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 on Adams Boulevard just 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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58 Worldwide Tacos

58 Worldwide Tacos

December 4, 2010

2419 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008

Leimert Park

Worldwide Tacos may be the most idiosyncratic of the taco shops I have visited thus far. This idiosyncrasy can be quantified with two numbers: 154, which is the number of varieties of tacos listed on their menu; and 105, which is the number of minutes we waited today to be served our taco order.

Damien and I met at Worldwide this afternoon and put in an order for six tacos at about 1:00 PM. Our order hints at the diversity of fusiony options available on the menu – we ordered one each of the Jerk Chicken; Chili-Cheese Beef; Curry Beef; Grill Carne Asada; Raspberry Chipotle Chicken; and Thai Chicken tacos. Taco prices ranged between $2.95 and $3.85 each. We paid at the little window facing King Boulevard, and left a phone number on which to be called when the food was ready. We were warned by the serveuse that it would take 45 minutes. I’m glad she didn’t say it would take an hour and 45 minutes, though, because I might have lost my nerve.

Time on our hands to be killed, we walked down King as far as Crenshaw before turning around. About 45 minutes had passed. We talked about all the things that there are to talk about. We then encamped in the Worldwide parking lot. A corrugated metal canopy extends from the west side of the building, sheltering a few surprisingly comfortable chairs, making an ideal vantage point to spend an hour watching the traffic on King Boulevard, admiring the International Orange façade and ad hoc detailing of the Worldwide Tacos stand, and sneaking peeks through the window hoping for a glimpse of our tacos.

At 2:00, an hour had passed and our tacos were late. I gradually became convinced that, despite the hype about how awesome and totally-worth-the-wait Worldwide’s tacos are, they couldn’t possibly be good, because surely tacos that take an hour must be the soggified result of inattentive cooks. By 2:30 we were both waxing eloquent about how damn hungry we were, acknowledging also that any food would be greatly enjoyed at this point; not to mention increasing awareness of a nagging sense of fullness emanating from the the urinary bladder region of the torso. Should we walk down to 7-11 for a Big Bite to hold us over? Our number came up at 2:45. About four customers were served their tacos during the hour we waited.

We sped off to my nearby home for the eating, and somewhat to my surprise at this point, I found all the tacos quite tasty. They were not soggified and seemed fresh even after a car ride home to the Village Green. You might be thinking, of course they’re good, otherwise why would they have customers despite the slowness? Clearly the Worldwide business model is best suited to a clientele based in the neighborhood that can keep otherwise busy while waiting for their number to be rung.

Worldwide’s delicious tacos are exclusive. The fact that they are so hard to get only makes them more desirable – rarer and more delicious, like any hard-to-find delicacy. Being forced to wait strips away your sense of self-importance. Think you’ve got stuff to do today? Fuck you, your whole afternoon is now at the mercy of some tacos. These tacos field-strip you down and reduce you to your bare trembling essence. Enlightenment in the form of tacos is only delivered when you have been humbled, redeemed. You must release the ego and accept the fate. You end up with a kind of taco Stockholm Syndrome.

Featured in the photograph are the carne asada taco (in the “crunchy” tortillaway) and the raspberry chipotle chicken taco (in the “soft” tortillaway). I ate the carne asada first. The details are getting fuzzy in my recollection, but I found it delicious this afternoon. The lettuce was fancy, the tortilla shell with just the right oily crunchiness; the hot sauce pretty spicy, the cheese strings fine and melty. The steak was good, satisfyingly a bit chewy like a real steak cut.

The raspberry chipotle chicken taco is fascinating. The soft tortilla worked well, seeming similar to the crunchy tortilla but halfway fried rather than fully fried. The thick fruity compote in the taco called to mind raspberry jam. Chicken chunks were large and satisfying.

Thai chicken featured peanut sauce and curry, with big chicken chunks. The curry beef resembled the carne asada, with the addition of a moderately spicy curry sauce. I enjoyed them all. Damien thought that the jerk chicken was the best. My favorite permutation was probably the beef and the crunchy shell. Tacos of interest for my next visit include the Meatball, Orange Beef, B.B.Q. Beef, and Beef Pastrami. I would be glad to go back to Worldwide Tacos, and it’s not just about the tacos, but about the masochistic pleasures of being brought to my knees waiting for deferred gratification.

