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
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

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
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

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
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

57 Mrs. García’s Tacos y Burritos

57 Mrs. García’s Tacos y Burritos

November 22, 2010

9905 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Culver City

This place is five-minutes’ walk from my office, and yet I’ve been putting off giving it a try for two years. It’s next door to an El Pollo Loco, where I have been at least a dozen times, and never set foot in Mrs. García’s. I expected it to suck. On the outside, it looks like a phoney chain restaurant that would only be patronized by a captive market of office workers. I would suppose that Sony Pictures employees make up the majority of their customers. But I finally went there for lunch today, and while it was better than I feared, it was also somewhat pricy as I had feared, and nearly as “meh”.

I ordered the three-taco combo plate, consisting of three tacos, rice and beans, a basket of chips, and a small soda, for $8.25, choosing carne asada, chicken, and pork (carnitas). The soft tacos are available a la carte for $2.25 each. They are above average in size, so it’s not a terrible price, but not competitive with real taquerías. Mrs. García’s isn’t really in The Game, so to speak, but it’s good enough to stay in business despite the robust competition of a Pollo Loco next door.

The tacos are served unadorned, but various salsas and condiments are available for the dressing of tacos. I tried the salsa roja and the salsa tomatillo. The former was bland, the latter decent, a bit smoky with some depth, though not very hot.

I ate the carnitas first. This was the standout of the bunch, with good flavor and decent texture with a bit of toothiness, dryish rather than moist. I would order it again. I hypothesize that the thing to get at Mrs. García’s is burritos with either chicken or the carnitas, and I don’t entirely mean that as a disparagement, because I am not a burrito-hater. Burritos are Easy.

With credit to the sound advice Garrett has passed on to me: it’s okay to like tacos, but make burritos your favorite food. You’ll have a much easier time of it in this life we are living.

The tortillas were okay, but a bit dry. These tacos were all on the dry side, which is better than the watery-taco side of the street where you’re liable to find catastrophic taco failure or taco dumping syndrome. They could really use a little more oily griddling. Maybe they want more lard.

The chicken was okay. It had a chickeny marinated flavor. It should be in a burrito with an easy and accommodating flour tortilla rather than a taco with an attention-seeky corn tortilla.

The steak was also okay. I struggled while eating it to form an opinion about its taste. It was mildly treated with carne asada seasoning, pretty spare. The texture and moisture levels were appropriate. It seemed wholesome. If I ate nothing but carne asada from Mrs. García’s every meal, I would probably live to 99.

I can foresee visiting again. The dining room is acceptably pleasant. The menu has some choices. I will have something other than tacos.

Posted: November 22nd, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

56 El Parian

56 Restaurant Familiar El Parian

November 21, 2010

1528 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Pico-Union

A s I have mentioned before and consistent with my general belief in the virtues of rectitude and propriety, I place high priority on respecting the specialty of a restaurant. If the name of the restaurant includes a word like “taco” or “pizza”, then I know what I ought to order. The contrapositive of this fact is that I have avoided sullying my cincuenta taquerías project with reports of places that are not in fact taco shops. But I have made an exception for El Parian, the sign over the door of which says “Birria Estilo Jalisco, Restaurant Familiar,” because of its significance in the tacoscape – to wit, El Parian’s role in the evolving taco-informationscape of the 21st Century.

I first heard of El Parian in the pages of Jonathan Gold’s seminal anthology of restaurant reviews, Counter Intelligence, published in 2000 and now seeming like a relic of a bygone age. Gold describes El Parian as the exemplary one-dish restaurant, specializing in Jalisco-style birria (goat stew). Gold also shows his hand in a statement uncharacteristically and praiseworthily unambiguous for a critic to make: “in my opinion, El Parian’s birria is the best single Mexican dish in Los Angeles.” Gold goes on to end his review by stating the El Parian does also have carne asada on the menu, but implicitly casts aspersions on the manhood of anyone who would order it, writing that “it is on the menu for the same reason ‘Landlubber’s De-Lite’ might be at a seafood restaurant.”

Five years later in 2005, in the bright early days of taco blogging, the pioneering taco blogger Bandini wrote in the Great Taco Hunt of visiting El Parian and, in another wonderfully unambiguous statement: “simply put this is the best carne asada in the history of mankind.” Bandini threw down the gauntlet, reclaiming for a frequently birria-nervous audience of interweb-reading gringos the carne asada that Gold had so contemptuously dismissed. And now Gold has himself taken notice – Gold’s reports about El Parian in recent years acknowledge both the taco blogosphere’s influence on the place and the fact that the carne asada truly is delicious.

