Eager for some elevated Mexican fare, my husband and I drove to Tallula’s in Santa Monica Canyon for Sunday brunch. The owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan acquired the legendary Marix Tex-Mex near the beach and transformed it into Tallula’s. Pulling into the parking lot, we realized Tallula’s is where my husband and I met over margaritas 32 years ago.
Along with Colby Goff, they hired design firm ORA to upgrade the interior into a colorful eye-catching dining room and bar, reminiscent of something you would discover in the Mexican beach town of Tulum or Loreto.
Similar to a Spanish hacienda, the interior features terra cotta floors and a coastal color palette of turquoise, peach and green. Artistic hand-embroidered macramé pieces, vintage Mexican posters and California artwork hang on the walls.
Items kept from Marix days include the beautiful large oak and glass doors, dark wood beam and paneled ceilings, rustic columns and ornate Hawaiian Koa wood banquettes, now with turquoise blue leather seating. They also saved an array of vintage orange glass lanterns and added some hanging basket weave lighting.
Loeb and Nathan named the restaurant after their daughter Tallula, and the pink neon sign displaying “Felix’s Bar” is named after their youngest son. Bright hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles are utilized throughout the bar area and patio. The bar showcases one of the largest collections of Mexican spirits including mezcals, tequilas, rum and lesser-known spirits from small-batch producers in Mexico, and a nice selection of craft beers. Sip margaritas made with house made syrups and fresh produce in the colorful lounge area with rich leather and wood chairs.
Rustic Canyon Family Wine Director Kathryn Coker crafts the eclectic wine list, featuring wines from boutique producers in Mexico, Spain, Argentina, France and California.
The staircase, transformed into a vertical garden of pots and greenery, leads up to a private event space and bar for a 50 person standing cocktail party or private seated dinner for 32 people.
The open kitchen provides views from the main dining room, where James Beard award nominee Chef Jeremy Fox and Executive Chef Saw Naing prepare familiar Mexican dishes using seasonal fresh ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market and other local purveyors.
Assistant Manager Max Mueller shared that the restaurant takes family to heart by making the staff and guests feel at home, inspired, nourished and satisfied.
The imaginative, home-cooking includes fresh chile pastes and salsas and heirloom corn masa for fresh tortillas. We ordered their signature Caesar salad that arrived in a bowl with long Little Gem leaves loaded with crunchy pumpkin seeds, shaved parmesan, anchovies, garlic and lemon juice.
The chefs at Tallula’s also make delicious blue corn pancakes and chilaquiles. The pancakes arrived in a black skillet topped with fresh berries and a pour of unrefined Mexican cane sugar called piloncillo syrup, powdered sugar, chopped mint and whipped cream.
The chilaquiles were artfully arranged in a beautiful terra cotta serving dish, layered with corn tortilla chips, salsa rojo, black beans, cilantro, red onion, cheese, pico de gallo and a fried egg on top.
Other Mexican fare includes a rotating taco del día, breakfast burritos with verde sauce, pork, eggs, potatoes, crema and pepper jack cheese, as well as local Channel Islands rock cod tacos.
Heartier options include grilled carne asada with grass-fed hanger steak, served with house-made tortillas, carrots, blistered shishito peppers and chipotle tamarind sauce.
The Tallula team makes all of the Mexican-inspired desserts, based on Nathan’s recipes, including a tres leches cake drizzled with honey, chamomile and fresh market berries.
Tallula’s is part of the Rustic Canyon Family, a collection of chef-driven dining destinations that include Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, Milo & Olive, and more.
Weekend brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is all-night long on Mondays and from 4 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday in the bar, lounge and patio. Weekday dinner service is at 5 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the weekends. Tallula’s offers a takeout and delivery-only menu starting at 5 p.m. $$ 118 Entrada Drive (310)526-0027.