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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2011.02 Tacos Tamix

2011.02 Tacos Tamix

February 5, 2011

Parked at the front of the car wash at 2400 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

Pico-Union

Bandini at The Great Taco Hunt shared with us the fact that the great Tacos Leo had some competition for best al pastor here in the middle part of the city. Carmen and I finally went to Tacos Tamix last night, eager to find out for ourselves. It was Friday night just after 9:00 PM, prime time for eating tacos fresh from the trompo. We had both recalibrated our al pastor meters with a trip to Leo two weeks earlier.

Tamix has a great spot, in a car wash (that was actually seeing some use despite the chilly evening) but right next to the sidewalk. There was a cozy, collegial atmosphere among the taco eaters gathered there, as if Pico Boulevard were somebody’s backyard.

I ordered four tacos al pastor, good-sized at $1.00 each. The trompo-master showed us his moves, deftly manipulating the spit and artfully cutting slices of pineapple to be caught mid-air by the taco-mitt. I applied the very spicy red salsa from the condiment table. The meat was sliced thin, more like shavings than chunks of filet. The pineapple chunks were substantial.

These tacos were super delicious, as good as Tacos Leo on a normal day, and better than Leo on a bad day (we have found Tacos Leo to be always good, but not consistently at its best). The pork was tender and flavorful, and the sweet toasted pineapple slices completely subdue one’s internal thought conversation with a sense of happy worshipful respect. Tacos Tamix is most worthy.

Posted: February 5th, 2011
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2011.01 Lomo Arigato

2011.01 Lomo Arigato

January 31, 2011

10601 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Culver City

The blog has been so silent. I took the month of January off, and though I ate tacos plenty and burritos manifold, revisiting some dear old taco shop acquaintances, I visited no new taco shops. The cincuenta taquerías project has concluded. I visited 60 different Los Angeles-area taco shops in the year 2010. It was a worthwhile and rewarding project and I conclude by recommending such projects. The taco project made my 2010 memorable. It is good to define a project, no matter how trivial or irrelevant, and then set out to do it, and then do it. Furthermore, it is good to visit taco shops and eat tacos whether you are self-reflective about it or not.

I will keep the blog active and post to it occasionally when I have something to say about tacos or taco shops, but the updates may be more like monthly than weekly. I recommend The Great Taco Hunt for your regular taco news fix.

Furthermore, I intend to collate my photos and writings from the past year and design a book, which I will make to be published. I expect that only one copy will be sold, and to myself. I will take good care of it, and then donate it late in life to an important research library. My hope is that it finds its way into the hands of a taco archaeologist 100 years from now, when society has plunged deep into the Mad Max-Max Headroom days but there will still be some weird Brazil scene where a nerdy guy with thick glasses is conducting obscure research in a grey jumpsuit in a grey room with a typewriter hooked up to a computer who needs to know about the world of tacos in the year 2010. This book is dedicated to you, future nerd version of myself. I will announce the book’s publication to my blog’s half-dozen readers when it is ready.

Last week I learned that the underused parking lot at the former bank building at the corner of Washington and Overland in Culver City has been rechristened “Westside Food Truck Central,” and several days a week plays host to a revolving set of gourmet food trucks. Five minutes from my office! Ambivalent feelings of the twitter-driven gourmet food truck “scene” must be set aside when it actually is convenient and appealing to eat from gourmet food trucks. I cheerfully try to convince myself that life must be awesome, that has such gourmet food trucks in it! Amidst fine weather I visited today and found three food trucks circled around a collection of folding tables and chairs. I was compelled and excited to visit the Lomo Arigato truck and order a Lomo Saltado.

Lomo saltado, a stir fry of beef loin, onion, tomato, and french fries in a soy sauce-based sauce, served with rice, is a Chinese-influenced staple of Peruvian cuisine, and truly one of the finest creations known to the international community of humankind. The Lomo Arigato version is not the best lomo saltado in town, but is quite good, and large and filling; it’s cheaper than going to a Peruvian restaurant at $8; and it comes from a truck. It was most pleasing, actually. Its thinly-sliced meat and long-cooked onions reflect Lomo Arigato’s Japanese influence – the dish recalls a version of Gyu Don (which is to say, what you get when you order a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl) with tomatoes and french fries thrown into the mix.