Carmen and I met Russ, Shanta and Damien here for lunch on this beautiful afternoon. From the sidewalk all you see is the dingy façade and a half-dozen busy cooks in the front prep area, but passing through the heavy screen door reveals a surprisingly vast and airy, high-ceilinged space, unpretentiously spare with something of the communal feel of an open-air beer garden or a cafeteria. We sat towards the back between a row of arches that seem to be actually holding up the roof, and a row of store-style glass refrigerator doors where the beers and Mexican sodas are stored. Russ, Damien and I ordered tacos – I chose the carnitas and carne asada, $2.99 each but big enough to be worth it. Carmen hewed to the path of righteousness and and took an order of the birria. We waited quite a while for the food, but crowded in our corner of this spacious-feeling, cold, noisy and smelly dining room felt to me like the right place to be hanging out.

My two big tacos came in unorthodox fashion – rather than tortillas flat with a heap of meat atop, the tortillas were already folded over to encompass the heap of meat filling. The heavy, thick, doubled handmade tortillas were quite corn-tasty and structurally adequate for the job. I ate the carnitas first, dismayed by the puddle of carnitas-water forming on the plate around this taco, but the carnitas itself is very good. Moist and flavorful, but far from crispy and with a fairly uniform texture, it possesses the deep pork-alchemical flavor magic of serious earthy carnitas. The thick handful of taco offers many big satisfying bites for the pork lover. And the thick tortillas withstood the moisture to the end.

The carne asada taco could do nothing other than disappoint, as expectations had been so ramped up by the hype. Rather than the “thick strips” that Bandini described five years ago, I found cuboid chunks. The steak was great, don’t get me wrong. It was seasoned sparely and effectively, with visible specks of black pepper. The steak had the fatty taste of marbled skirt steak. The charry, full-bodied steakiness of the cuboid chunks gives it the satisfying “I just ate real steak” impression that you get when you eat a named cut at an American-style steakhouse, as opposed to the anemic feel that finely cut taco carne asada often exhibits. The experience was marred by a few scattered tough bits. This was a great taco that I would gladly eat again, but there have been several steak tacos that I have enjoyed more during this year’s rewarding taco-eating journey.

I sampled the birria too. So flavorful and good, but so goaty and empalagating. Your clothes will smell like El Parian afterwards and you may prefer that they did not. But I think it’s worth it – I found El Parian charming.

Posted: November 21st, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

55 El Super Taco

55 El Super Taco

November 17, 2010

11499 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

Culver City

El Super Taco is the fourth consecutive Westside taco shop I have visited – I’m in a slump, as the Westside is not a hotbed of fine tacos, but rather a hotbed of taco eaters too lazy to travel far enough east to get good tacos. El Super Taco is a chain of approximately three Westside locations, and this one looked terribly banal on the outside, in a generic stucco strip mall next to the 405 freeway. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and likewise I hope you, my readers, will be pleasantly surprised when you scroll down and see the photo. Four tacos, and all four meats vividly distinct in color and appearance!

Although it’s in a crap little strip mall storefront illuminated by a half-dozen lay-in 2×4 lensed fluorescent fixtures in a blue-painted acoustic panel ceiling, the unexpectedly clean and tidy interior seemed warm and welcoming, as did the serveuse who took my order and offered me complimentary chips. I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, and suadero tacos, quite reasonable at $1.25 each. I settled in with my tray of chips and sampled three of the five salsas from the salsa bar, the ones labeled “salsa roja,” “salsa verde,” and “salsa suicide”. This latter salsa filled me with a desire to live! It is a very hot habanero-grapefruit, my new favorite flavor combination that brings me back to Campos’ Burritos on Venice at Motor every week. The rojo was okay, tasting a bit like Tapatio mixed with essence of pencil graphite; and the verde was pretty spicy too, with a flavor that I spent much of the meal attempting to identify, a frequent problem of mine. In the end I decided that it tasted like one of the unidentified, weird “spice” jelly bean flavors.

The chips, oily and recently fried, were reminiscent of fried wonton strips – I don’t know why or how.

