By Shirley Hawkins
INGLEWOOD — Sky’s Gourmet Tacos will soon be expanding to the Hollywood Park complex adjacent to SoFi Stadium.
“When I heard that there was an opening for a new business at SoFi Hollywood Park, I didn’t hesitate,” said Barbara “Sky” Burrell, owner and CEO of Sky’s, the celebrated taco operation whose motto is “Mexican with a Splash of Soul.” “I told my team, ‘We are just going to jump!” And jump they did.
If you are a fan of mouth watering, delicious tacos, Sky’s Gourmet Tacos is the destination that will definitely satisfy your taste buds.
The Hollywood Park store will be Sky’s third, joining the original store in the Mid-City area — now 30 years old —and another in Marina del Rey
Burrell hopes that her new venue, which is scheduled to be completed in 2023, will attract local and foreign visitors who will crave a tasty taco or burrito meal to satisfy their palates after games.
Burrell is excited to join the SoFi Hollywood Park business community and has ambitious plans for Sky’s.
“It will cover 3,000 square feet of space and there will be a 600-square-foot garden patio, a lounge and bar area, and a stage for entertainment,” said the business owner, adding that the COVID pandemic has temporarily slowed down the construction. Sky’s Gourmet Tacos will be located near the new Clippers basketball team headquarters.
“I’m also excited because I will be helping to bring more jobs to the Inglewood community because it will help the economy,” Burrell said.
Burrell was just 12 years old when she tasted her first taco.
“I saw a picture of a taco on the side of a local restaurant,” recalls Burrell, who was then living in Waukegan, Illinois. “I begged my mother to stop and let me taste this strange-looking taco.”
From then on, Burrell fell in love with tacos. After relocating to Los Angeles in the 1970s, Burrell worked in corporate America as an asset manager for 10 years.
But she said that her love for tacos was always in the back of her mind. Eating tacos supported her through a number of personal crises.
“No matter what happened in my life, whether it was marriage, divorce, or personal tragedies, I could always find solace by biting into a taco,” she said.
Her calling to further pursue her love affair with tacos occurred in a dream.
“I was jolted out of sleep in the middle of the night in 1992 and thought ‘Tacos,’” she said.
Burrell immediately quit her corporate job and poured all of her energy into establishing her taco business.
“I went to the bank to get a loan, but they laughed and turned me down,” Burrell said.
She had to rely on family and friends to borrow capital. She opened her flagship brick-and-mortar store in Mid-City on Pico Boulevard, a picturesque location that features a brick courtyard with patio dining that remains a popular customer destination today.
“I heard that Brad Pitt, Usher, Jennifer Lawrence, Angela Bassett and her family and Diane Reeves have ordered tacos from Sky’s,” Burrell said. “Elon Musk called our catering department and ordered tacos and Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that Sky’s has the best tacos in L.A.”
Customer Ashley Kelly who was waiting for an order said, “I absolutely love the food. It’s fresh and it’s moist. The service is great and the sauces are the bomb.”
There is also her Marina del Rey restaurant, which features a deli and marketplace and serves as the headquarters for her catering business.
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos has won numerous awards for being one of the best taco restaurants in L. A. It offers 14 different types of tacos on its menu, including shiitake mushrooms, filet mignon lobster, and barbecue tacos as well as burritos, tortas, nachos, quesadillas, burgers and vegan choices.
The business also offers her take-home Sky’s Sassy Sauce and her all-purpose seasoning blends.
And Burrell, a hands-on owner, is often stationed behind the kitchen grill whipping up her latest tasty creation. The late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold deemed Burrell’s tacos “soulful as hell.”
The restaurant has also been lauded for its award-winning cheesecakes that were voted some of the best in the city.
Burrell has kept her business running through a number of setbacks that would have crushed the will of less determined business owners.
When COVID decimated the restaurant industry forcing many to close their doors, Sky’s stayed open.
“We gave back to the community by serving the seniors tortilla soup and chips every day for five months,” Burrell said. “Those of us who were able to sustain through the pandemic are truly grateful.”
Burrell has weathered her share of tragedies. Her youngest son, Jerry, who was her right hand man in the business, was killed in a motorcycle accident.
“He loved Sky’s,” she remembers sadly.
There were other obstacles as well. Her fiance dropped dead of a heart attack. She survived the 1992 Rodney King riots. And then came the George Floyd murder and the angry riots and protests that had people pouring into the streets.
Instead of closing her doors, Burrell fed the hungry protesters for free.
“We just kept making tacos,” she said.
She survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake and has bravely battled breast cancer. Through it all, Burrell said she boldly faced all of her fears.
Burrell said that her family has been her rock.
“My oldest son, Victor, is the company president and my daughter-in-law is the catering director,” she said.
Burrell’s advice to business owners is that they must learn to sustain despite all of the odds.
“All of us have real deep fears whether it’s in our lives or our businesses,” she said. “You’ve got to persevere, you’ve got to hold on. Even if you are fearful in business, you must plow through it. Even if you have to crawl under the fence, don’t let fear get you. Just shoulder right on through the fear because God’s got your back.”
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos can be ordered through Doordash, GrubHub and Postmates.
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos is located at 5303 W. Pico Blvd.
Sky’s Gourmet Marketplace is located at 4333 Admiralty Way, Suite #1 in Marina del Rey.