South L.A. Food Diaries: Accessibility reigns at West Jefferson taco shop

Susan Park’s mission for Revolutionario North African Tacos is simple: If you walk in, you eat.

“If somebody comes and they can’t afford to eat and they tell me they’re hungry, I can always give them chicken, rice, vegetables, and a drink,” Park said.

The walls of her restaurant  are covered with words of praise and support from customers, scribbled in multi-colored Sharpie. For Park, the walls are proof that the restaurant she runs with her husband on West Jefferson Boulevard is accessible to people from all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“In any given day or week if you just sat here and saw the customers, you’ve never seen a more diverse space,” Park said.

Revolutionario stands at a crossroads in its food. It introduces North African cuisine with a uniquely Southern California twist.

“I know that from experience … it’s very globally appealing food,” Park said. “It’s entry-level foreign food for just about anybody because it’s going to remind somebody of something.”

Naiya Ross | Daily Trojan

Park and her husband, Farid Zadi, a classically trained chef  born in France to Algerian parents, opened Revolutionario North African Tacos in 2015.

Park — who is a food historian and chef — was born in South Korea and moved to Los Angeles when she was five years old. Together, the couple set out to combine North African and Latino cuisines through the lens of Los Angeles.

“In terms of food culture, the idea makes sense to me because Arabized Northwest Africans … conquered Spain and ruled it for over 700 years, so there is a lot of culinary influence, and the Spanish brought that to the Americas,” Park said.

The chicken tagine taco epitomizes this culinary ombination: A small tortilla comes loaded with pieces of chicken that are slightly lemony and perfectly spiced.

“It was just kind of a natural marriage,” Park said. “The food tastes good together and … there are already things that exist in Mexican and Latin American cooking that are influenced by North Africa, so it just works.”

Revolutionario’s meats are halal, meaning they’re prepared in the Islamic tradition — a conscious decision that Park made in order to appeal to a wider range of religious backgrounds while adhering to the food’s North African roots.

“I wanted to make a point … to be inclusive and make a sociopolitical statement,” she said. “You can do something that’s for other people and be inclusive. You don’t have to be a part of that group necessarily to do something nice.”

But Park doesn’t limit herself to making tacos — and with her customers’ trust, she allows herself to be creative.

“Our customers just say, ‘Make whatever you feel like,’” Park said. “‘We know it’s good.’”