Taco Flame, better than a Kosher Chuck- E- Cheese.
By Estee Cohen.
As a preschool teacher and native Mexican, Sara Betesh dreamed about opening a Kosher restaurant with kids’ indoor play area for years. Her husband, Rabbi Abraham Betesh, who runs a Jewish outreach organization called Chesed Avraham, was very supportive of the concept. Although the Betesh family had no experience in the restaurant industry, their Mexican relatives are renowned for their traditional Mexican cooking and for years the Betesh family dreamed of starting a venture together. Finally, after years of planning, Sara Betesh’s cousins agreed to move from Mexico to California with the shared vision of creating a children’s play zone along with a restaurant that serves authentic Kosher Mexican food.
Taco Flame was born a few weeks before Pesach and has had a steady popularity since the day it opened. I, like many others, lapped up the idea of a place where adults and kids could enjoy non-pizza food while being entertained. Even if all Taco Flame offered were bare basic Mexican style foods I would have been happy, but their cuisine and selections are both delicious and, in some cases, quite daring.
Taco Flame’s friendly manager, Miguel Guerrero tells me that the most popular dishes are the tortilla soup and Mole Verde Enchiladas. Mole Enchiladas include 3 corn tortillas stuffed with either chicken, meat or vegetables covered with mole sauce. Knowledgeable cooks and Top Chef fan’s may remember that mole is a traditional Mexican sauce made out of many exciting ingredients including chili peppers, spices and tomatoes. Mole is served so frequently that 99% of all Mexicans must have tasted it, and mole is a must at celebrations. The revered sauce takes several hours to prepare and has over 20 unique ingredients! This is why most chefs will prepare a “faux mole” that tastes similar, but is missing the depth of flavor that only preparation and patience can create. Chef Miguel is very proud that Taco Flame offers “the real thing”. The Mole Verde Enchilada is complete with mushrooms and faux sour cream and cheese.
I’ve been a few times with my kids and I’ve personally enjoyed the Beef Fajitas best of all. This is excellent for low-carb dieters and meat lovers because the dish comes to the table piping hot on its own little skillet with the soft fajita shells on the side. You can choose to stuff the Beef pieces into the shell, or skip the shell and eat the soft, savory meat solo. Most meals come with delicious guacamole and your choice of rice. Go for the green rice with herbs; it’s very different and although I never thought I’d describe rice as “refreshing”, this is.
I absolutely love that Taco Flame offers both traditional kiddie guilty pleasures like chicken nuggets as well as several healthier options that little children will devour, but will make you feel like you actually fed your kid something decent for dinner. My kids like the mini sliders, which are three cute and tiny hamburgers and the Tiny Taquitos which are crispy with shredded chicken inside; feel free to sneak a bite while the kids are playing in the Fun Zone next door.
I know a thing or two about health codes, and creating play areas for children in a restaurant is very challenging. For all those who kvetch about the lack of “a Kosher Chuck-E-Cheese”, the health codes are a large part of the reason they don’t really exist. I commend the Betesh family in doing this restaurant in a very smart way that keeps the Health Department at bay. Officially the restaurant is separate from the Fun Zone; there is a large plexiglass window in between the areas so you can keep an eye on your children while they play and you eat.
The play area is charming and includes a couple of slides, a ball pit, and a climbing area. The Fun Zone also hosts a train table, large blocks and Fisher Price toys for children aged 3 and under, as well as an air hockey table. The second room will be of interest to your 7 and up crew: there’s an arcade room complete with several video games and 2 gaming systems. They’ve used the space well and children of all ages can play for hours.
A few tips: Remove yarmulkes and shoes before entering the ball pit. When I last checked Taco Flame had a collection of 12 kippahs that recently resurfaced inside the ball pit. Also, the arcade does NOT require quarters, I really appreciated this after I already stuck $2 worth of quarters in the machines. It’s nice not to be nickled and dimed while you are paying for a meal. You can eat your enchilada and relax.
Taco Flame can be rented out for birthday parties or other events. I think it would be an adorable place for an upshernish. There’s a large patio and an elevator to the restaurant with some parking in front of the strip mall that houses Taco Flame and more parking in the basement.
Taco Flame is at 5450 W. Pico Blvd. #204 in Los Angeles. You can reach them at 323-634-7544 or 323-634-7344. Visit them at http://www.tacoflamela.com .