Posted: December 4th, 2010
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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
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50 Kogi

50 Kogi

October 9, 2010

Parking lot of The Brig, 1515 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90291

Venice

The Kogi truck served me my landmark fiftieth Los Angeles-area taco meal of the year. Kogi was our choice for lunch because Carmen and I had reason to go to Venice today, not because I wanted it to symbolize the big number 50; but it is a fitting choice because of its cultural import. No 2010 survey of the Los Angeles Tacoscape would be complete without a trip to Kogi, which surely deserves the credit it receives for spawning the entire gourmet food truck scene, having made famous both the Korean fusion taco and the use of Twitter to cultivate (by which term I mean “create a cult”) a following. There are at this moment 1721 reviews of Kogi on Yelp! Kogi is surely among the most reviewed institutions in town, an index of its popularity. Kogi has grown to a fleet of five trucks, and chef Roy Choi’s name now appears all over town.

Kogi truck “Verde” was parked in the lot of The Brig, a designy bar in the hip part of Abbot Kinney; but despite that fact, and Kogi’s early reputation for attracting hipsters willing to queue for hours for its distinctive tacos, the crowd today was diverse and civilian, looking like normal people out for neighborhood lunch on a pleasant, sunny afternoon. We didn’t wait long to be served.

The intended scope of the Cincuenta Taquerías project is the platonic taquería – not trucks, not gourmet taco restaurants, not purveyors of contemporary fusion foods, nor vendors of the O.G. hard-shell-and-cheese taco, nor restaurants that make specialty of anything other than tacos. But making a sufficient survey of the Tacoscape compels branching out to these interrelated typologies. Kogi is a truck purveying near-gourmet fusion tacos, but its influence on the taco environment cannot be overstated. It has been a great evangelist and gentrifier, popularizing and demystifying the taco truck for the middle class. When you see a row of overpriced, derivative gourmet taco trucks parked in some douchebag neighborhood, you may rightly be annoyed; but you should not hold Kogi responsible for the sins of its imitators, any more than you should hold Quentin Tarantino responsible for the spate of crap knockoffs that followed Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

I ordered three tacos, one each of the short rib, the spicy pork, and the chicken. Considering Kogi’s popularity, their tacos are surprisingly cheap at $2.00 each and above average in size. The thick aroma of sweet, smoky Korean barbecue billowing out the back the truck whetted my appetite. My three tacos did not look particularly good to me – all you see is a pile of salad with some tortillas beneath them – but do not fear, because they are so tasty.

These tacos do not possess the attribute of minimalist elegance that distinguishes the traditional taco. Carmen remarked that the Kogi taco might be described by the judges appearing on Cooking Show Dotchi as a “festival of flavors,” which is correct. There are too many competing flavors for a simple-minded taco eater like myself to comprehend the discrete elements and flavors that make up the taco; but the important aspect of it, Kogi’s critical revelation, is that sweet, marinated Korean BBQ meat makes an excellent taco filling. The sweetness, the sesame and peanut, the light crunch of the high-piled salad do not resemble a typical taco, but it’s a winning combination in its own right. Importantly, the tortillas were good – doubled, leathery, with a slight crisp that enhances the taco.

I ate the spicy pork first. The pork has some ancestral resemblance to al pastor, bits of thin-sliced filet, sweet and savory. It’s a bit spicier than the short rib, which is a bit sweeter and tastes like a fast-food version of real Korean BBQ-restaurant marinated short rib. It’s addictive – I wanted more. The chicken is similar to the pork, a little blander. If Kogi’s tacos have a fault, it’s that the meats are all too similar to one another – beneath the whirlwind of fusion flavors the meats all have the same basic effect. But that’s not really a fault, since the tacos are all so tasty.

Carmen had the chef’s special calamari taco. This $3 premium taco traded the heap of salad for an overabundance of fried squid rings buried under sesame seed-speckled hot sauce. The flavor was stimulating and the taco form makes an effective squid delivery device.

Do not fear for the end, my half-dozen taco blog readers. Fifty taco shops was my stated goal for the year, but it was only a minimum number. I intend to continue the project aggressively through the rest of 2010 and visit taquerías sin cuenta.

Posted: October 9th, 2010
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43 Tacos El Unico #12

43 Tacos El Unico #12

August 29, 2010

6650 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90043

Hyde Park

Carmen and I chose to eat lunch at the Crenshaw location of Tacos El Unico, another Los Angeles minichain of taco restaurants, currently ten locations strong according to their website. The most conspicuous location might be the one at Adams and Vermont near USC. The website explains that the chain is an outgrowth of a taco truck business that started back in 1981 at the corner of Rosecrans and Atlantic in Compton where they subsequently built their first restaurant. It’s another story of the American Dream coming true.

