortillas cost me three cents per taco now, why would I want to switch to yours at ten cents per taco?” The math floored me!

I was already grappling with the little line on the menu that says “We add 3% to every check for our staff’s health insurance costs,” adding that you can opt to subtract that from your total tip, so I was like, “are you guys really that stingy?” I’m all for tipping extra for good service, or even just for being acknowledged, but why don’t these servers just do the 3% calculation on the backend—after being tipped—and leave me out of the discussion? Making a point of mentioning your little social wellness taxes on the goddamn menu just seems a little Petty.

Petty Cash Arts District bar

Petty Cash in the Arts District

712 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles

(213) 624-0210

Open for lunch and dinner

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