Colonia Taco Lounge | La Puente, Tasting Table Los Angeles

Taco guru Ricardo Diaz opens shop in La Puente

Ricardo Diaz, the chef behind Whittier's Bizarra Capital and founding partner at Boyle Height'sĀ Guisados, has a habit of opening shop in far-flung neighborhoods.

Good thing we'll pursue his soulful Mexican cooking just about anywhere.

Diaz's latest project, Colonia Taco Lounge, is located on a blue-collar stretch of Valley Boulevard in way-out-there La Puente. With a glowing street sign that reads "Guisados & Beer," the stripped-down restaurant and bar announces its business with no pretense.

The chalkboard menu is composed of dozen or so tacos, split into two categories of fillings: guisados, long-braised stews such as chayote succotash ($2.50), spicy pollo tesmole ($3) or braised lamb barbacoa ($4); and caseros, home-style proteins that Diaz roughly describes as "Mexican bachelor food."

A casero taco, for instance, can be made with crispy fried cauliflower ($2.50) slathered in creamy salsa veracruz and lemon vinaigrette, seared queso fresco with bacon and hatch chiles ($3), or smoky Sonora-style skirt steak dressed with raw tomatillo salsa and folded into a flour tortilla imported from Mexicali ($4).

What wonderful variety.

Chile-rimmed Michelada

Behind the bar, Diaz expounds his love of craft beer with a sizable list from local and imported breweries, though cocktails shouldn't be overlooked: Try the #18 ($9), a bracing summer beverage made with gin, cucumber, dill, lime and a splash of soda.

In the land of a thousand tacos, Colonia'sĀ ambitious yet traditional bundles are miles ahead of the competition. Can you think of a better excuse to hop in the car?