Howdy Sylvano Kabrins has a particular affinity for fresh, healthy Mexican food—in fact, he credits himself with launching the “Fresh-Mex” movement. Inspired by the two years he spent living with a peasant family in Mexico during college, Howdy founded his first Mexican restaurant in 1979. La Salsa, as it was called, soon blossomed into a 28-restaurant franchise, due in no small part to the fresh, light twist it put on a cuisine that was known at the time for being heavy and greasy. 16 years later, he opened Howdy’s Taqueria, and his culinary imagination has only become more creative since.

At the taqueria, vegetables sourced from local organic farms—including Howdy’s own ranch in Ojai—combine with deft recipes to create flavourful food brimming with macronutrients. The result is a selection of well-balanced dishes such as protein-packed Cross Fit bowls and the Rainbow Kale salad, which mingles kale and quinoa superfoods with heart-healthy beets and protein-rich sunflower seeds. Seafood is also a big draw, as lettuce-cup tacos filled with seared ahi tuna and Scottish salmon with quinoa share menu space with a multitude of fish tacos and burritos. Howdy’s wife provides the chicken-soup recipe, which uses organic, free-range chicken in a dish that resembles Italian wedding soup, and there’s also a variety of sushi rolls available. But the food isn’t all that’s wholesome—the restaurant itself also embraces a casual and friendly ambiance, surrounding patrons with earthenware tiles, stout wooden chairs, and a number of meticulously designed pillow forts.

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