X1 Rolando’s Taco Shop

X1 Rolando’s Taco Shop

February 15, 2010

815 C St, San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego

Garrett and I road-tripped down to San Diego today, so that I could buy a bicycle I spotted on Craigslist – the world contains few other provocations that could motivate such a long drive. Lunchtime afternoon in San Diego, we detoured off the freeway to avoid a spot of traffic into downtown, and soon noticed Rolando’s Taco Shop. Located near Woodbury’s SD architecture school, we deduced that this must be a place where architecture students eat. The excellent plexiglas sign fitted into the window compelled us. The downtown neighborhood was quiet on this President’s Day afternoon.

We each ordered the plate of “5 mini tacos” for $5.99 each. We navigated the serveuse’s instructions – requesting that guacamole be skipped, and onions and cilantro only be provided. Instructed to choose only two meats per plate, I went with three carne asadas and two carne adobadas. Garrett chose carne asada and carnitas. They weren’t that miniature after all – four would have sufficed. They were nearly as big as the average taco. It made me wonder what the non-mini tacos at Rolando’s look like.

Tortillas were doubled, but not laminated, and fried to a mild leatheriness, unusually yellowy and corny. I liked them. The meat was also very tasty. The carne asada had a nice meaty flavor and was altogether right. The carne adobada was red and savory, and tasted like fried goodness, with some bits charred to a crispy blackness, but in a good way. I tried a bite of the carnitas, and found it fried and crispy. The green salsa from the salsa bar was a bit bland, but the rojo salsa was hot, thick, and with a deep red color. A fine meal!

This entry receives an “X-tacos” designation, because it’s not a Los Angeles-area taco shop, and thus not part of the AB0907 “Cincuenta Taquerías” project per se. Garrett suggested that such outliers should be given an “X” designation, cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-plane_(aircraft).

Posted: February 15th, 2010
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07 Tacomiendo

07 Tacomiendo

Feburary 7, 2010

4502 Inglewood Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

Culver City

Carmen and I went for lunch at Tacomiendo, a local favorite for Westsiders in a little Culver City strip retail building near Mar Vista. Carmen told me they feature handmade tortillas. In 2009 I didn’t recognize how important a component of the taco the tortilla is, but tortillas are the boss – that might be the first lesson learned from the cincuenta taquerias project. One grasps for an analogy – is the tortilla to the taco what the bassline is to the rock and roll song? Maybe it’s both the drums and the bass. The tortilla is the taco’s rhythm section.

Tacomiendo’s tacos are $2.35 each, from which fact I inferred they would be large. I ordered two of them, the carne asada and the carne adobada. They were above average in size, although not huge – in maybe the 80th percentile based on this year’s visits? Shame on me for bringing neither my scale nor my calipers with which I could objectively evaluate these tacos.

The tortillas are fantastic. They are 2mm thick and are graciously sized, so that they easily encompass the meat and allow you to eat the taco easily without any meat droppings. The tortillas are browned prior to serving, and the potent flavor of grilled tortilla – imagine if you will what you taste if you throw a flour tortilla onto a hot nonstick plan, brown it, and then eat it – comes through clearly amidst the flavors of the contents.

The carne asada here is very good, elegantly minimal with salt and pepper. It’s the straight-up carne asada. Tacomiendo features a full salsa bar, and you the customer are obliged or privileged to add the salsa, cilantro and raw white onion yourself. Tiny diced grilled green onions are mixed in with the meat, adding some savory flavor. I chose the rojo salsa, rather smoky-peppery and mild-to-medium in heat, and with the meat and tortilla, this made for a very satisfying carne asada taco.

The carne adobada was good too, although not terribly remarkable – if you eat one piece at a time with a fork, it tastes rather bland, but that center bite of the taco, which is thickest with meat thanks to lessons you learned in Taco Geometry 101, was rich with gamy and fatty flavor. I used the verde salsa on the adobada, which was tart but not as spicy as I would have preferred.

Carmen observed that I am happier after eating tacos. I pondered the truth of this – the best things in life are free, except for tacos, which are about $5, and represent one of life’s great modest experiences. Next time I go to Tacomiendo, I will eat three carne asada tacos, which should keep me very happy for hours if not days.

Posted: February 7th, 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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