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X’Tiosu Kitchen, Boyle Heights’ Beloved Lebanese-Oaxacan Restaurant, Is In Danger of Closing

X’Tiosu Kitchen has been fusing cultures and supporting neighbors in Boyle Heights since 2017, but recent economic struggles have shifted its story of triumph and dream-chasing to one of hardship and struggle.

The exterior of X'tiosu restaurant in Boyle Heights

X’Tiosu Kitchen in Boyle Heights, photo by Taylor Marie Contarino

X’Tiosu Kitchen, a critically acclaimed, Indigenous-owned restaurant showcasing a distinctive blend of Middle Eastern and Oaxacan cooking, is in danger of shutting down. Owners Ignacio and Felipe Santiago, as well as members of the surrounding Boyle Heights community, are now fighting to keep this gem from disappearing.

From a window set in a cozy corner eatery off of Forest Avenue, X’Tiosu provides customers with a cultural blend of cuisine that honors and celebrates the rich culinary culture and heritage of Oaxaca and a focus on fresh ingredients. Its food provides L.A. diners with an authentic taste of Oaxacan cuisine that also uniquely incorporates Middle Eastern twists, offering eaters a cultural infusion that sets their kitchen apart from the city’s other Oaxacan restaurants.

Brothers Felipe and Ignacio Santiago, owners of X'Tiosu Kitchen, photo by Taylor Marie Contarino for L.A. TACO

“We have struggled a lot,” explains Ignacio, who has sustained a culinary vision here with Felipe for the past seven years. The brothers intend and hope to “seguir adelante” (keep pushing forward), but hindrances related to inflation, rising rent, and a limited knowledge of digital marketing techniques have forced these business owners to increase their food prices.

“We do not have a marketing team,” explains Ignacio, and first time business owners. As technology snowballs rapidly, the pair are still unsure about how to use certain forms, like social media, to help invigorate their bottom line.

Ignacio and Felipe long dreamed of having a restaurant of their own. They were barely just teenagers in 2009, when they moved to Los Angeles from San Felipe Guila, a small town in Oaxaca. They dreamed of creating a new life here and have so far been successful, providing for their family members and children.

They opened the doors of X’Tiosu Kitchen in October 2017. The Santiagos were inspired by their past employment at Sunnin, West L.A.’s legendary Lebanese restaurant, to bring a Levantine lean into their recipes and menu, turning their small spot into a unique cultural experience and one of L.A.’s more important, innovative concepts. 

Zapotec vegan cauliflower taco at X'Tiosu Kitchen, photo via L.A. TACO's "Rogue 99"

Its spice-slathered shawarma tacos with tahini-laced salsa “Arabesque,” nopal-studded tabbouleh salads, kebabs, and black bean falafels were lauded by L.A. Times food critic Patricia Escárcega in a 2019 review, high among other laurels from the media and food community.

Ignacio and Felipe put a lot of effort into helping their community. They allow street vendors the space to sell food in their own parking lot and are always seeking ways to create amiable relations with neighbors. Now, more than ever, the brothers are in need of reciprocated support.

Without that, X’Tiosu is at risk of disappearing as it struggles to make ends meet in a tough post-pandemic restaurant landscape riddled with economic hurdles in which many former diners are staying home to save money. In April, we noted a social media post from the restaurant that asked, "Where is everyone."

“The truth is that, in these difficult times with inflation, we have had to work without getting paid,” explains Ignacio. The brothers describe their problems as “muy complicado,”  a mixture of issues related to inflation and even just the status of the current economy in the country.

Losing X’Tiosu would mean losing more than a rich cultural gem of cuisine and individual artistry in L.A. It would mean the loss of a dream for two restaurateurs who are always looking out for their neighbors, community, and city.

If you’d like to support X’Tiosu, you can do so over a delicious meal you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday in Boyle Heights. 

X’Tiosu Kitchen ~ 923 Forest Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90033

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