If you’ve found yourself driving down Newhall Avenue and noticed a small traditional Mexican restaurant across from William S. Hart Park, you only know a fragment of La Charrita’s story.
La Charrita is set apart from other Mexican restaurants in Santa Clarita when it comes to their wide array of vegan and vegetarian plates. Monse Meza, daughter of La Charrita’s owners Fernando and Elena González, has been involved in the restaurant industry since she was five years old, growing up immersed in her parents’ passion for the business.
“We were in Burbank for, I want to say about 20 years, a little bit over 20 years. We relocated to Santa Clarita because there was a new owner to the land that we were renting. They built a Hilton there, and they kind of took us out very unexpectedly,” Meza said. “[The restaurant] is all we did, we did that for over 20 years, and there was no way we were going to just start a new job and do something else when my family is very passionate about the restaurant business. We found the wonderful place in front of William S. Hart Park where we are currently located in Santa Clarita, in Newhall. We moved in and ever since then, it’s been pretty good. The community here has really accepted us.”
About three years ago, La Charrita added a full vegan menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The addition of vegan food items was fueled by Meza and her husband’s transition into becoming vegan themselves.
“My mom’s the chef, and she is the main head in creating these wonderful dishes who really takes control of the kitchen. We would always ask her, ‘Mom, help me out with making a traditional vegan dish!’ and she would do it with her eyes closed. It was so effortless for her,” Meza said.
“The reasons why we became vegan of course started off by just us not eating out at fast food places. It was more of a health issue where my husband always had to have meat in every dish that he had. I’ve never really been a meat eater, just ever since I was small I just thought of it as being out of this world. For me, it was easier to transition over, but for him he had to have some type of animal product in every meal, and he would always get sick, he would always have stomach problems. After [becoming vegan] he just felt a thousand times better, mentally, physically and emotionally, so I think it goes very deep,” Meza shared. “The environment is also included in that, and animals. I know it sounds very cliche, but it’s a life. We like to think of it as a little thing that we can do to make this world a little bit better. That’s how we’re going to live our life, or attempt to do it as much as possible.”
The vegan dishes at La Charrita cater to more than just their vegan customers. “Some of our customers would tell us, ‘I want something healthier, what do you have with more vegetables?’ So we said, ‘Let’s just add it in,’ not saying that vegan food is always the healthiest, but it’s a starting point,” Meza said. “We do want to provide that option to the community where they’re able to enjoy the meal, it tastes amazing, it’s very authentic, and it’s, in a sense, on the healthier side.”
A top vegan staple that La Charrita offers is their Chile Verde Wet Burrito, with jackfruit imitating Chile Verde pulled pork, vegan cheese, potatoes and tomatillo jalapeños salsa on top. Other popular vegan items include the mole enchiladas, mushroom asada tacos, and jackfruit tacos.
Meza also explained that her and her parents miss the face-to-face customer interaction that they used to experience at La Charrita before COVID-19. However, they feel as though their restaurant has not been affected by the pandemic as harshly as other small businesses in the area.
“By us having plates that are affordable and that are good for you and that are filling, I think it’s been okay,” Meza said. “Of course it’s affected all of us in some negative ways, but we always try to think of it in more of a positive way, and look at our blessings rather than the things that we’ve lost.”
Due to limited space, La Charrita is currently unable to offer outdoor seating for their customers. However, you can place orders by phone for pickup, or through Postmates and UberEats for delivery. View their main and vegan menus on their website, https://la-charrita-restaurant-mexican-sea-food.business.site.