Enrique Olvera Opens a Bigger and Brighter Atla in Los Angeles

“We believe that Mexican cuisine is part of the California culture,” Olvera said. "We want to embrace that here at Atla.”

interior of restaurant with wooden tables and sleek modern look
Atla. Araceli Paz

Enrique Olvera, one of the most prominent Mexican chefs on the planet, is known for inventive, avant-garde cooking. But he’s also adept at keeping things simple and traditional.

As he gets ready to open a Los Angeles outpost of his “everyday Mexican” restaurant Atla, Olvera realizes he might be creating a big and bright prototype for the future.

“Atla was conceived as a casual place, where it’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Olvera, who was born in Mexico City, told Observer. “So if you want to come and work on your computer and just have chilaquiles, that’s fine. If you want to come with friends and sip some mezcal, that’s fine as well. The beverage and food program is based on that adaptability.”

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food in a white bowl on a wooden table
Atla. Araceli Paz

Olvera, who also runs more upscale restaurants like Pujol in Mexico City, Cosme in New York and Damian in Los Angeles, knows that being in L.A. gives him an opportunity to adapt in a dramatic way.

“We like Mexican food that is clean, Mexican food that focuses not only on the heritage but also on the quality of the ingredient,” Olvera said. “In New York, what happened was we started getting great reviews, and then we started making the menu a little more sophisticated. We started building a huge mezcal collection. And then we realized that we wanted to do something that felt a little more comfortable. So this is our attempt to correct the Alta brand a little bit and do a larger space.”

airy open restaurant with seating
Atla. Araceli Paz

L.A.’s Atla Venice, which is scheduled to open on buzzy Abbot Kinney Boulevard on August 2, is three times the size of the Atla location in New York. The original New York Atla, situated in Noho, debuted in 2017.

“Now the idea of Atla is to build more branches,” Olvera said. “So we want to know if we’re able to increase the profit margin with a higher amount of seats.”

Atla Venice is over 7,200 square feet, with 140 seats spread out between its interior and lush patio. The restaurant focuses on meticulous sourcing of organic, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, and also offers a relaxed spot to just hang out. As always, Olvera’s team is nixtamalizing heirloom Mexican corn from Masienda every day.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert. Araceli Paz

“80 percent of our sales are tortilla-based preparations,” said Olvera, who also plans to debut a taqueria, Tacos Atla, in Brooklyn later this year. “We know that is our brand. In Venice, we will use both flour and corn tortillas, with different varieties of both. Here in Los Angeles, the breakfast burrito has a huge following, so we’ll probably do a version of that.”

Working in L.A. is also inspiring Olvera to put a plenty of seafood on the menu at Atla Venice. (At an industry preview party for the restaurant, Olvera effusively hugged the Joint’s Liwei Liao, the dry-aged fish supplier who sells branzino to Damian and will also provide seafood at Atla.) Expect to see Baja California-style tacos as well as ceviches and aguachiles. Olvera is thinking about serving smoked-salmon toast with salsa macha.

“We believe that Mexican cuisine is part of the California culture,” Olvera said. “It’s embroidered into the fabric of the cuisine of California. We want to embrace that here at Atla.” Mexican food, he elaborated, is about different regional cuisines. “It feels like California is one of those regional cuisines.”

California also gives him access to a wider array and amount of ingredients. “There are things we’ve always wanted to do in New York, but we couldn’t because of seasonality or price,” he said.

orange cocktail
There’s also an impressive beverage menu. Araceli Paz

For example, Olvera’s favorite agua fresca at Atla Venice is made with coconuts. He doesn’t have that agua fresca in New York because the high cost of coconuts there is prohibitive. In Los Angeles, he can get coconuts year-round at a more reasonable price.

Again, it’s all about adapting to the circumstances. Atla Venice will be open for lunch and dinner, and Olvera is also considering weekend brunch. He’s receptive to making changes after he sees how things flow. 

a meal at atla
The California food landscape influenced the menu. Araceli Paz

You can pop by for a quick meal of tacos or chilaquiles or some soul-warming chicken soup, which is Olvera’s personal favorite item on the menu. You can come by to work on your computer or write in your journal or eat fish and vegetables, which are all options that are often part of a California lifestyle. “It’s not a brand where we expect you to have a three-course meal,” he said of Atla. “You can walk in. You can come in for guacamole and a margarita and leave.”

“We want you to come here and feel great,” Olvera said. “That’s one of the things that I love about Atla, that you come here and it’s not that heavy Mexican food. It’s clean flavors. It’s not the heavily seasoned, fatty preparations, but actually quite the opposite.”

Atla Venice is located at 1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 9:30 p.m. 

Enrique Olvera Opens a Bigger and Brighter Atla in Los Angeles