HomeState’s Briana Valdez Is An Ambassador for Texas Culture and Food

HomeState spreads Texas love in Los Angeles.

4 min read

When Briana Valdez moved from Texas to Los Angeles in 2000, she looked for a place where she could enjoy the comfort foods of her youth — breakfast tacos, queso, and eggy migas — in a warm, welcoming space. “When I searched for it and couldn’t find it, I decided to give it my best shot,” Valdez remembers. In 2013, she opened HomeState in Hollywood and hasn’t looked back.

Valdez sees herself and her restaurants as “ambassadors for Texas culture and food.” She now owns five HomeState locations in the Los Angeles area, from Los Feliz to Pasadena, and each one is “a storytelling mechanism to share a menu, a space, and a memorable experience,” says Valdez.

Valdez grew up all over Texas, the daughter of first-generation Mexican-American parents. Watching her mom and dad work hard to create a better path for their children instilled values that Valdez strives to bring to life every day at HomeState: It’s essential that her employees are “respected, valued, and supported and paid fair wages and health insurance.” At HomeState, there are no front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house distinctions — instead there is a kitchen team and a service team. “Nobody is hidden behind walls,” explains Valdez.

Watching her mom and grandma hand-roll fresh tortillas provided inspiration for HomeState. (And her mom was her very first investor, contributing $5,000 from her retirement savings.) Before opening, Valdez sought to master her matriarchs' recipe for pillowy flour tortillas. They’re now made fresh to order in the middle of her restaurants, the culinary heart of the HomeState experience. Valdez spent her college years at St. Edward’s University in Austin, where she fell in love with the breakfast taco, another HomeState staple.

HomeState is meant to feel like home, and its mission is, in Valdez’s words, “to provide nourishment through food and through a place to gather, to feel seen and welcome.” It’s a place for a bold morning coffee from Mierisch Family Farms, a third-generation family-owned operation in Nicaragua, paired with a Trinity breakfast taco, a HomeState tortilla stuffed with pasture-raised eggs, Beeler's bacon, potato, and melty cheddar. In the evening, it’s a destination for queso loaded with ground beef, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream served with chips specially designed to be perfect dipping vehicles, the Frito Pie in a bag, or a juicy brisket sandwich with guacamole, cabbage slaw, and pickled jalapeños.

Even though Valdez is not a trained chef (she did work at Thomas Keller's Bouchon), food is “very personal” to her, and she puts an exceptional amount of thought and heart into every ingredient. “Queso is a sort of religious experience for native Texans,” she says, and HomeState’s is made with all real ingredients (no Velveeta, not that there's anything wrong with that). They source their eggs from Vital Farms, which started on a single farm in Austin and now works with over 250 small family farmers raising pasture-raised hens. HomeState serves Rosie’s Organic Chicken from Sonoma County and humanely raised cattle from Creekstone Farms in Kansas.

Every ingredient is selected for its “impact on agriculture, environment, and community,” along with its deliciousness. Valdez aims to serve food that is “affordable, that broadens access to higher-quality food and experiences.” 

Music is another important part of HomeState; music was always playing in Valdez’s childhood home, and she sees it as an integral part of family and food. In its early days, musicians would play at HomeState’s backyard pop-up dinners, and occasional performances at the various locations drew crowds. Each day “we play conjunto, pop, country, reggae,” Valdez says. “We want everyone to feel seen and represented.”

In 2015, HomeState launched the Band Taco Program, which brings together music and tacos in support of neighboring communities. Each taco is developed alongside the artist — Questlove, Norah Jones, and Vampire Weekend have participated — and original artwork is commissioned by a local graphic artist and proceeds are donated to local charities. “We’ve donated a quarter of a million dollars to meaningful initiatives,” says Valdez, “from LA's Downtown Women's Center to ACLU SoCal.” On the DoorDash menu, try The Maxine by Phoebe Bridgers. It’s a vegan, flavorful mix of black beans, shiitake mushrooms, avocado, caramelized onions, and crispy corn strips served on a corn tortilla. $1.25 of every taco sold is donated directly to CASA/LA, which supports children in LA County's foster care system.

“Almost nine years in, I feel like we’re just getting started,” says Valdez. “I’m excited to see us live up to our full potential.”