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L.A. native brings unique West Coast style cuisine to Mitchell

Gilbert Luis, left, stands proud with his girlfriend Jannice Ray, right, in front of their new restaurant West Coast Tacos. (Sam Fosness /Republic)

It hasn't been a full year since Gilbert Luis moved from his Los Angeles home to be with his girlfriend in Mitchell, but his West Coast style tacos have already made their presence known.

In its fourth weekend of being open, Luis' window restaurant known as West Coast Tacos sold out with an hour left before closing time at 3 a.m.

"I wanted to open on Friday and Saturday nights to feel out what the people of Mitchell thought of my tacos," Luis said. "I think it's safe to say people are enjoying them."

Having no prior restaurant experience and no intention to open a restaurant when he arrived in Mitchell 10 months ago, Luis wanted to test the waters, which gave him the idea of opening on weekend nights only from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

"I also chose to open at night because there isn't much food options for people to choose from at nights here in Mitchell," he said.

In his first time cooking for a backyard barbecue since transplanting from Los Angeles a few months ago, Luis' newly made friends marveled at the taste of his California-rooted cuisine, especially his tacos. A week later, West Coast Tacos was born after his friends pleaded for him to share the unique taste with the city of Mitchell. Luis officially opened for business on July 13.

"My friend told me about a nice location next to Dr. Lucky's Bar, and I really liked the idea of being next to a nice bar that attracts a lot of people, which has helped me grow my clientele," he added.

Luis said the secret to his West Coast style tacos is in the beef: carne asada.

"Nobody is really that familiar with carne asada here, but it's the meat that comes from the best part of the cow," Gilbert emphatically said.

While carne asada is the staple choice of beef tacos in California, Luis said it's not easy to find in South Dakota.

"I went to some local meat lockers looking for carne asada when I decided to open the restaurant, and they looked at me like I was from another planet," Gilbert said with a chuckle.

Carne asada is unique compared to ground beef because it has to be carefully cut, along with trimming the fat. Carne asada is essentially skirt steak located on the diaphragm of the cow.

With his California roots, Luis is no stranger to the art of cutting carne asada.

"Being raised in Los Angeles, I learned how to cook the West Coast style tacos, which required me to learn how to cut carne asada," said Luis, who owns a slicer he uses to cut the meat.

Based on the popularity of the tacos alone, Luis carefully calculated plans to unveil new food items on the menu. One of those items is California's version of corn on the cob: elotes.

"Elotes have been a huge hit here, and I wonder why that is?" Luis sarcastically said.

An elote is corn on the cob smothered in a mayonnaise-parmesan mixed sauce with his secret seasoning sprinkled across the corn cob and wrapped in tin foil.

Luis is taking advantage of the Corn Palace being located four blocks north of his restaurant with the addition of his elote recipe.

Luis prides himself on the fresh ingredients he prepares on Thursday before opening the restaurant on Friday.

"Everything is made fresh on Thursday, even the guacamole," said Luis, as he opens a container to offer a smell of his homemade guacamole.

Given the early success of Luis and his girlfriend Jannice Ray's restaurant, the two are exploring plans to transition into opening five days out of the week.

"It's just me and my girlfriend running the show right now, but we are looking for help since we have been so busy," Luis added.

The small window tucked next to Dr. Lucky's Bar and Grill on Main Street offers more than a taste of West Coast style cuisine; it offers a taste of California culture with its brightly colored signage lit up with classic Mexican style fiesta lights.

"Business aside, I'm just proud to bring more life to downtown Mitchell," Luis said. "We hope to continue sharing our West Coast style tacos with the community of Mitchell."