Santa Monica: Bacon Guacamole, Tacos & Tequila at TINGA
The question is can you have a frozen margarita made with fresh citrus? And TINGA answered, YES! The newest outpost opened in Santa Monica a few months ago. Locals in the area say it’s much needed and the cocktail program is managed by noted bartender Joel Black.
Joel explained he had to make sure the specs of the frozen margarita was calibrated for their machines. He uses fresh juices which is very unusual for the frozen margarita machines churning away.
You may of course have the classic margarita as well on the rocks. I tried both and I like both for different reasons. The frozen one seems perfect for daytime drinking and the rocks one is for sipping while chatting with friends.
TINGA Classic Margarita– Corralejo blanco tequila, orange, lime, salted rim
While we waiting for our food, we ordered the bacon guacamole and chips with three salsas to munch on. I was a little apprehensive about the bacon guacamole but it turns out it’s smoked pork belly chunks and not bacon. I thought if it was strips of bacon, it wouldn’t be crispy anymore. I like the pork belly idea much more. Plus, there was also chicharones (pork skin). Don’t like meat in your guac? Try the spicy guacamole.
Chips with salsa with a frozen margarita really is the perfect marriage.
TINGA Classic Frozen Margarita – Corralejo tequila (asked for no salt rim for this one)
Shhh, don’t tell anyone but sometimes I put all three salsas on one chip. Start with a little pico de gallo then dribble on both red and green salsas.
The bomba reminded me of Italian arrancini. The goat cheese and chorizo stuffed rice balls are served with a red salsa. These were very filling as an appetizer.
Everybody needs their greens! TINGA has a great kale salad. I enjoyed the dressing though probably would have liked the kale to be cut more finely.
A variation of a magarita, the Tipsy Jalepeno is a spicy and appealing cocktail. It’s so aromatic with the sprigs of rosemary almost reaching towards your nose as you sip. I also liked the fact this was made with a reposado tequila so it was more mellow and better for sipping.
Tipsy Jalepeno – Casa Noble reposado tequila, lime, jalepeno, rosemary, agave
The broccoli cakes made me think of falafel and in fact there is a chickpea and broccoli “falafel” taco on the menu. You can get them on their own as an appetizer. The discs were filled with fresh broccoli and chickpeas. They went great with the parsley-cilantro sauce. These didn’t seem overly fried and the sour cream helps cut down any greasiness.
The signature TINGA tacos comes with shredded chicken, shredded lettuce, crema and pickled red onions. The taste reminded me of something I’d have as a kid. It must have been the shredded lettuce but I really loved them. The chicken was so juicy. The pickled red onions were perfect.
It was time for another cocktail. With the onslaught of food, the Smokin’ Hot Mez-ican was the right cocktail to keep things light. I always love drinks with both tequila and mezcal because it’s so hard to get it balanced. This one was and I liked that the chili de arbol salt rim wasn’t overpowering. Just the merest brush kept the flavors lively.
Smokin’ Hot Mez-ican – vanilla bean and piloncillo infused Herradura blanco tequila, Sombra mezcal, pineapple puree, lime, chili de arbol salt rim
I had been eying the mushroom pupusas when we ordered appetizers and finally gave in to the desire. I’m so glad I did because they were so good. The savory mushrooms was mixed with Oaxacan cheese, black beans and guacamole. I was pretty gleeful when I took home the rest for the next day. We really did a great menu tour.
And the menu tour continued with rice and beans as well as the al pastor tacos. The rice and beans were interesting. The rice was fluffy, almost whipped.
I liked the chicken tacos more which is unusual since I like pork more in general. It must have been that shredded lettuce nostalgia flavoring that got me.
Joel moved me towards a Negroni Clandestino. Now we’re talking. He created this drink for the booze nerds, of course. It’s essentially a tequila Negroni that’s been barrel aged. Barrel aging tends to mellow the booze but also concentrates the flavor. Joel serves it on ice which helps dilute it.
Negroni Clandestino – Cazadores anejo tequila, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters – barrel-aged and served with flamed orange peel
Throughout the meal, we talked about the churros and the anticipated Dirty Hor-chata frozen cocktail. Not being a sweets person, I had a quite bite or two before diving into the Dirty Hor-chata.
But I did so a little bit too quickly and got brain freeze. I would caution you to not be so enthusiastic. This was really great though because it wasn’t too sweet and you’d be tempted to get another.
Joel’s now working on changing the drinks over at the La Brea location. He doesn’t anticipate too many changes to the cocktails list but there’ll always be some cool new frozen drink. One of their current best sellers is the Tangerine Dream which I imagine is as balanced as the frozen margarita and Dirty Hor-chata.
Dirty Hor-chata – Atlantico reserva rum, horchata, espresso, cinnamon-nutmeg rim
I really enjoyed the artwork through the many-roomed restaurant. There’s the front bar, outside patio, two smaller bars and the back room. Yet every room has unifying art. I don’t know if I like the taco creatures playing at the Santa Monica beach more or perhaps the mustachioed taco man riding an unicorn.
TINGA is a great option if you want well-balanced drinks with your tacos — and bacon guacamole and mushroom pupusas.
Ole!(310) 451-9341 © The Minty 2013