Speaking of Lomo, I am pleased to announce that I have more or less launched my new blog project. It is entitled The Lower Modernisms and is hosted at http://lomo.architectureburger.com/ . Its subject is architecture and design, specifically those forms of design that are Modernist in style and intent, but fall just short of meeting the minimum standards of actual Modernism. (You must be this Modernist to ride the Modernism ride). Whereas I knew nothing and had no opinions about tacos prior to 2010, I have been stockpiling opinions on crappy Los Angeles Modernizing architecture for years, so I intend to post more frequently than I did post here to my fondly thought-of, but now historical, taco blog project. Thank you, dear half-dozen readers, for your kind support.

Posted: January 31st, 2011
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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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45 Tacos El Primo

45 Tacos “El Primo”

September 7, 2010

Alley just north of Adams Blvd at Redondo Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

Carmen and I ventured out for Tuesday evening tacos, seeking trompo. On Saturday night we had seen a giant sidewalk trompo right on the sidewalk in front of a Tacos Guadalajara truck, now occupying the spot on Adams in front of the R-Ranch Bodega, where the Tortas Ahogadas truck used to park. We drove by and espied no trompo, so we figured to head up to Venice and La Brea, my new favorite taco intersection, and not because that’s where the combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut is either. We didn’t get past the corner of Adams and Redondo before we spotted another truck, however, and lo and behold, they had a trompo in the window. Trompo fortune.

Tacos “El Primo” is a small taco trailer pulled by an awesome two-tone tan-and-brown F350 “Dually” pickup truck. It is parked in a potholed alley parallel to and north of Adams Boulevard, next to an empty corner lot and in between a humble four-unit apartment building and the back of A&C Appliances – a spontaneous taco community appears regularly in this gritty interstitial space. I found Bandini’s review of Tacos “El Primo” from September 2006, where the photographic evidence reveals the same truck and the same trailer parked in the same place four years ago to the day. Tacos “El Primo” might look to the observer like an exemplification of the ephemeral nature of taco supply and demand in Los Angeles, but it is a surprisingly permanent fixture. Eating here is a veritable flashback in time to four years ago, when the economy boomed and it seemed like the party would never stop. Everything turned to shit, but Tacos “El Primo” remained.

I ordered two tacos al pastor and one carne asada, cheap at $1.00 each. Horchatas are also $1.00 each. It’s like 2006 all over again! Tacos are served plain, and there are large bins containing salsa and a premixed mixture of onion and cilantro. I applied the red to the steak and one al pastor taco, and the green to the other. The tortillas are nicely oiled and griddled to effective leatheriness.

Carmen loved these tacos. Carmen raved about the steak, which I found very juicy and moist – Carmen glimpsed the steak being boiled briefly in a dark liquid filled with grilled onions before being griddled. But the red salsa bollixed up my taco. It was pretty spicy, but it tasted like soap. The green salsa was far better.

The al pastor was good, but not among the best – I’m not even sure it came from the trompo, since it looked like they were only just firing it up, and we might have come to early for the righteous pork treat. It was tender and thoroughly marinated, but saucy and quite sweet with chunks of fruit and onion in the sauce; good enough for me to give it the endorsement of pronouncing it taco-righteous.

Posted: September 7th, 2010
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41 Venice and La Brea Taco Truck aka “El Latino” Catering aka Leo’s Tacos

41 Venice and La Brea Taco Truck aka “El Latino” Catering aka Leo’s Tacos

August 19, 2010

Venice Blvd at La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019

Mid-City

This taco truck is awesome.

