All Taste, No Travel: Street Food at El Segundo

Kate Schlientz

There is no doubt the culinary world has been influenced by pop culture. As the Food Network became a household name, chefs’ profiles increased dramatically, shedding some serious light on the previously-mysterious activities of the back of the house. New restaurants popped up with windows into the kitchen, where diners get an inside look at the life of a professional food prep, the craziness of the Friday dinner rush fully exposed. Local chefs became mini-celebrities.

The rise of social media has certainly helped things along. Encouraging collaborations from the restaurant next door to the restaurant across the globe, chefs have access to a plethora of food photos to reference for inspiration and innovation. We, of course, reap the benefits and add to the conversation along the way.

At a time when we are one Instagram search away from exploring some of the best foods from across the world, street food has peaked our interest, influencing food trends for the past few years.

It also influenced a group of local guys who are well-known for stirring up serious fun up in SoNo. With their first restaurant—The Spread—under their belt, Chris Hickey, Andrey Cortes, Chris Rasile, and Shawn Longyear opened up El Segundo in 2016, an exploration of street foods from across the world.

With a backdrop of some serious “street” design—metallic walls speckled with graffiti, high tops made of plywood, and multi-colored chairs littered across the dining space—the restaurant reeks of a hip-hop spot tucked under a railroad station in a gritty part of town. The ambiance is far from the reality, but the point is clear—the team is having fun with their street cred.

Take it from a gal who has eaten at countless restaurants from across the county—finding a chef who can cook dishes from the Dominican Republic to Germany to Vietnam (and everything in between) is a feat, but Executive Chef Carlos Baez makes it look like a breeze.

The Banh Mi, for example, with its braised pork, pickled daikon and carrots, jalapeños, cucumbers, and cilantro could have been picked up roadside in Vietnam. The pork pâté is an added bonus.

Chef has fun with “American” food as well, creating a fried chicken and waffle cone topped with fries, coleslaw, and spicy aioli.

An IntoxiKate favorite is hands down the Chinese fried noodles. While you may be thinking Lo Mein, this dish offers a little chili paste to give it a kick—not exactly paralyzing the tongue, but enough heat to warm your soul.

The culinary exploration of global tastes also makes its way to the bar. Choose from the Ay! Cabrón!, Singapore Sling, and Jungle Juice—the cocktails have craft appeal melded with authentic flavors to make the experience more fun.

And when you start to snap those Instagram photos—trust me, I know how you operate—of the innovative options that taste better than they look, make sure you use #NorwalkNow, so we can carry on the communal “social” experience.

Bon Appétit! Buen Provencho! Guter Appetit! (No matter the language, have fun with it!)
#intoxikate

El Segundo: 3 North Water St., Norwalk, CT, 203-939-9765, www.elsegundosono.com