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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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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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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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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03 Las Ranas Cafe Restaurant

03 Las Ranas Cafe Restaurant

January 10, 2010

5237 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

West Adams

Carmen and I went to a local favorite, Las Ranas (“the frogs”) Cafe Restaurant, not far from our home at the Village Green. I was initially attracted to their storefront sign, proudly proclaiming “TACOS AL PASTOR” above an illustration of a revolving meat spit thing, which bears a resemblance to a giant steaming turd. The dining room is nice, except that they have a couple of big televisions, which are turned up unfortunately too loud.

I had three tacos, one each of carne asada, al pastor, and chuleta (pork chop), as well as a Jarritos Mandarina. The tacos here are solid, if not extraordinary. They are average in size and cost $1.25 each. The tortillas here aren’t so good as the last couple places I’ve been – they are soft on the bottom, but not so soft that they delaminate and stick to your fingers, which I hate. They are average. The tacos have a lot of cilantro on them. While you wait, they bring you a basket of chips and a caddy with four types of salsa. The spicy rojo is good and tastes like what it looks like. The thicker green sauce is strong and pungent with lots of cilantro, reminiscent of the Peruvian “aji verde” sauce.

The pork chop taco is unusual. The meat is chopped into quite small and thin bits, probably from a pork chop that was pounded with a mallet into thinness before cooking. It has the strong salty, seasoned flavor you find in Latin American pork chops. The green salsa, also very salty, seemed to go with this taco, and made a pleasing and salty combination.

The steak was fine, but unremarkable. The al pastor is very tasty, though. Also cut into quite small bits, it’s savory and consistent, but not terribly distinctive.

In summary, Las Ranas is an average taco shop, so of course, I love going there.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
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