We found decent tacos there, the kind you would eat regularly if you were in the neighborhood, but not worth driving across town for. We each had the $4.99 combo special of four tacos and a fountain drink (individual tacos, average in size, are a bargain at $1.16 each), and shared some tasty fresh French fries. I took the tour, having one each of the carne asada, al pastor, chicken and lengua tacos. I refrained from trying the cabeza.

The tiny public section of the restaurant interior has a few stainless steel tables and a counter. Ordering is alienating, taking place through steel security bars in an opening in the bulletproof glass, which did not make me feel protected, but did prevent me from pulling any stickup jobs while at Tacos El Unico. We got lucky and were awarded a table halfway through our meal, not that there is anything so ghastly about eating over a stainless steel counter while standing next to a trash can. For the record, if I lived in a loft apartment, I would have no kitchen other than a decommissioned taco truck and no table other than the stainless steel counter extended from the truck’s passenger side. And also I would sleep on a mattress in the back of a conversion van.

The tacos were totally serviceable. The tortillas were bilam’d (Carmen received a freak-of-nature taco even that was triply laminated!) and sturdy. Chicken and lengua came con todo with green salsa, and al pastor and steak with red, which consideration I appreciated.

I started with chicken, which was pretty tasty – well marinated dark meat, somewhat like slimy Del Taco chicken, but tasty. I moved on to lengua – gamy cuboid chunks of beef with a good texture. Not bad, but I still haven’t been wowed by any of the lengua I have tried this year.

Next I ate the al pastor, savory flavored and of the saucy variety. I thought it was okay. Carmen liked it so little she gave me her second al pastor taco, which for me was a great bonus worthy of Special Day celebration.

Finally I ate the steak taco, sadly the smallest of my tacos, for Carmen and I agreed that it was the best. The steak was in fairly large strips and marinated with carne asada seasonings – it reminded me of the carne asada steaks that we sometimes get at Bodega R-Ranch Market #14 supermarket for home grilling. Flap meat, maybe? It has a rewarding chewy resistance to the tooth. The red salsa is good and pretty spicy, rounding out this taco nicely.

Posted: August 29th, 2010
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17 Loteria Grill

17 Loteria Grill

April 2, 2010

6333 W Third St stall #322, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Fairfax

Although The Grove next door is more famous, the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is one of the true great pseudo-public places in Los Angeles, comprising dozens of great eateries within a dense mat of pleasing indoor, outdoor, and covered open spaces. The physical grain of its spaces is small and intimate, and the impression the Market gives is that of an organic, bottom-up conglomeration rather than a top-down, master-planned-by-a-genius-architect whole (which it probably was 75 years ago). Architects may not know how to create spaces like this, but neither would any client build such a place today.

Loteria Grill is my favorite place to eat in the Farmers Market, and I went there every couple of weeks back when I worked in the neighborhood. Today was my first visit this year to the Market, where with lunch I enjoyed the company of Carmen and an old friend from UCLA Architecture, Olivia Ku.

Loteria qualifies as a gourmet taco shop – instead of the usual suspects like carne asada and al pastor, a variety of rich regional Mexican stews are offered. I chose three tacos from a roster of 13: chicken in pipián rojo; albóndigas en chipotle; and cochinita pibil. When they arrived, I realized I had ordered three taco fillings all the same color, a saturated and ideal dark-orange/light-brown, and all three were leaking an oily orange sauce resembling that pepperoni juice that you should avoid the temptation to sponge from your slice of pizza. Expensive at $2.95 each, the tacos varied from rather small to average. The tortillas are handmade and very good, thick, irregular, bubbly, leathery, resilient.

Moving from left to right, I started with the cochinita pibil, slow-roasted marinated pork. It’s juicy and super tasty, sweet with strong citrus and hot pepper flavors, and the citrus-pickled onions on top vinegary and providing a strong counterpoint. It went by all too fast.

I moved on to the albóndigas en chipotle, three meatballs in a tomato-chipotle sauce. While I wouldn’t say that this is not Mexican food, it felt like I was eating some kind of Italian-food/taco fusion mash-up. The meebos were tasty and full of flavor, as was the sauce, with strong smoky chipotle flavor. I couldn’t help but think of Ikea meatballs, which I now realize could be successfully transformed at home into a magical burrito (with tomato sauce, Sriracha rooster chili-garlic paste, parmesan cheese, grilled onions, and let’s say, some gnocchi).

