cincuenta taquerías: the book.

August 4, 2014

Acting on a compulsion to see the cincuenta taquerías project made into an actual, hard-copy book, I designed one and had it printed by blurb. This document of recession-era 2010 taco shops may now be passed down for posterity, to be read even in the post-internet Mad Max times.

It is available to purchase at cost at blurb.com for $21.19:

http://www.blurb.com/b/5453406-ab0907-cincuenta-taquerias

Note that there is no reason to buy the book, since the content all remains freely available on the blog here.

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Posted: August 4th, 2014
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2012.02 Taqueria Los Anaya

2012.02 Taquería Los Anaya

August 31, 2012

4651 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

Garrett called me with the valuable news that he had caught word of a promising new taco shop onAdams Boulevardjust a couple of miles from my home in the Village Green. After joining Garrett, Kirsten, Branden and Russ for dinner there, I am compelled to come out of taco-blogger retirement in order to report on the excellence of Taquería Los Anaya.

The restaurant occupies a cozy space with room for only a few tables, but our party was well taken care of. The menu had some depth and diversity, but I am unlikely to stray far from the taco selections.

Priced at between $1.75 and $1.95 each, the tacos were generous in size – four were quite filling. I tried the adobada, chicken mole, al pastor, and carne asada, as seen from left to right in the photograph. These all were successful.

The adobada consisted of cuby, marinated chunks of pork somehow double-cooked so that certain edges of most cubes had a very crisp, chicharron-like texture. The black mole with chicken was rich and chocolatey with a funky, earthy intensity, and topped with both cotija cheese and a red salsa. This was a strong mole, as pleasing as any I have ever tried. More commonly encountered in a plate dinner than as a guisado-style taco, one might consider a chicken mole taco to be a bit weird, but I would consider this an outstanding way to satisfy an urge for mole for less than $2.00 without being compelled to eat a whole plate of one thing. The carne asada steak was also quite excellent, consisting of cubish pieces cut from a thick portion, and tasting of natural buttery beef complexity rather than of added flavor treatments. The al pastor was solid and pleasingly textured, chopped from grilled, marinated filets rather than trompo-style, but less exciting than the other three I sampled.

The tortillas were thick and handmade, and the tacos were fitted out with different salsas specific to each meat variety.

As should be readily discernible to the reader, Los Anaya was excellent, and having access to it just a couple of miles away is going to have a massive positive impact on my lifestyle.

Posted: September 1st, 2012
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2012.01 Henry’s Tacos

2012.01 Henry’s Tacos

January 28, 2012

11401 Moorpark St, Los Angeles, CA 91602

Studio City/North Hollywood

My report on this “gringo” taco stand belongs more appropriately on my other blog project, The Lower Modernisms: http://lomo.architectureburger.com/?p=692 Follow the link for the full report and more photographs.

Posted: January 29th, 2012
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2011.09 Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita

2011.09 Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita

November 13, 2011

3010 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

Boyle Heights

On a mission to experience more fine Pueblan tacos árabes, Carmen and I journeyed again to the Eastside for a tasty treat. I liked Elviritas a lot – the small Boyle Heights restaurant has a breezy, tropical feel to its casual interior.

The tacos árabes were not quite as good as those at La China Poblana, but they were still very good. Chunks of meat wrapped in a tortilla like a burrito. I am someone long accustomed to ordering foods “plain” and an enthusiast of the “all meat” burritos at old-school California Mex restaurants. I cannot go wrong with tacos árabes. The tortillas were beautifully turning golden-brown around their edges.

Posted: December 15th, 2011
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2011.08 Cemitas La China Poblana

2011.08 Cemitas La China Poblana

October 30, 2011

3568 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023

Boyle Heights

I have been moderately obsessed with Pueblan tacos árabes since I first heard about them late last year – cousins of the al pastor taco, the arab taco is also made from marinated pork with grilled onions and spices, and ideally roasted on a vertical spit. The chopped meat is served on a big and preferably handmade tortilla. Unlike conventional tacos, the tortilla is flour, and raw onions, cilantro and salsa are not part of the plan, but there is a heavy provision of a smoky, barbecue-like chipotle sauce.

The tacos árabes at La China Poblana are the best I have tried yet. Oh man, the pork was tender and flavorful and the smoky chipotle sauce made my head swim. I was self-conscious of my own human pleasure as I ate them.