I ate the suadero first – compelled to order this rare option. The meat was quite good, juicy and tender but with a bit of tooth resistance at first bite. Leanly seasoned, it had a strong gamy, beefy flavor. I don’t know how they prepare it, but the texture and taste reminded me of braised short ribs.

The tortillas were hot, and seemed to be steamed rather than griddled – doubled, but not laminated, they performed correctly. So many tacos suffer from watery meats that saturate and destroy their tortillas and drip dirty meaty squirts out their backsides, but these meat fillings were appropriately dry in character.

I ate the carnitas next, dressed with the salsa verde. It was a particularly dry, stringy, fried and textural carnitas with a nice golden brown hue. It seems dry at first but when you compress a mouthful of it a porky liquid magic seems to lurk in its core.

The carne asada was fine, elegant and proper, although fairly inconspicuous after I applied a distracting mixture of Salsa Roja and Salsa Suicide.

The al pastor looks a bit like orange chicken from a Chinese Food and Donuts shop, but was dry-rubby in character, with cinnamon and clove notes. Griddled to a gracious orange-and-black color scheme, it had a good texture, although in the middle of this taco I encountered one of those unfortunate chunks of cartilaginous flesh that you can barely chew through. I tend to enjoy the dry-rubby stuff, although this was really no better than the cheap preparada al pastor you can get at the Bodega R-Ranch Market #14 supermarket for home grilling.

Posted: November 17th, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

54 Pili’s Tacos

54 Pili’s Tacos

November 6, 2010

11924 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Sawtelle

I first heard of Pili’s years ago when UCLA architecture schoolmate Antonio recommended it for its righteous tacos, obviously a rarity west of the 405. It is a cozy little storefront connected to an adjoining gift shop, offering fine tacos until late at night. Carmen and I found an excuse to head out here for lunch today.

The word “Pili’s” has great ear-feel to my gringo ears.

I ordered one each of the al pastor, carnitas, and carne asada tacos, Westside-priced at $1.50 each for slightly smallish tacos. They were plated nicely, the three tacos aligned on a plate, tortillas leaning into one another, implying the roundish cross section of a taco curled in the hand on its way to the mouth.

I started with the steak. This taco felt good from the start, with the small, bilaminated tortillas nicely leathered but not oily. The steak had a great flavor and texture, sparely seasoned and a bit gamy due to relatively fatty meat – fatty in a good way.

Next I ate the carnitas taco, my least favorite. The meat had a good texture with enough resistance to satisfy the tooth, but rather dry in a way that leaves your tongue feeling desiccated. The flavor isn’t bad – it’s definitely pork – but it’s neither strong nor compelling enough.

Lastly I ate the al pastor taco. It’s well above-average al pastor meat, not the typical stuff, but small cuboid chunks of pork apparently deep-fried to a near-crunchy resilience, with some orange savory flavor added for good effect. It has a winning porky-oily flavor that made me ponder whether I needed another one.

Posted: November 6th, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 1 Comment.

52 Campos Tacos

52 Campos Tacos

October 22, 2010

11622 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Mar Vista

This is the second I have visited this year of the approximately seven extant Campos Tacos locations, following the one on Jefferson in Culver City. Though seemingly in decline now, a result of changing tastes or demographics, perhaps, Campos is still the primary chain restaurant for cheap conventional tacos serving the greater Westside. Though it is in relatively upscale Mar Vista, this tiny and dilapidated corner strip mall with its carnicería, donut shop, and Campos outpost is a holdout from the working-class culture that still thrives in the dingbat-rich sectors of Mar Vista.

I arrived at about 11:45 for an early lunch on a Friday and found Campos to be serving a working-class clientele. The man who arrived in a white utility-bed pickup never took off his hardhat, and all of the dozen other customers I saw looked like tradesmen and laborers.

The food at Campos matched the down-to-earth environment of the restaurant – it’s precisely the kind of filling, inexpensive, hearty food that one might want after a long morning’s work. I ordered combo #1, the three soft tacos and a fountain soda, which was $7.08 including tax. Confusingly the extensive and old-school handwritten menu board listed tacos in two places, $1.25 in one place and $2.25 elsewhere. Two different size tacos are available, perhaps. My combo came with tacos that were pretty huge.

