Todd Erickson Fires Up a New Taqueria
by kris conesa
Todd Erickson in the kitchen at Haven.
Anthony Bourdain once said his show was hotter than watching Szechuan food porn. We imagine that’s just about as spicy as the tacos at chef Todd Erickson’s latest venture, Huahua’s. The taquería takes its name from a playful spin on the word Chihuahua, and playful it is: With all of 20-something different hot sauces with names like the Hot Sauce that Killed Kenny, this is definitely no Taco Bell.
Located just four doors down from his wildly successful Haven on Lincoln Road—the digital ambient gastropub that solidified Erickson’s reputation as a chef whose food was worth mentioning and, more importantly, salivating over—Huahua’s is an unpretentious, dog-friendly, and whimsical spot that’s sure to challenge even the most courageous of chili masochists.
“I was born in Arizona and lived in Texas and Colorado, so I’m kind of a Southwestern kid who’s moved east his whole life,” Erickson says. Having worked with Southwestern chefs such as Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles, and Mark Miller in Washington, DC, Erickson says now was the time to apply his use of chilies and all his education in Southwestern and Mexican cuisines. “This is actually a fun little outlet to use that knowledge. There’s no pretense about this whatsoever. It’s straightforward, low-price-point, high-quality Mexican food.”
Chef Erickson, who as a child would wake up on Saturday morning and watch Julia Child while other kids were no doubt watching cartoons, has come a long way from experimenting in his mother’s kitchen as early as age 5. “There’s a picture of me standing on a stool with a butcher knife,” he says. “And I was this little blond-headed kid, maybe three feet tall then.” But when his mother—a successful corporate executive—learned he was thinking about a career in the kitchen, she was reluctant, to say the least.
“She was like, ‘I don’t want you going to a trade school!’ She wanted me to pursue a safer career,” Erickson remembers. “You hear the horror stories about being in the kitchen, the long hours and everything else Anthony Bourdain writes about in Kitchen Confidential, so I can understand how it wasn’t the most appealing thing to a parent.”
With a new eatery opening and aspirations to take the established Haven brand national and international, it’s probably safe to assume that Erickson has made his mom very proud. Huahua’s Taqueria, 1211 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-534-8226
photography by gary james
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.