Briana Valdez's popular new restaurant serves tried and true Texas tacos from an unlikely place — Los Angeles, California.
HomeState for the Homesick
In this new series, The Texas Embassies, we introduce you to outstanding restaurants throughout the world serving Texas-inspired fare.
Photos by YiMay Yang.
Those born and raised in Texas are an intrepid breed, who often leave the homeland to explore other territories. And when they do, that sweet, sweet self-identification of “Texan” often becomes amplified. Take, for example, Briana Valdez, owner and founder of HomeState in Los Angeles.
HomeState defines itself as “a Texan kitchen,” where fresh flour tortillas and mountains of tacos are served on the daily. The operation is a family affair, in which Briana is joined by her triplet sister, Andy Valdez. Together and with a team of supporters, they serve their collective experience of living all over the Lone Star State in the form of delicacies not commonly known in L.A. — like, gasp, queso!
It would seem Valdez is, at once, winning over Californians and warming the hearts of who she calls “Tex-Patriates” with a roster of breakfast and daytime tacos unlike any other in the area. Here, we celebrate HomeState’s devotion to our very own home state, and find out how Valdez turned living “abroad” into a business.
Where are y'all originally from and how did you end up in LA?
We are from all over the state of Texas — moved around a lot growing up. Started in Lake Jackson, which is along the Gulf of Mexico. From there we went to Victoria, then to Arlington/Dallas, then to San Antonio, back to Lake Jackson, to Austin for college and, finally, to Los Angeles after graduating. I think this gives us a great perspective on all aspects of Texas food and pride, being citizens of the state as opposed to just one city.
Texans often lament the lack of breakfast tacos “living abroad,” i.e., out of the Lone Star State. Did you guys hear a lot of this prior to opening?
Absolutely! We were very much a part of that homesick crowd, crying over the lack of breakfast tacos and queso. Of course, we knew a lot of fellow Texans living in L.A. and referred to ourselves as "Tex Pats.” There was a lot of online chatter about the lack of "Tex-Mex," and it was obvious to me that there was a big desire for the food of our home state.
In a great food city like L.A., where you find just about all regions of the world represented, it felt incomplete to not have breakfast tacos and queso available. I saw this as an opportunity and got to work on making HomeState a reality. Four years later, we opened the doors.
Is there a large contingent of homesick Texans that frequent HomeState?
Yes! It seems to be somewhat of a pilgrimage for Texans living in the Greater-L.A. area. Even Texans visiting from Texas make a stop in to try the food.
People from Texas have a level of pride that stands out and they love to share it. Guests come in dressed in Spurs, Astros, Cowboys, Longhorns and Aggies gear, or boots and cowboy hats, and tell us how happy they are to have a place where they can find the familiar food.
Our biggest motivation is to offer all of our guests a sense of home and hospitality. Instead of hanging big Texas flags we placed a large "Welcome Home" sign in the restaurant, in hopes that all of our guests would feel a sense of hospitality that often isn't found in taco stands or "fast casual" dining spots.
Have you had to introduce and explain the concept of the breakfast taco to Angelenos, or are they already pretty familiar with it?
Texans were our first customers and we used social media and organic PR to spread the word. L.A. has a large creative community that attends SXSW every year giving them good familiarity with "Texas food.”
We were ready and excited to educate guests who were unfamiliar with menu mainstays like queso. I remember one customer asking "what kind of cheese soup we were serving" to a table nearby! There are still guests who refer to our tacos as "burritos" due to the established burrito culture in California. Thankfully, no matter what you call it, our food has been able to please people who just want good quality food at a good price.
Can you explain the difference between a taco you’d typically get in L.A. and the daytime tacos you offer?
The biggest difference is probably the size and type of tortilla. Baja, where the corn tortilla is king, is the biggest influence on L.A. tacos. At a typical taco stand in L.A., you are served a large portion of meat on two or three small corn tortillas. In Texas, the flour tortilla is prevalent. It is also a larger size than the traditional corn. We take a lot of pride in our house made flour tortillas. They are very close to the flour tortillas our grandmother made for us as kids.
The fillings are also different. The fillings of a Baja style taco are typically the chosen meat, raw diced onions and cilantro, with a myriad of hot salsas to choose from. In Texas, tacos are larger and have more variations of fillings. In our experience, Texas fillings are more varied and fill up the taco more. Texas salsas tend to be more simple and straightforward. At HomeState, we make our salsas fresh daily, and serve a red (tomato based) salsa and a green (tomatillo) salsa. Both are medium heat.
What are the appropriate proportions to the perfect breakfast taco?
We prefer the egg to be the star of the show. We source our farm-fresh certified cage free organic Free-Range eggs from Chino Valley Ranchers, not far from L.A. The add-ons compliment the egg and should blend in seamlessly without outshining it. The most often ordered taco at HomeState is The Trinity taco, which is a combination of eggs, thin crisp potatoes, crispy bacon and cheese. It's simple but hits every note of texture and flavor!
I’ve noticed a lot of the names are very familiar (Trinity, Brazos, etc). Looks like you consulted Austin streets for inspiration?
Some of the most famous taco spots in Austin name their tacos using political references, inside jokes, or tongue in cheek references to pop culture. We wanted ours to tell the story of Texas and its roots. Our tacos are named after Texas rivers; Neches, Frio, Brazos are also street names in Austin. The streets of Austin are a familiar and fun references for our time spent living there.
You’ve received great press. How do you feel about the success and do you have plans for any more locations?
We feel incredibly fortunate to be living out this dream and to have been so well received by this city. The idea of being able to share Texas food with even more people is definitely something we'd love to do!
We see this as an opportunity to re-establish what Tex-Mex food can be. Replace a somewhat bad reputation with a more comprehensive — as in, representative of all the influences from Mexico, Europe and native Texans — view of Texas, something more approachable for all. Our hopes are for Texas food to be seen as a legitimate food genre and fill the missing niche in L.A. and beyond.
If you're in L.A. and would like to visit HomeState, you can do so Monday - Sunday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. They're located at 4624 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90027.
Phone Number: (323) 906-1122