Sitting down to three of them is a righteous meal for a meat lover. They were served fairly quickly, and looking at them I didn’t have very high expectations, but my expectations were exceeded. I started with carne asada. The tortillas were pretty good, oversized and doubled, very lightly oiled and griddled. The carne asada was minimalist in its seasoning, tender and moist – better than expected. Purist, to use a word of which Diana recently reminded me. Sitting in the big, under-occupied dining room, while watching a television program on which guest Melissa Rivers poked fun at the fashion choices of celebrities, I enjoyed big, meaty bites of this taco one after the other till it was gone.

The salsa from the bar was bland, in contrast to my hopes of discovering something like the invigorating grapefruit-habanero salsa they have at Campos Famous Burritos on Venice at Motor, but the rojo on the tacos seemed a bit stronger.

Next I ate the al pastor. It is of the saucy variety, fruity and sweet with lots of grilled onions, leaving a viscous orange liquid dripping from the back of the taco. Pretty tasty. Unfortunately, Tacos Leo has ruined me by abetting my transformation into an annoying modern-jackass al pastor snob. Tacos Leo, incidentally, has now hit the big time – the new issue of Los Angeles magazine featuring local Mexican food has a paragraph that defines al pastor and cites Tacos Leo as the place to get it. Will ordinary gringos start to feel comfortable eating there? I selfishly hope not. But I digress. It’s darn hard not to digress to thoughts of Leo’s when you’re thinking about tacos.

Finally I ate the carnitas. It was of the grey and moist variety, unlike the Campos on Jefferson, but quite good for a grey and moist carnitas. I was looking at it and eating it thinking, huh, I’m actually enjoying this. It had strong pork flavor and was salty without being too salty, a bit like good luau-style kalua pork.

Surprisingly, my meal of three giant tacos at Campos left me feeling great afterwards too.

Posted: October 22nd, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

49 El Bronco Taqueria

49 El Bronco Taquería

October 3, 2010

5427 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

Mid-City

Garrett, Kirsten, Damien, Carmen and I had decided to go for lunch tacos and El Bronco was nearby. Finding only three reviews on Yelp! going back to 2006 confirms one’s observation that El Bronco is not the kind of place that attracts Yelp! users. Situated in an inconspicuous, compact wedge of strip mall at the corner of Venice and Hauser next to staple businesses like a donut shop, a cleaners and a cambio de cheques, El Bronco serves its neighborhood but probably doesn’t attract many people from across town; but as we found today, their tacos are solidly above average.

We were surprised to find a spacious and sunny dining room, and though El Bronco has a deli-style counter for ordering takeout, we enjoyed table service, starting with two complimentary bowls of chips and salsa for our table. The salsa was rich and flavorful, tasting of roasted peppers and a dark chocolatyness reminiscent of Oaxacan mole. I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas tacos at $1.40 each, confirming that yes I wanted onion and cilantro; and a half-liter bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola.

Tacos were in about the 65th percentile for size. The tortillas were well prepared – doubled, slightly leathery without being oily, showing some browning marks from griddling. Served without salsa, I spooned some on from the bowls provided with the chips. I ate the carnitas first (listed generically as “puerco/pork” on the menu) – it was atypical, small cubes of deep-fried pork with crisp and sizzle. It is similar to the “Popeye’s Chicken” carnitas at Chulada Grill, and reminiscent of the pork that comes with yuca con chicharrón at a Salvadorean restaurant – a tasty pleasure to be enjoyed in moderation.

Next I ate the al pastor (per the menu, “pork w/ condiments”, which FYI is not the best way to sell it to people like me). It’s pretty good – tender, neither grilly nor saucy, and thoroughly marinated. I detected a hint of fruit flavor which seemed familiar but I could not place – Garrett correctly identified it as apple. I don’t know if it really was apple, but that’s what it resembled.

Last I ate the carne asada. Moist and steaky, this had a reasonable quantity of the garlic-and-onion-powdery carne asada seasoning known to inspire the kind of cravings that make you finish a whole bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos that you were foolish enough to open. One has to consider use of this stuff as kind of a cheap tactic to make tacos have crack-like addictiveness; but there exist many varieties of delicious.

Posted: October 3rd, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

47 Pinche’s Tacos

47 Pinche’s Tacos

September 25, 2010

8665 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Culver City

I didn’t think I would like Pinche’s Tacos very much, and indeed I did not. It isn’t personal. The staff seemed friendly. I felt that they made an effort to take care of me and Carmen, their customers for dinner this evening, and to give us the best food they could. It wasn’t bad. But I don’t like Pinche’s Tacos.

