The glowing green lights of the newly opened TLT brighten up Downtown Los Angeles’ West 7th Street, beckoning passersby to enter and sample its California fusion cuisine first made famous by its popular mobile sibling, The Lime Truck. This is the second TLT co-founder Daniel Shemtob has opened (the first is in Westwood Village), and though it opened just a little over a week ago, it already has repeat customers thanks to a varied menu that offers carnivorous and deep-fried eats alongside gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Shemtob and his TLT team are no strangers to the limelight. After putting wheels to the ground with The Lime Truck in June 2010, they had the distinction of being named Best New Restaurant 2010 by OC Weekly. A year later, they won the second season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race and then had their most popular entree, World Famous Carnitas Fries, inducted into James Cunningham’s Eat St. cookbook, which chronicles the messiest and most delicious food truck recipes in North America.
In late 2012, Shemtob decided to expand on the success of The Lime Truck by opening TLT in Westwood, transforming his food truck concept into a casual, stainless steel eatery that attracts both student and working crowds. The success of that eatery spawned the downtown location.
Many of TLT’s vegetarian and gluten-free options are light and healthy. Among them are the savory beet salad, which comes with a plethora of pickled golden beets, red beets, arugula, mint, spiced candied almonds and whipped goat cheese. “Potato Potato” is a take on the traditional American picnic potato salad that has adorable peewee potatoes, celery, fresh bell peppers, scallions, cornichons and arugula. the Asian noodle salad and the pretty wild rice salad are available in two sizes and, for a few extra dollars, can have seared ahi tuna or steak added on top.
TLT’s most vaunted feature, however, is its taco counter. The taco counter looks nothing like one found at a traditional taco shop, something that’s immediately apparent by the presence of bottles of Sriracha sauce.
There’s also this: quite a few tacos on TLT’s menu are gluten free. Classic ingredients such as shredded beef, homemade guacamole and Mexican cotija cheese, as well as a blend of unusual ingredients, such as chipotle-honey slaw and horseradish crema are part of what makes TLT’s tacos so unique.
With a variety of inimitable taco variations such as the gluten-free ultimate taco that features succulent 12-hour pulled pork, alongside the above-mentioned cotija cheese and guacamole.
Pairing one of TLT’s popular limeades with its spicy entrees is a must. Flavors vary from time to time and by location but include peachy pear, mixed berry, Mama’s Mango and galactica guava. Each different variety plays off the tartness of lime to bring out its paired flavor.
For a little TLC from TLT, try one (or both) of its two signature sweets: the light and delicious lime panna cotta and the thicker, mouthwatering “Cake.” The Italian panna cotta is made by simmering cream, milk and sugar together, mixing it with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. TLT adds essence of lime and serves the delightful mini custard with a dollop of whipped cream and a seasonal topping such as the current candied almond and walnut crumbly, making it their most popular dessert. What “The Cake” lacks in original name, it makes up for with a simple but rich flavor, taking a triple-chocolate layered cake and covering it in lime buttercream frosting.
TLT makes its presence known past sunset. In the evening, TLT partners with Silo Vodka Bar next door. Silo shares TLT’s menu with its customers, supporting both venues and spreading the word to Los Angeles nightlife.
With a motto that states, “Eat with friends, share with friends,” customers can be given the impression that portion sizes at TLT are significantly larger than average; TLT even has designated a part of their menu that has items that are meant to be shared called, “The Goods,” which has popular items such as TLT’s carnitas fries and pork belly nachos. Sharing becomes difficult when the items arrive; the portions are smaller than what one would normally call “shareable,” so those partial to a single item might have to order it for themselves.
TLT’s taco portions are similarly modest — which is great for people who want to try new things — but diners looking to take a bite out of more than a couple tacos might find that they’re also eating into their pockets. Each taco is priced from $3 for the potato taco to $5 for a seared ahi tuna taco, which is pricey considering diners might want three or four to make an honest meal. For what it costs, it’s certainly not skimping on flavor: the gluten-free and spicy seared ahi tuna taco is filled with delectable morsels of sushi-grade tuna, chipotle-honey slaw, spicy lime-sambal sauce and cilantro.
Sure, TLT might be award-winning in the food truck world, but the restaurant world judges a little differently. In Downtown Los Angeles, where the food scene is exploding and a new restaurant or concept seems to be popping up (literally or figuratively) every day, however, TLT is a more than worthy competitor.
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