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Skys Gourmet Tacos getting ready for the opening of Hollywood Park




Barbara Sky Burrell knows fear: The chef, founder and owner of Skys Gourmet Tacos kept her restaurant in business during the 1992 riots, the Northridge earthquake, the deaths of her youngest son and fiancé, and her fight against cancer. It’s been 29 years since she launched the soul food taco store.

I faced the fear, she said. I’ve been dealing with fear for many, many years, and I have an expression about fear: it’s like, are you afraid? Good. Crawl under the fence. Go for it. The fear will be there. Everyone feels fear, she adds, but to overcome it you have to meet it, channel it, run towards it.

Now, in the planning stages of her biggest business to date, she faces fear head-on. However, you have to pass it, go around it, face it, do it. Crawling under the fence is just an expression; that’s one way to do it. she said. I crawled under the fence a long time ago.

In November 2022, Burrell is set to open a new Skys Gourmet Tacos in Hollywood Park, a 300-acre juggernaut of a commercial development project that is already home to SoFi Stadium (the site of next year’s Super Bowl LVI) and a casino. It will eventually house a cinema, 2,500 private residences, a shopping district, an art gallery, a brewery and restaurants, including Burrells.

The 3,800 square foot space just off Century Boulevard in Inglewood will include a large dining room; a lounge with a piano bar and other live entertainment several nights of the week; Burrells first dedicated bar; a terrace ; and private event spaces, not to mention new menu items and new positions, such as a dedicated event planner, which she’s never had to hire before.

Sometimes, she said, when she stays awake at night when her free space is emptying, Burrell worries about the details of the restaurant and how the whole vision will take shape. Will they have enough food? Will they have enough time? Thoughts don’t intrude for long because the next morning she channels that fear into logistics and team building. Most of the time she tries out new menu items in the kitchen of her Marina del Rey restaurant, delicatessen and market where she bases her catering business, but she also stops three or four days a week at her ship. Admiral of Mid-Wilshire on Pico Boulevard.

Three tacos lie on paper inside boxes.

Assortment of tacos prepared by Burrell in the kitchen of his restaurant, Skys Gourmet Tacos.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Between choosing the restaurant’s new flooring or seating materials, she creates the menu of her dreams to match her 1,000-square-foot dream kitchen – double the space she has available. on the Pico site. In addition to its signature Mexican, with a touch of soul tacos, which rocked crayfish, filet mignon, tilapia and more traditional toppings like carnitas or a mix of potatoes and cheese in corn tortillas for almost 30 years old, she envisions a wider menu of dishes better suited to a full-service catering and to linger in space: full-size brisket and tri-tip, served on a cutting board and accompanied by arepas fresh, maybe, or wet burritos topped with homemade sauces and salsas.

The new restaurant will also feature a small market where visitors can purchase a bottle of the sassy Burrells sauce or the homemade all-purpose seasoning blend. She hopes international travelers drawn to the stadium and Hollywood Park will pick up the flavors or products of Skys and promote its restaurants. Burrell always hoped the Skys brand and its empire would go international, and the new location is his stepping stone. It just took a number of years and struggles to get here.

It’s something I used to put in my dream book, and you never know how your dreams are going to come true, she said. But it’s a dream come true, it’s future true. I see the opening day, I see everything, and it gives me goosebumps because it’s been so many years and so much work, and so much pain.

A woman wearing a hard hat smiles while standing in a building under construction.

Burrell smiles as she looks around while visiting her new location, under construction in Hollywood Park, next to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 27, 2021. Retail spaces are slated to open in the fall 2022.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

At the age of 12, Burrell tasted his first taco just outside of Chicago, after spotting his likeness in a neon sign. The future chef convinced his mother to stop and buy him one. The founder of Skys remembers it wasn’t necessarily a good taco.

Burrell continued to experiment over the years: through marriage, through divorce, for birthdays, she always made tacos. Every stage of life? Tacos, she said. It became what she was known for, even without owning a restaurant. In 1992, on March 5 at 1:44 p.m., Shell specifically tells you that Burrell, more recently an asset manager for an investment firm, opened its first Skys Gourmet Tacos, down the street from its flagship location, and started to make a name for himself.

Then came the 1992 uprising in late April and early May, six days of protests and riots in response to the acquittal of four LAPD officers for the beating of Rodney G. King.

In no time I would become a destination [restaurant]. … So here are the riots and it all stops, Burrell said. I become apprehensive because I have limited resources; two wonderful sons, but limited resources. And guess what? I continued to do it. Burrell began cooking free meals for people on the streets during the uproar and remained open until then-President George HW Bush declared martial law. She quickly reopened and continued.

She continued while being treated for breast cancer.

In 1994, she was diagnosed and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, but she never closed the restaurant, relying on her two sons then in their twenties to run the business under her leadership. It was also the year of the devastating Northridge earthquake, which cracked and collapsed the walls of her house but not her restaurant, so she continued to come to work every day.

Fear, fear, she thought. What will happen to the company? Passion is a beautiful thing, it takes you there but perseverance accompanies you and keeps you there.

Beyond the tumult of Los Angeles in the early ’90s, she had to contend with the unrelated deaths of her youngest son, Jerry, and her fiance. But she persevered. She has built a team to support her and her vision, including her eldest son, Victor, who is the president of the company, and her daughter-in-law, who is the restaurant manager.

Since then, Burrell and his crew have moved their flagship to the streets. They spread to Marina del Rey. They launched, then shut down, a downtown cloud cooking outpost. Now they’re working on opening their largest restaurant to date, the first space Burrell can build from scratch. They all hope this is just the start of the World Skys Empire.

It’s been a tough race, but when you have a team it’s not that hard because you just have to carry a little bit, Burrell said. There hasn’t been the fear you carry when you’re alone. … With a team, you share that burden, especially when everyone is full and my team is full. And I’m so proud of them.




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