The environs contribute to the pleasure, as the entire dining area is an indoor-outdoor hybrid space. The place has a distinctly informal character. Don’t be creeped out by the chef in the photo – it’s just a statue.

Posted: December 15th, 2011
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2011.07 Guisados

2011.07 Guisados

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2100 E Cesar Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

Boyle Heights

The Eastside feels accessibly hip at Guisados, the pleasantly bustling dining room crowded with diverse customers, the high-ceilinged volume activated by wall art and big chalkboards.

Spanish for “stews,” Guisados specializes in these wet and flavorful concoctions, stylistically similar to the guisado tacos Westsiders will know from Lotería Grill. The tortillas are handmade. I ordered the sampler for $6.99, which as you can see gets you a heavy plate with plenty of variety. I don’t remember which ones were good, but then they were all good. I recommend this sampler.

I was pleased by the colorful and variegated appearance of these goop tacos. They were very tasty.

Posted: December 15th, 2011
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2011.06 Carnitas Los Gordos aka Erika’s Tacos

2011.06 Carnitas Los Gordos aka Erika’s Tacos

Saturday, August 20, 2011

3818 E Cesar Chavez Ave, East Los Angeles, CA 90063

East Los Angeles

Kyle and I were on a bike ride through East Los Angeles on a Saturday morning and Kyle suggested we eat breakfast. I knew that we would encounter something good if we headed down Cesar Chavez, and of course we did – in fact, pulled a quick u-turn after seeing and smelling wonderful smoking chickens on a home-made halved-drum grill. Smoky goodness.

We both ordered one each of the carnitas (one must go with the namesake), chorizo (in honor of breakfast – it wasn’t yet 10:00 AM) and carne asada tacos. They were large, and probably were $1.25 each (the total was $10 for six tacos including two juice drinks). Well prepared, with leathered tortillas; after she handed me my plate, the taquera asked if I wanted grilled onions too. What a lovely question. Later the other taquera came by and brought us each a grilled jalapeño, delivered with a warning. The salsas were rich and spicy.

The carnitas was the champ but the others were great too – befitting a place called “Carnitas Los Gordos,” it was prepared with rigor and care, cooked slow to bring out the natural porkiness. Eating these righteous tacos, this was a fantastic meal, the sort that puts you in a happy place mindful of how good life can be, and life in Los Angeles in particular. The environmental aspects contribute.

Los Gordos has that tiny building, but the action is outside. One sits in a parking lot in front of a house, next to two easy-ups, the space bounded on three sides by small buildings and on the fourth by a wall of chicken smoke. It would be tough to sit down at one’s drafting table and come up with a design for a more pleasant informal space.

Posted: August 24th, 2011
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2011.05 Taqueria el Repollito

2011.05 Taquería el Repollito

Sunday, August 7, 2011

102 5th Street, Coalinga, CA 93210

Coalinga

Just a few miles off Interstate 5, somewhere between Los Angeles and Sacramento, you can find the town of Coalinga. Fortunately or unfortunately bypassed by the big freeway, charming Coalinga maintains a humble and historical character, its economy largely driven by agribusiness and prisons.

Taquería el Repollito, in the middle of town, makes a fine place to stop for some road trip tacos. Carmen and I stopped off in the midst of taking the scenic route home from San Jose.

I had one each of the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas tacos. The tacos ordinarily come with cabbage, which I asked them to hold, but now that I know that “el repollito” means “little cabbage,” I wonder if I made the wrong decision asking them to hold their namesake component.

They were all very good, and big in size.

I appreciate the vaguely informal style of the building – it reads as a rectangle with a ramada-like canopy erected as an afterthought. The canopy’s structure is rather crude, but in an appropriately agricultural way, meeting one’s expectations of what to encounter on the Open Road in the American West.

Posted: August 21st, 2011
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2011.04 Beto’s Tacos

2011.04 Beto’s Tacos

March 26, 2011

Jefferson at Redondo, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

The other day Pierre made a visit to Beto’s Tacos, a truck that stations itself on Jefferson at Redondo a few blocks west of La Brea – pretty close to where I live – and gave it a strong recommendation. Carmen and I went there tonight for dinner, and found it to be super good.

