From the moment Galaxy Taco (2259 Avenida De La Playa) debuted in mid-2015, discussion of price seemed to dominate the dialogue. “We have officially entered the era of the $5 taco,” announced one piece. Another concluded it was “pretty pricey for a beachside taco shop.” Sometimes the food seemed lost in the shuffle. Perhaps there was a reason.
It seems remarkable to discuss a Trey Foshee-helmed restaurant and not focus on the food. Foshee’s resume is beyond reproach (Santa Monica’s late lamented Röckenwagner, a Food & Wine Magazine “America’s Best New Chef” designation, CIA training). So is the food he puts out at George’s at the Cove. Expectations of Galaxy Taco were high.
A meal at Galaxy is likely to start well. Michelada steamed mussels are a wonderful cross between the Belgian steamed mussels classic and Mexico’s beer cocktail. The tomato-and-beer broth, cilantro and spices combine with perfectly steamed mussels to make a great dish. Pink pickled onions took it over the top and woodgrilled bread was there to sop it all up. Price did not enter my mind.
The grilled octopus tostada was much the same: a good take on a regional classic. Black bean purée was a perfect bed for octopus that was tender with a burnt orange-habanero salsa underlining a perfect char. Slices of ripe avocado and obscenely sweet cherry tomatoes completed the dish. Again, the $14.50 price didn’t enter the equation.
As appetizers gave way to tacos, though, the story began to change. The carnitas taco was moist and rich but it also wasn’t anything special. The chicken adobo taco was worse. What flavor there was came more from everything except the chicken itself. Crema added moisture and richness but didn’t take it over the top. Perhaps it was the lengua taco that drove the point home. Fatty, moist and delicious, it was everything you’d ask for in a beef tongue taco. The problem is that there was nothing exceptional, nothing surprising about it.
The story was different for Galaxy’s sweet potato and jack cheese taco. The roasted sweet potato sat in a blanket of melted cheese with arugula providing a peppery note and a chile de arbol salsa some heat. Rich, sweet, peppery, spicy with textural contrast, this was Galaxy’s best taco I tasted. It never occurred to me to check the price tag.
If Galaxy offered tacos that were “out of this world”—and, contrary to fact, attentive service rather than the snobbish indifference I experienced twice—perhaps far fewer would leave wanting to talk about the $5.50-$6 price per taco. Instead of the problem being that the tacos cost so much it may be they failed to meet the expectations of Foshee-led restaurant. To be fair, from the start he clearly stated Galaxy would “not be a gringo highbrow interpretation” of tacos. But perhaps the price tag drowned out that statement of intent. It is hard to charge $6 for a taco and not be expected to deliver one that does a jig on the plate.
In the end it’s not all about the price. It’s about the value.