Carmen noticed a few months ago that this truck, parked at the Unocal 76 station at the northwest corner of Venice and La Brea, was attracting big crowds, despite its proximity to the famed El Chato truck. I saw the compelling al pastor spit with my own eyes. I read Bandini’s favorable review of the place. It has been too many weeks since I last had righteous tacos, and I have been craving just that – fancy tacos and weird tacos leave me wanting for righteous tacos, those tight little doses of elegant perfection, where the tortillas are not homemade but oiled and griddled to leatheriness, the meats are savory and diced small, and the salsa is red hot.

Celebrating the end of my working week and the arrival of the weekend – tacos are to meals as weekends are to weeks – Carmen and I went up the road to Venice Boulevard. Bandini called this truck Leo’s, but I didn’t notice any name on the truck other than “El Latino” Catering. Furthermore, this truck is clearly different from the one in Bandini’s pictures from a month ago, although everything else matches up, including the staff. No matter – at the moment I am feeling too much calm reverence for this taco truck to pronounce its sainted name aloud.

We went to the truck at about 7:00 PM – unlike with the late-opening El Chato truck, there is no need to kill the evening boozing somewhere while waiting to eat tacos. This location on Venice Boulevard is a fine specimen of tacogeography. The absurd width and underdevelopment of this automobile-oriented stretch of Venice Boulevard provides the setting for the adaptive reuse of the edge of an overlarge gas station where half the pumps have been decommissioned. This is a transient, fugitive space, lacking all of the qualities that anyone would use to describe a nice neighborhood; but here crystallizes regularly a temporary community gathered together to share in the eating of righteous food. While you are here, it’s the greatest place on earth. It’s outside, and it’s in and of the city.

I ordered two tacos al pastor and one each of the carne asada and the carnitas, a bargain at $1.00 each for average-size tacos. Carmen, knowing something good when she sees it, ordered four al pastor tacos. The serveur directed the carne asada and carnitas orders to the truck, and the al pastor orders to the master of the spit. Carne asada and carnitas were done first – the taquero in the truck called my order and handed me a plate of undecorated tacos, just meat on bilam’d tortillas. The condiment table features the standard items, which without skill I applied to my tacos. The cilantro was diced into tiny bits, an attribute Carmen declared essential to the righteous taco, with which I agree, but I don’t know why it is so. The rojo is quite spicy, the green thick and appropriately herby.

The knife-wielding master of the al pastor spit does his work out front of the truck, out in the open. Dozens of pork filets are piled high on the spit in front of what looks like a glowing concrete breeze-block with a fire behind it. Half a pineapple sits on top. When he got the order, the taquero grabbed tortillas, dipped the edge in the puddle of hot oil and drippings beneath the spit, and flung the oil from the tortillas onto his griddle. The tortillas sat there a while, achieving the perfect leatheriness and crispening. For the next step, the taquero scooped up the bilam’d tortillas and with large knife carved slivers of pork directly from the spit into his tortilla hand. The taco full of pork went face-down back on the griddle, to crisp the edges of the meat; and finally before being served, slivers of caramelized pineapple were sliced and placed on top.

I garnished these tacos with spicy rojo and eagerly brought my paper plates to the trunk of Carmen’s car. I ate an al pastor taco first. Sweet heaven, this taco was just right, the tortillas perfectly crisped and the al pastor phenomenal. Neither saucy nor dryrubby, the meat was dense with flavor that seemed integral to the meat, both savory and fruity. The excellent pineapple complemented the pork perfectly. Pineapple is underrated, as it is surely the best tasting of all fruits – the al pastor of fruits if you will.

The other tacos were great as well, although it seems unfair to compare them against the al pastor. The splendor of al pastor crowds my brain leaving all other meats forgotten. I almost feel sorry for the taqueros who work in the truck preparing all the non-pastor items, of which they offer a good variety – every day they have to compete against the man with the spit. It’s not their fault.

