HomeState, a Texan-style restaurant started in East Hollywood that specializes in breakfast tacos and queso, opened its second location in Highland Park March 19. HomeState’s new location, situated on Figueroa Street across from the Highland Theater, is notably larger than the original branch and, unlike the East Hollywood restaurant, will be open for dinner and serve alcohol. HomeState owner Briana Valdez said that the new location is a step towards completing her vision as a restaurateur to share her childhood and culture with the Los Angeles community.
Valdez, who grew up in Lake Jackson, TX, and moved to Los Angeles in 2000, said that her inspiration for opening HomeState came from a mix of homesickness and a desire to reconnect with her roots.
“I really missed the food from home and I realized that it didn’t have a presence here and I thought, ‘Well that’s so strange, you can find all kinds of food in L.A.,’” Valdez said. “I was also feeling a bit disconnected from my roots and culture so I started making old recipes from my grandmother.”
Valdez, who said she was drawn to the Los Angeles food and restaurant community for its tight-knit nature, decided to take initiative and open her own Texan restaurant.
“I had been waiting for so long for somebody to open this restaurant, so I thought maybe I should do it,” Valdez said.
Valdez had no prior professional experience in cooking and developed HomeState’s menu from her grandmother’s recipes. Valdez also said that she hopes for the new HomeState location to become a community hub, both for Texans living in Los Angeles and the surrounding Highland Park neighborhood.
“[HomeState is] kind of a little beacon or community house for Texans who want to reconnect with their roots,” Valdez said. “A lot of people cry when they come here. Texans who have been out of Texas for a while and have had a lot of distance from their families, identities and culture come here and it’s a really powerful experience for people to see themselves represented in a way that really hasn’t been done before.”
HomeState’s specialties include migas, tacos, brisket and Frito pie-in-a-bag, which is chile con carne served over Fritos chips. The new location offers beer on tap in addition to frozen margaritas. Spencer Goldman ’17 and Sid Saravat ‘15, who live in Highland Park, said that HomeState is a good lunch spot and praised the potato tacos. Goldman and Saravat also said that they look forward to coming back and trying the frozen margaritas.
“I’m excited about the opening of a new casual restaurant on Figueroa,” Goldman said. “The tacos were delicious.”
Valdez said that an important part of the new HomeState location is creating a new community space while being mindful of the neighborhood’s history and residents. The Highland Park space was formerly a liquor store and still sports the liquor store sign. According to Valdez, she decided to keep the sign after hearing input from a Highland Park resident.
“A person in the neighborhood, he’s 75 and lived here his whole life and he said he doesn’t remember that sign not being there,” Valdez said. “To remove that doesn’t seem right to me.”
Valdez also said that HomeState has engaged with the community by trying to hire employees for the new location almost exclusively from the surrounding neighborhood. In the three months prior to opening the Highland Park branch, Valdez posted job flyers printed in English and Spanish around the neighborhood.
“The biggest thing we can do is give well-paying jobs and a healthy environment and create an atmosphere that’s safe and sells accessible food,” Valdez said.
HomeState employee Elizabeth Rodriguez, who worked for four months at the East Hollywood location and has been working at the Highland Park location since its opening, praised Valdez’s hiring and training practices. She said she liked that HomeState’s owners focus on hospitality and are committed to making the restaurant feel like a home. According to Rodriguez, Valdez trains her employees to care about the customers. Rodriguez, who lives in South Pasadena, said that she is grateful to Valdez for hiring her.
“As you can tell from talking to me, you can probably tell that English is not my first language and I am not that good at it,” Rodriguez said. “Briana didn’t care and wanted to hire me and I am very grateful.”
Valdez said that she loves Highland Park and chose to locate there for its delightful culture, deep history and diverse range of people.
“People in the community have been so friendly and welcoming to us,” Valdez said. “I feel that this business is so personal to me. This is where I live — my office is upstairs. I want [HomeState] to be a reflection of my childhood.”