By Charly SHELTON
Sitting in a little counter service restaurant, you’re surrounded by skateboards and Mexican folk art-style skulls colored by customers, Loteria cards and punk band logos on the walls while Unwound’s song “Envelope” jams from the speakers above. This is not just a taco place … this is Epic Taco.
Michael Ruiz, owner and chef of Epic Taco, is a 14-year resident of the Crescenta Valley. He lives not far from the restaurant on Verdugo Road just south of Broadview Drive and is excited to have a restaurant in Montrose.
“We just want people to come and check us out. We think if we can get them in here once and we can show what we can do that they’ll enjoy it and they’ll come back,” Ruiz said.
He is no stranger to the restaurants of Montrose. Ruiz has been consulting for the last few years and he worked with a partner to open the short-lived Fork in Montrose before opening his own restaurant, Bistro Verdu.
“Cooking French food was was just trying to, at the time, work in super-fine dining, ultra-precise food. Over the years it kind of became less fun,” Ruiz said. “It’s great to be able to have that kind of technique to be able to handle food like that, but it isn’t food that’s readily accessible to everybody. We live in this neighborhood and wanted to open something that everybody can enjoy. It’s affordable and not exclusive to just the few people with the money.”
Epic Taco is a quick service taco restaurant with a skater/punk theme because that’s what Ruiz is into. He skates, he cooks, he loves tacos and this restaurant is the culmination of all of that.
“I’ve been cooking for a long time, I’ve been in the restaurant industry forever. My training is classical French but my heritage, my family, is Latino and, in fact, my grandparents had a Mexican restaurant in Whittier for about 35 years. So I’ve been around it for a long time. It’s just the food that we love,” Ruiz said. “We don’t want to compete with the traditional LA Taqueria; we definitely want to pay homage to some of that because I’m a chef and my crew works in a lot of other restaurants. We try to bring in some of those influences and mix it up a little bit.”
All of the food, from the roasted meats to the fresh salsas, is made in-house, except the tortillas that are made specially for Epic Taco and delivered several times a week. Ruiz recommends the pork belly carnitas taco, a house specialty.
Epic Taco is located at 3527 N. Verdugo Road in Montrose.