The carne asada was a fine specimen of carne asada, sparely furnished, finely diced and well textured. The spicy rojo perfected this taco. The carnitas, bright orange on its exterior, is striking – when I picked up the plate, Carmen and I both looked at it and said “Ooo!” This taco was the largest – its tortilla-filling handful brought to mind its contrast with the relatively diminutive tacos up the street at El Chato’s. We nibbled and I found that the carnitas had the paradoxical oily lightness of having been just-fried, with strong pork-fat flavor. I chose the green salsa for this one, and greatly enjoyed it, although I must admit that I was distracted by memories of the al pastor taco I just ate and by visions of the second al pastor taco that I was about to eat. I was in taco heaven for quite a few minutes.

My experience this evening – eating the best meal I’ll have all month, on the trunk of a car parked in a disused gas station as the sun set over Venice Boulevard on a summer evening, for a grand total of four dollars – this for me is what tacos are all about. The euphoria of another awesome taco experience briefly brings meaning and order to the fuckedupness of everyday life. I have an urge to terminate the cincuenta taquerías project and declare it successful and completed, now that I know I have found that everything I need in this world is available at this disused gas station two miles from my home. But I will soldier on, buoyed by the hope that maybe tacos will bring me good fortune yet again.

Posted: August 19th, 2010
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20 Cemitas Originales Angelica’s

20 Cemitas Originales Angelica’s

April 13, 2010

Venice Blvd between Jasmine Ave and Vinton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

Palms

Twenty taco shops deep into 2010, I revisit my taco roots. I luncheoned today at Angelica’s, or as my friends call it, “Cemitas Poblanas” or simply “Taco Truck”. This truck specializes in the Puebla-style sandwich known as the cemita, which seems to be their biggest seller, but the tacos are still taken seriously. Angelica’s was the first ever taco truck from which I ate, and the first place I discovered the magic of Al Pastor, way back in 2004. Their al pastor is not the best in the city, but it’s still dang delicious, and it remains the benchmark by which I judge all others.

Angelica’s parks in front of the Smart & Final on Venice Boulevard in Palms, one of the only trucks regularly parked in this diverse, dingbat-filled neighborhood.

Today I ordered three tacos, the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas. They were $1.25 each, slightly larger than average, and served after just a couple of minutes’ wait. I proceeded logically from left to right, first eating carne asada. This taco was such a normal carne asada taco (and keep in mind that normal=delicious in the case of tacos) that I struggle to comment on it – by the time it had cooled down enough to pick up in the hand, it went by in a flash of light, heat and taste that seems to have wiped my memory clean of all thought and anxiety. Tortillas were the normal type, bilaminated. I did suffer a partial tortilla failure on this first taco, but the others withstood. The salsa is thick, pretty spicy and quite strong. The steak was chopped finely and was very beefy, with good texture and the good kind of buttery fatty flavor.

I moved on next to the taco al pastor. It was my favorite. The meat is cut into small pieces, and it’s orange except where it’s been charred to near black, with more textural variation than is typical of al pastor. It’s saucy but also seems a little dry-rubby somehow. The intensity of flavor – a chorizo-like garlic-chile-onion, with salt and citrus pouncing on it – is truly overwhelming, and would be so even without the addition of red salsa on the top. There are plenty of chunks of fat in the meat. Sometimes I find some gristly bits, but not today. It really was a wonderful taco.

Al pastor is a funny thing. I know what it’s hypothetically supposed to be – sliced from a revolving spit with a slice of pineapple sitting on top – but most of the time, I don’t know where it comes from or how they have made it. It’s different every time. I don’t have the vocabulary or the power of discernment to analyze the competing flavors, and I can’t define it in such a way that all examples would be covered. I will not be the author of the Unified Field Theory of Al Pastor. All I can do is taste it and humbly appreciate its stage presence, its tall, dark and brooding good looks and winning charisma.

A lesson: “al pastor” is Spanish for “shepherd-style”. Jesus was a shepherd. By the transitive property, the Taco al Pastor is the taco that answers the question, WWJD? Carmen and I are making a small effort to popularize the phrase “al pastor” as a universal term for praise: as in, “Check out that hot-rodded Honda Ruckus! That shit is al pastor!” or, “The new Herzog & de Meuron project has a really al pastor façade.”

