Housed in a former Japanese restaurant, Tallula’s converts a dark, tired space into a bright and airy Mexican restaurant just off Santa Monica beach.
Inspired by the informality of Tulum’s beach shacks and Southern California’s surf culture, the eclectic space was transformed using a bright, coastal palette that references more traditional Spanish haciendas to the more modern work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán.
Original features include terracotta tiles, dark wood-paneled ceilings, rustic columns, ornate Hawaiian Koa wood banquettes re-upholstered in cerulean leather, and vintage orange glass lanterns, now hanging above the bar.
Guests are greeted by a cozy seating area with a brilliant wall hanging featuring animals and flowers hand-embroidered by the Otomi, an indigenous people from Mexico’s central plateau region. A vertical “garden” of hanging, potted plants and lush greenery at the base of the central staircase replaced a koi pond and now serve as the 85-seat main dining room’s focal point.
The kitchen was reconfigured and opened to the dining room. Anchoring the dining room, it’s brightened up with a yellow-tiled counter and shelves of festive, hand-painted earthenware found in East Los Angeles.
The bar, lounge, and outdoor patio seat sixty and feature custom steel frame tables with vibrant, hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles. As an ode to the owner’s youngest son, a neon sign spells out “Felix’s Bar” in hot pink along the bar’s side wall.
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Photos © Wonho Frank Lee