In 2016, the first Tocaya Organica opened its doors. The earthy spot on Pacific Avenue in Venice dished up hearty bowls, burritos, and wraps. They’re based on traditional Mexican recipes that were tweaked for the health-conscious. The carne asada Barrio Style taco is free of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. The roasted tomato salsa and avocado is all are organic as well. The seared sea bass is fresh, wild-caught, rubbed with chipotle.
Elevated Earthy Eating is Taking Off at Tocaya
Since day one, it’s been a lightning-fast ride for owners Tosh Berman and Amrou Manaseer. They now have opened four new locations—in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Playa Vista and Century City. A slew of additional local branches are coming, including Westwood and The Point in El Segundo. (Manaseer and Berman also own upscale West Hollywood hotspot Toca Madera, which opened in 2015.) “When we first opened Tocaya Organica two years ago, many thought that taking on the Modern Organic Mexican space and a vegan-forward approach couldn’t be done, but we converted our entire company into this one culinary concept,” says Berman, whose seven-year stint living in Mexico inspired his restaurants. “I learned that true Mexican cuisine is incredibly healthy, simple and fresh.”
Tocaya Organica menu is…well, organic!
The menu is filled with tasty vegan and gluten-free items. One of the top sellers is the Fajita Del Rey Bowl, a tasty menagerie of sautéed poblano peppers, Spanish rice, and vegan chipotle crema. A close second is the Tocaya Salad, which has romaine and butter lettuce, sliced jalapeños and tortilla strips. Tocaya even has its own hearty vegan picadillo made from a pea-based protein with carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. No sodas, but try one of the house-made aguas frescas, such as horchata or cucumber mint limeade. For dessert, there’s a wildly popular Churro Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich, which can be made vegan or non-vegan.
Though the menu stays the same at each location, Tocaya’s look varies from place to place. When you walk in, expect an airy, communal space with plenty of indoor and outdoor places. That and unfussy, minimalist decor, along with natural materials and a neutral palette with occasional splurges of color. “Our signature design elements are decorative mosaic tiles, herringbone planks, and brass accents,” says Berman, the last of which extend to lighting fixtures and iron-grid seating. Painted Mason jars hold cutlery and glass containers contain pretty succulents, adding homespun charm. A showcase of the brand’s “evolution in design,” is located at Westfield Century City. The location features an open floor plan and an open kitchen. The appealing, elevated design of the fast-casual concept will undoubtedly continue to evolve as the number of restaurants grow. “As for new markets we go into,” says Berman, “we like to incorporate a unique design element inspired by the history of each location.” Like the upcoming San Diego Gaslamp location, which will feature classic touches of brick.
Chef-driven Modern Organic Mexican Food
The rapid expansion of the brand, premised on serving chef-driven organic Mexican food in an uplifting fast-casual setting, is a sign of the times. One that will, for many, replace the fast-food taco joints of yore. “I think a lot of our success is due to the fact that we bridged the gap for vegans and non-vegans,” points out Berman, “and created a place where they can go to have great tasting food that uses high-quality, organic ingredients without sacrificing flavor.” tocayaorganica.com