Briana Valdez recalls the comfort food from her childhood to create the best Tex-Mex restaurant around
Story By Lawrence Yee | Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner
When self-proclaimed “Tex-pat” Briana Valdez moved from her native Texas to California, she never imagined she’d open a restaurant, let alone three.
“I’m a terrible cook but I love food,” the owner/chef of HomeState admits. “After moving here in 2000 right after college with a business degree, I didn’t know what to do. I found myself missing food from home and I couldn’t find it. As the years went on, it made me really homesick and frustrated. I kept waiting for somebody to make a HomeState but no one did. I decided one day that maybe I should try.”
Despite having neither a culinary nor operations background, Valdez went to work for Thomas Keller for four years, learning everything she could from the famed chef/restauranteur.
And while her mentor specialized in French fare, Valdez focused on the Tex-Mex dishes she ate growing up: tacos, migas (eggs scrambled with crispy corn strips), queso, and of course, Frito pie – and HomeState was born. Described as “a Texas kitchen in Los Angeles,” Valdez just added a Westside location in addition to Hollywood and Highland Park.
Back in 2014, Valdez closed down the Hollywood location for a day to do a SXSW event in Playa Vista. Once again, she saw an opportunity.
“I was looking around and thought, “there’s so many people here and nothing to eat,’” Valdez recalls. “There were a couple of taco trucks. There was so much density of young people, young professionals, and I thought, ‘Where do they eat lunch? Where do they go?’ I thought HomeState should open here because it could be a really nice refuge for people to get quality food.”
After scouting locations for several years, Valdez wrangled a lease on Waterfront Drive in 2017. The building was a new construction – a departure from HomeState’s prior locations.
“This is the nicest, shiniest HomeState we’ve ever had,” Valdez jokes. “It is much different than anything we’ve ever done in terms of building type. We’ve been in older buildings with a lot of character and old charm, the historical district. Obviously, this is a brand new.”
In order to infuse the modern space with a neighborhood warmth, HomeState Playa Vista incorporates lots of wood and textures, and the restaurant’s signature blue wallpaper.
It’s a departure from the tech companies that surround it – YouTube, Fullscreen, and IMAX, to name a few – but Valdez hopes HomeState will attract the young professionals and families that have flocked to Silicon Beach. To get to know the locals, Valdez visited nearby Google and told the HomeState story via slideshow. Other community outreach efforts included meeting with local mommy groups and serving tacos on the Playa Vista bus.
The Playa Vista location’s menu will be the same as the other locations. Valdez is especially proud of the flour tortillas, which are made fresh on site.
“In SoCal, the corn tortilla is the most commonly seen tortilla when you’re being served tacos,” Valdez explains. “What we’ve done at HomeState is bring in the flour tortilla, something I ate growing up. My grandmother would handroll tortillas all day, every day with every meal. It’s the foundation for what we do, and we take so much pride in them.
“You can get them alone, you can get them with tacos, you can dip them in queso. If people give us one chance to try them, they will be converted,” she adds.
Diners will have options for non-GMO, American-grown corn tortillas, which Valdez sources from a purveyor out of Boyle Heights daily. The HomeState menu has vegan and vegetarian options for the health-conscious Westside crowd, and substitutions/subtractions can be made upon request.
There’s booze too: a beer and wine menu, but the palomas and margaritas (iced or frozen) are especially tasty. HomeState has never done a happy hour. “We provide a beautiful $10 top-shelf margarita, all day. We start serving alcohol at 8 a.m., if anyone wants it,” Valdez says with a smile.
Judging by its surroundings, HomeState will have plenty of Playa patrons coming for its Tex Mex morning, noon, and night.
HomeState | 12105 W Waterfront Drive, Suite B | 213-296-2383