The carnitas taco was third in the lineup. I enjoyed it, but the meat is not remarkable – it’s the grey carnitas of uniform texture and moist stringy tenderness that you find when carnitas is not a specialty. The green salsa was more extraordinary, being a very potent salsa verde, spicy and intensely cilantro-centered. It reminded me of the aji verde I enjoy at Peruvian restaurants.

Posted: April 13th, 2010
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13 A Wok through Mexico

13 A Wok through Mexico

March 25, 2010

East Los Angeles College Campus, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754

Monterey Park

It was a good day to visit the taco truck parked on the East Los Angeles College campus. You would think it would be good, since it’s in East LA, but you would also think it would be bad, because it’s on a college campus. But in fact neither, it’s kinda meh. If you check out the photo, you’ll see that the ambience is unbeatable – Not one but two E-Z Ups? Now I’ve seen everything.

I attempted to order one each of carne asada, pastor, carnitas and chorizo, but the latter two were unavailable. It was 1:30, maybe I was too late? So I ordered two carne asada and two al pastor tacos with everything. I was asked if I wanted red or green salsa. I opted for green in both cases, because it’s spicier than the red. The tacos are $1.25 each, but smaller than average. Four is a good number to eat for a nice, light meal.

First I ate a carne asada taco. I observed that the flavor was good, and the meat juicy, but diced a little too finely. The tasty and very spicy green salsa overwhelms the beef, but I liked it.

Next I ate an al pastor taco. The meat is saucy and leaks an orange oily liquid, and intensely flavored. The flavor is reminiscent of chorizo – is it garlic and chile pepper that does it? Combined with the spicy green salsa, this taco is a flavor explosion in your mouth. This al pastor taco was delicious, but felt like a cheap thrill. It lacked subtlety and refinement.

Unfortunately, I suffered tortilla failure on both al pastor tacos. The tortillas were the ordinary kind and single ply, surprisingly. Presumably, that orange oily liquid dissolves tortillas the same way it’s now dissolving my stomach lining.

Posted: March 25th, 2010
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08 Tacos El Korita

08 Tacos El Korita

February 8, 2010

S Herbert Ave at E Olympic Blvd, East Los Angeles, CA 90023

East Los Angeles

Taking advantage of a pleasant evening, I stopped off at another great East Los Angeles taco truck on my way home from work. The Tacos El Korita truck was another that had a good reputation on the interwebs, and I knew to expect fine handmade tortillas. I was not disappointed. The tortillas have that quality I have termed leathery – resilient and slightly denty to the tooth, the tortillas soak up some taco juices without saturating or getting clammy, and have a good finger feeling as you hold them in your hand.

I ordered three tacos for $1.25 each – carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas. They were somewhat above average in size, and perfectly proportioned. They came on the plate sans salsa, cilantro and raw onions, but with that beautiful pile of grilled onions instead; a full compliment of salsas and toppings was available on the stainless steel countertop. The picture shows my handiwork prior to scooping the grilled onions on top.

These were all superdelicious. I ate the al pastor first, and this is what I would consider a classic al pastor – the flavor is very potent, and it’s reminiscent of the pastor at a truck from which I’ve eaten dozens of times, the Cemitas Poblanas truck on Venice near Clarington in front of Smart and Final. The fine, leathery tortillas and grilled onions made a superior taco.

Next I ate carnitas. Finally, I have found delicious carnitas at a taco shop! The meat was a rich brown instead of the stringy grey stewy meat one frequently encounters, and it had the delightful combination of textures that good carnitas provides – crunchy bits, tender mouth-melting bits, chewy bits. The bits were good-sized chunks, and some of them give you that enjoyable feedback you get when you bite into something chewy like a caramel. And also, it tasted very good.

Then I ate carne asada. The meat was very dark and, I dare say it, sweet and flavorful, varied in texture, reminding me a bit of beef jerky in the best possible way.

Each of these tacos was so good that I can pick no favorite. When I return to El Korita for another deeply moving $3.75 meal, I will again order one of each of carnitas, al pastor, and carne asada.

Posted: February 8th, 2010
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