While the taco remains a sure-fire menu hit for the forseeable future, adeptly carrying modern flavor profiles in its fold, its fun-loving cousin the tostada is making a play on menus. Sure, it’s messier, with its piled-up format requiring a knife-and-fork approach. But it offers a different appeal, with layers upon layers of flavor and texture atop a crispy, crunchy tortilla base. “I can see the tostada as the next ‘taco,’ albeit flat, but definitely highly craveable with its crisp texture and ability to hold layers of flavor,” says chef Dennis Samala, founder of Creative Culinary Concepts consultancy in Southern California.
Chefs are starting to take the tostada more seriously, capitalizing on its fun appeal and its potential for complex flavor builds while giving the diner a visual “wow!” factor. At Don Chepo’s Taco Shop in Wellington, Fla., Chef Dustin Parfitt gives customers the option for tostada builds ranging from al pastor to tempura avocado or butternut squash and fire-roasted corn, all atop a sturdy shell and a layer of refried beans and rice.
In Washington, D.C., Chef Michael Schlow’s Tico offers a new brunch menu, using a tostada to cleverly bridge Tico’s Latin hook with classic brunch profiles: The Smoked Salmon Tostada is layered with citrus cream cheese, pickled cucumber and bagel spice.
The “Tostada del Dia” is a standard lunch offering at Terlingua in Portland, Maine, with a Caribbean/Mexican-inspired menu based around its house-smoked meats. The daily tostada special ranges from pulled pork or chicken to a layered veg-centric affair of roasted corn, pickled cabbage, crispy garlic, lime aïoli, Cotija and rosado beans. On the dinner menu, Chef Wilson Rothschild features a Smoked Seafood Tostada with avocado, habanero, lime, sweet peppers and Vidalia onions.
The tostada has a prominent role in La Tostaderia, a growing concept in Southern California with locations at Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market and in Venice Beach. La Tostaderia specializes in seafood-focused fare with a menu of tacos and tostadas. Tostada offerings include sake-poached octopus, cucumber, red onion, radish, hairloom tomato, sweet pepper, cilantro and habanero, or a ceviche build of chilled white fish, tomato, avocado, cucumber, red onions, lime juice and cilantro.
Building upon a sturdy base of a crispy, craveable tortilla, the fun-loving tostada offers serious menu-development opportunity.