This stretch of Jefferson next to the Expo Line tracks is industrial in nature and totally quiet at night, but near to a dense residential neighborhood to the north. We were there at about 8:00 on a Saturday night. The industrial nature of the environment contributes to a Blade Runner Urbanism sensibility – here referring to the fact that Blade Runner is supposed to depict a terrible post-apocalyptic version of the city; but to the viewer, the dense, multi-ethnic, urban downtown in which Deckard enjoys his street-vendor noodles is a pretty appealing vision of Los Angeles.

Beto’s establishes a little outpost of urbanity here in the wasteland. The truck is parked on the street, and a tarp is tied from the truck’s canopy to the steel fence of the adjacent empty parking lot, creating a low roof over the sidewalk and transforming it into a quite cozy dining room, trapping warm air and creating an intimate acoustic environment. Unlike most trucks, Beto’s is configured so that you can really see the action inside, and watch your tacos being made. The staff was friendly and quite obviously conscientious about making tacos righteously.

I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, suadero, and carnitas tacos, reasonably sized and very inexpensive at $1.00 each. They were photographed before I applied cilantro, onion and salsa from the condiment bar on the counter.

The asada was finely diced and surprisingly gamey, reminding me a bit of lengua. It is boiled in a big wok-looking thing with a brownish water and some big onions. I enjoyed it. The suadero and carnitas both had a similar texture of friedness, finely diced and oily-crispy. But the big winner was definitely the al pastor. Beto’s runs a trompo inside the truck, topped with an onion. When my order came up, the taquero sliced a bit of blackened-orange exterior off the trompo into a big scoop and then did a final prep on the griddle. The al pastor purists often state that the most righteous al pastor is that cut directly off the spit and into the tortilla in which it is served, but I can’t claim definitively that the plancha finish might not add something valuable. The al pastor here was delicious, savory, with great texture and richness. It’s not as good as Tacos Leo, because you don’t get any big slices of pineapple on top, but it was better than any non-trompo pastor I’ve had.

I am made happy again to find even more awesome tacos, right here in the Blade Runner-scape, near my home, in my belly.

Posted: March 26th, 2011
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2011.03 Tacos Guadalajara in L.A.

2011.03 Tacos Guadalajara in L.A.

March 1, 2011

In front of “R” Ranch Markets Bodega on Adams at Redondo, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

I was out this evening doing reconnaissance for the LoMos blog and couldn’t resist stopping at this truck for a snack when I passed it along the way. This used to be a stopping point for a Tortas Ahogadas truck, although I didn’t have the presence of mind tonight to ask if they belonged to the same operators. As I mentioned to Bandini (who reviewed this truck during his “30 Trucks in 30 Days” challenge in which he demonstrated the principle of Working Hard to Stay Awesome), I have seen a sidewalk trompo out front of this truck on weekend evenings, but never had the good sense to stop and try it out. Tonight, no such trompo luck (trompo luck is the best kind of luck), only the routine good luck of great tacos for $1 each.

I rolled up and would not have been sure they were open for business, except for the man standing on the sidewalk enjoying a plate of tacos. There is no menu board. I asked the young assistant what was available and she recited the list. I asked for one each of the carne asada and the al pastor. Later the young assistant flattered me by asking about my cargo bike.

This truck is unusual, as Bandini described, insomuch as it is not occupied from within, but rather opened up and operated from the sidewalk. More than meets the eye, this truck is a friendly Autobot. A stainless steel diamond plate apron folds down from the truck to create a secure standing platform. The taquera is standing in front of the plancha, and next to the young assistant below the bags of Cheetos and Taki is a fully stocked salsa bar with lidded, built-in compartments. If like me you also harbor secret dreams of throwing off that conventional, suburban lifestyle in favor of urban loft living in a vast, disused warehouse space (like in the classic movie Quicksilver), where a gutted conversion van rolled into the space can serve as your bedroom and your kitchen is a taco truck, then this would be a good style of taco truck to consider for that purpose.

The taquera prepared the al pastor on the griddle upon my ordering it, abundant with caramelized onions (sorry about the blurry photo). It is sweet and rather saucy, and not unlike an Asian stir-fry dish. I garnished both tacos with the rojo, medium in spiciness and unusually tart. The carne asada was fairly average, and I preferred the pork. The tortillas were bilaminated and excellently leathery. These were solid tacos to enjoy on the sidewalk at the righteous taco corner of Adams and Redondo.

Posted: March 1st, 2011
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