The Supreme Court Justice of taco bloggers, Bandini, rates his taco experience on a scale of one to five. When setting out to survey the tacoscape one must commit early to whether or not will adopt a quantitative rating system. I opted not to follow this precedent, so I have to rely on mere words to express my dissatisfaction with Pinche’s Tacos. But I don’t think Bandini would like Pinche’s Tacos either.

There used to be an outpost of the small Campos Burritos chain in this small freestanding restaurant next to the Helms Bakery complex, and the contrast between the Campos that was, and the Pinche’s that is, exemplifies the transformation of Culver City from a fairly modest community into a destination for dining so allegedly hip that even the New York Times deigned to raise its monocle and take notice. Those who know me will confirm that I am a Campos Burritos partisan, and I mean that figuratively as well as literally. The unassuming, inexpensive, authentic, unselfconscious, and tasty Campos Burritos sensibility pleases me greatly. The overpriced, self-referential, and cute Pinche’s is as if formulated to offend me – a farce of a taquería in the place where the real thing once stood. Check out the reviews on Yelp! and you’ll see that most of the favorable reviews sound like they were written by douchebags.

Pinche’s took Campos late-midcentury-generic taco building and painted the outside bright pink and purple; put up a sign with their cheeky name, and topped it with the word “tacos” in glorious Comic Sans; and filled the inside with an admixture of kitsch and camp: real Lotería cards, humorous satirical Lotería cards, authentic Day of the Dead memorabilia, a faux-vintage “Wanted” poster for the bandit Emiliano Zapata. They were playing Gael Garcia Bernal’s ironical cover of “I Want You to Want Me” when we walked in (which was a nice touch).

I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas tacos. Price for each was between $2 and $3. Sounds reasonable enough, but then do the math: our order of six tacos, a Jarritos, and a fountain Coke came to $21.79. At a taco truck, this order would have cost about $9 and tasted better.

Our food was kindly brought to us. I noticed that each taco had a different salsa – a good sign that the tacos are being thoughtfully curated. I noticed the interesting single-ply homemade tortillas – they have a sort of spongy thickness that reminded me of that bread at Ethiopian restaurants. They lack tensile strength. These tortillas did fine through the first taco but tore on the second taco and failed catastrophically on the third.

I ate the carnitas taco first, and enjoyed the meat – it had some substantial toothiness to it that one might even call tough, but which to me only enhanced enjoyment; and the meat was flavorful, tasting of citrus and pork. But I did not like the salsa – very chunky and watery, very cold, dominated by tomatoes. A constant stream of dirty salsa water dripped from my taco onto my plate, threatening to drown the carne asada taco. In my opinion, a taco should be a non-leaking and dry thing. Leaking tacos are about as cool as leaking diapers. I washed my hands vigorously after I came home.

Next I ate the steak taco. This was truly a taco of steak, as it was impressively above average in size, and the steak chunks were big and cuboid and unmistakeably steaky in flavor and texture, with the serious chewiness you find in American-style steaks. The meat seemed to be of the same chewy cut often found in Peruvian “Lomo Saltado” dishes. The steak was smoky from grilling and seasoned with plenty of cumin. Pretty good stuff, although not what one expects in a “carne asada” taco. The salsa verde was good and peppery, but left me wishing for some spiciness.

The al pastor was acceptable, dry rubby in character, with clove and cinnamon conspicuous in the mix. The tender pork bits were sliced thin. The red salsa on this taco didn’t do much for me. This taco’s final act was catastrophic tortilla failure halfway through consumption. These spongiform tortillas need some serious attention.

Aside from the supersweet chicken mole octoparrot taco that Carmen ordered, upon consideration, I have to acknowledge that the meats at Pinche’s Tacos were reasonably good, and my account of what I experienced there doesn’t seem to justify the strong feelings of disappointment that Pinche’s inspired. Maybe half-hour’s writing about Pinche’s has mellowed my ire. Maybe I should recant the oath I made two hours ago to stop eating bad tacos and only eat good tacos from now on. I don’t know, but I do know that if I go back to Pinche’s, I’m going for the burrito. Ooh, burn.

Posted: September 25th, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.