Finally, I hit the pollo en pipián rojo, chicken in a pumpkin-peanut sauce. The dark-meat chicken is stewed and smoky, with a very strong and unmistakably chickeny flavor. The sauce is spicy and indeed tastes of both pumpkin and peanut – exotic. The taco is a super flavor mouthful. In that past life where I came often to the Farmers Market, my typical order was the pipián rojo burrito.

I enjoyed my tacos, but a meal of three of them was not so filling. I will continue to advocate the burritos (to invoke the name of the taco’s natural rival) at Loteria Grill. They come with chips and are altogether a better value, if you have the single-mindedness and discipline to shun the variety made possible by tacos and eat only one thing.

Posted: April 2nd, 2010
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10 La Taquiza

10 La Taquiza

February 18, 2010

3009 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90007

University Park

Carmen, Alexa and I went to La Taquiza for dinner. La Taquiza is near the USC campus, and clearly a student hangout kind of place, but a pleasant enough environment. In addition to tacos and burritos and other standard fare, they highlight something called a “mulita”, which is a sandwich of cheese, meat, and aguacate between two little handmade tortillas.

I ordered three tacos, chicken, al pastor, and carne asada. They were $1.58 each. They were about average in size, and served as only meat on tortilla – application of salsa, onions, and cilantro left up to the end user at the salsa bar. The tacos were served immediately upon ordering, with no reheating, grilling, or special preparation.

The handmade tortillas were impressive. Not least of all, because they were of very uneven thickness – one side of the tortilla nearly twice as thick as the other! This asymmetry is of course, pleasing, exemplifying the handmade nature of the product. They were good with good feel, and above average for taco tortillas, but slightly clammy and doughy – I think they would have benefited from additional toasting or grilling immediately prior to serving.

The carne asada was very good, a bit chewy and meaty in a steaky way. The red salsa from the salsa bar, on the other hand, was a disappointment. It tasted fishy! The green salsa was good, though. The al pastor, from a revolving spit featured prominently at the front of the restaurant, was extra flavorful, with unusual tomato flavors. It had so much flavor that the addition of salsa is optional. The chicken taco wasn’t bad, but kind of meh – I think it would go better in a burrito.

On my next visit, I think I’ll try an al pastor burrito, and maybe the suadero taco, now that I know what that means.

Posted: February 18th, 2010
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09 Taquería Alvarez

09 Taqueria Alvarez

February 12, 2010

5577 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

Garrett and I made the most of a leisurely Friday afternoon by visiting Taqueria Alvarez on Adams, not too far from our respective homes at the Village Green. I have driven by Alvarez before and was enticed by its old-timey looking sign, but when we arrived I was surprised to see the lightbox sign missing and a vinyl banner claiming “GRAND OPENING”. New management?

Things started out rocky. After a harrowing bike ride up La Brea, we arrived to find the signage in chaos! They did not have Mexican Coke, and they were out of al pastor! Then we waited a long time to be served!

But it turned out fine. It was a beautiful day for standing around outside a taqueria; I enjoyed a Jarritos Mandarina; and settled for a chicken taco, which turned out to be quite pleasing. Alvarez has a pleasant (if you like sitting at outdoor tables near a boulevard while traffic drives by, as I do) outdoor dining area. As Garrett pointed out, the fact that it is depressed a few inches from the surrounding pavement makes it feel like its own outdoor room.

I had three tacos, one each of carne asada, carnitas, and chicken. They were quite large – second largest so far this year  – and $1.85 each. Three of them left me feeling bloato (in a good way).

I started with the chicken taco. I noticed effective bilaminated tortillas, above average in size and with good sturdy feel to the mouth and fingers. There was a ton of marinated dark meat chicken chunks, and a lot of fairly spicy and good tasting salsa. The chicken was reminiscent, and I mean this in the most complimentary way, of the chicken served in tacos and burritos at Del Taco. I had the thought that this chicken would make for a fine burrito; but nay, I know better, because Garrett had a chicken burrito (the meat-rice-beans-salsa affair) and found it good but somewhat lacking in chickeny-ness. The taco was abundantly chickeny, so there you have it, chicken lovers – go for the taco.

Next I moved on to the carne asada taco. Heaping with meat that was a nice dark color and cut into appropriate small bits and with ideal texture, this taco was handsome. I took the first bite and was struck by winning flavors – first a slight buttery/fatty flavor, then salty, then the flavors of carne asada seasoning. The red salsa was fine. This taco was quite good. For once I can be certain it’s not just me, because a woman dining at the next table struck up conversation with us, telling us it was her first visit to Alvarez and she loved her carne asada burrito.

