When a gringo opens up a Mexican restaurant, it’s likely to be a whitewashed mess of hoity-toity hipsterism and bland fusion. And while there is an Asian-inspired fried rice option and vegan items at Tacos Huevos, owner Chris Pike does it right at his new Arts District outpost, while adding some fresh, unique touches.
That’s because the 55-year-old So Cal native has had an affinity for Latin cuisine and culture his whole life. The lifelong surfer would frequent the beaches of South America often. When he opened his first nightclub in San Luis Obispo in his 20s, he naturally named it Loco Ranchero. He followed that with a restaurant in Manhattan Beach and, later, tapas joint Sangria in Hermosa Beach.
Two years ago, Pike came to Las Vegas after hearing word of Downtown’s rebirth. “We kept seeing really exciting things happening here,” Pike says. “L.A. is played out. So many places are over-gentrified and the landlords want you to be a slave and give up all your profits by way of rent … [Downtown Las Vegas] reminds me a little of Silverlake. It’s a cool little area; it’s the start of something.”
But what Pike is starting might be bigger than Las Vegas.
Located at the Arts Factory next to the recently-opened Urban Lounge in the former Downtown Crown space, Tacos Huevos is a fast-casual restaurant that features a simple, customizable menu that’s sure to help your hangover. There are loaded burritos, bowls, tacos, tostadas and salads with high quality meats, from flat iron steak to Pike’s wife’s slow cooked pork recipe (and yes, there’s Gardein steak for the vegans). Each item comes with a variety of complimentary fixings, including an over easy or scrambled egg and cheese melted separately on a flat skillet that is artfully layered on top of your food. It’s a sight to behold. There’s also dessert—a Nutella quesadilla served with ice cream that you’ll want to save room for.
The thick, soft and chewy tortillas are made from scratch and prepared fresh for each order, too, adding to Tacos Huevos’ homestyle vibe.
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
To wash it all down, the restaurant offers margaritas, coffee from the nearby Vesta and a Tractor Soda fountain, which includes flavors such as cola, coconut and blood orange made with organic, natural ingredients.
Pike conceptualized Tacos Huevos with franchising in mind, but that doesn’t mean the space is boring or the service mechanical.
The restaurant is homey and comfortable, with an exposed brick interior, wooden barrels and a large painting that says “Cultivado Local.” In the dining area, you’ll see framed hubcaps from Hub Cap Annie on Charleston Boulevard and restored vintage car doors that Pike dug up from a local wrecking yard. Those accents are complemented by art, some painted by Pike, like one inspired by his surf trips to Costa Rica that reads “Pura Vida.”
“Quick-serve doesn’t have to be plastic and vinyl and formica,” Pike says. “People are trying to grab a quick bite. Why not elevate the experience?”