35 Tacos El Gavilan
July 12, 2010
1900 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011
It’s not often that I can tell you the name of the architect that designed the taquería I visited, but I can today: Stanley Meston designed this building. El Gavilan (“The Hawk”) inhabits this former McDonald’s franchise, built on the 1950s pattern when McDonald’s stands were Googie and awesome. Have a look at these photos of Meston’s McDonald’s outlet in Downey and it is unmistakable. Be careful looking at that website, though – it may give you a totally useless nostalgia for McDonald’s.
Only a year or two back, the Gavilan removed the conspicuous golden arches that made its historical origins obvious; this deliberate effort to wipe out history disappoints me. I arrived at a hypothesis that the palimpsest of McDonald’s was obscured to protect the owners from the threat of historical preservationists.
The remodel did improve the place by semi-enclosing the large dining area with ugly plastic sheets, creating an authentic Los Angeles indoor-outdoor dining experience. There is also a giant dining room inside an adjacent building, empty tonight but perhaps useful when late-night crowds are large, which does happen according to reports on the interwebs. Carmen and I went there for dinner on this Monday night, placing our orders at 8:14 PM, while the indoor-outdoor dining room was half full.
I ordered one each of the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas tacos, which varied from average to above-average in size, and cost $1.25 each. Tacos are served plain; cilantro-onion mixture and red and green salsas are available at a well-stocked salsa bar, also featuring juicy limons, beans, jalapeños, radishes, and so forth. The small, doubled tortillas were pleasingly oiled and griddled, exhibiting a surprising yellow hue, and performed admirably.
I applied cilantro-onion mixture and rojo to my al pastor taco and commenced. The al pastor was my favorite of the three. More savory than sweet, the al pastor is not overly saucy, with something of a dry-rubby character. Grilled onions do their part too. The flavor of the pork came through loud and clear, and the orange and black bits offered good texture. Gavilan’s al pastor is a fine example. The rojo was pretty spicy and had a nice smoky flavor. Carmen ordered a quesadilla al pastor – the meat tastes great with melted cheese and griddled flour tortilla, and it was impressively big and meaty. I would prescribe it for hangovers.
Next was the carnitas taco, another winner. Good-sized cuboid chunks had a nice brown color and a rewarding fried texture. I applied the green salsa, somewhat spicy and very herby.
The carne asada taco came last. It was pretty good, and the biggest taco of the lot. The steak chunks had a good texture, although a few pieces were a bit tough, and tasted of carne asada seasoning. I think that stuff has crack in it – I don’t know if it’s onion powder or crack cocaine or what, but some part of that seasoning gets you hooked, like when you eat a Dorito and then find that you cannot stop eating Doritos until the bag has been emptied.