Finally, the carnitas taco, which was also good. A few weeks ago after going to Don Jorge, I was on the brink of renouncing carnitas tacos altogether in favor of guts, but I am back from the brink. Fine taco carnitas twice in a row, so carnitas and I are on friendly terms again (when will I find the time (or courage) for tasting tacos made from guts and tongues?). The carnitas at Alvarez had that quality of contrasting texture between tender bits and dry almost-crunchy-ish bits that is the hallmark of a worthy carnitas. There was a ton of it on my taco, and a ton of salsa as well, as you see in the picture. The meat was good, with excellent tooth feel, and a bit gamy in a good way. The flavor of the meat was mild, and I was glad for lots of tasty spicy salsa.

It’s counterproductive to the cincuenta taquerias project to return to local favorites for comforting tacos, rather than explore new venues to add to the roster; but I suspect I’ll be back to Alvarez a few times in 2010 nevertheless. Such dalliances cannot be avoided.

Posted: February 12th, 2010
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04 Mayas Tacos

04 Mayas Tacos

January 17, 2010

1600 N Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Echo Park

Garrett, Kirsten, Carmen and I went over to Russ’s side of town, and at his suggestion the five of us went to Mayas Tacos in Echo Park. Russ revealed himself to be fond of the Cochinita Pibil taco (“dirty little piggy”, a savory stewed shredded pork). I ordered three soft tacos, one each with the cochinita pibil, the steak (“tasajo”), and chicken, along with a half-liter bottle of Mirinda orange soda. Carmen ordered the pibil taco as well as one each with wet chicharron and dry chicharron. Tacos were above average in size, and $1.25 each – an excellent value.

Mayas provides a smattering of freshly-fried tortilla chips with your plate of tacos, and a small dish of a habanero-based salsa that is hot as the sun, and should be taken sparingly. The tortillas are quite unusual – they are handmade, and about 3mm thick, and served single-ply. They have a nice bumpy texture, but are soft and pliable rather than leathery.

The pibil was deliciously savory, and topped with citrus-pickled pink onion strings. I took a bite of the avocado and then removed it from my taco. The downside to this taco is that the soupiness of the meat soaked through the tortilla, and the underside of the tortilla felt wet and clammy as I picked it up. Russ tells me that, with respect to this pibil-soaking-tortilla phenomenon, the tacos vary.

Then I moved on to the steak, which they called Tasajo. There was plenty of meat on this taco, and it was delicious, savory, salty, slightly buttery, cooked just right. The chunks were of good and varied size, and there was so much meat that its bulk spilled a few chunks from the ends of my taco when I picked it up. But rest assured, those pieces did not go to waste.

Finally, I ate the chicken taco. I put on two spoonfuls of the habanero salsa, which made my mouth and face burn for a decade. This was the best chicken taco I’ve ever had – in long, stringy bits, strongly flavored, and not soupy, it was Taco Appropriate and Taco Righteous, unlike the chicken at many taquerias which seems like it would do better instead as a burrito, paired with a flour tortilla, rice and beans.

Posted: January 17th, 2010
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02 El Huarache Azteca

02 El Huarache Azteca

January 3, 2010

5225 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Highland Park

Damien, Ragen, Carmen and I went to El Huarache Azteca, near Ragen and Damien’s home and at their suggestion. They were right, it was delicious. I had three tacos, one each of carne adobada (aka al pastor), carne asada, and chicken, along with a Jarritos Mandarina. The tacos are good sized, not quite as big as Sanchez’s. They are $1.50 each if you don’t get the combo special.

All three were quite tasty. The al pastor is very savory, with smoky flavors, and has a pleasing contrast being chewy meat bits and crunchiness at the roasted edges. I had a green salsa from their salsa bar that had a good flavor. The carne asada was also excellent. I applied the red salsa, which has a roasted pepper flavor and is not immediately hot, but then has a long, slow afterburn, pretty good. I described this steak as having a buttery flavor, just as I had at Sanchez, and Carmen thought that this was an odd and fairly ridiculous description, but I’m going to stand by it for now. The chicken was also good, better than Sanchez, and in my opinion probably would make a very good burrito. It is dark meat and tastes marinated and grilly.

The tortillas were great, thick and doubled up, with good toothiness, slightly but not so leathery as Sanchez. In lieu of diced onions there were long slivers of red onions, and this was a nice change of pace from the usual finely diced raw onions that can overpower a taco.

Posted: January 3rd, 2010
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