Saturday, July 29, 2006

Taco Cart at Vermont & Venice Blvd

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A hunk of seasoned pork twists on a vertical spit, a hubcap like cylinder braises beef, chorizo and lengua with tubs of salsas, onions and cilantro awaiting at a nearby table. This is the taco cart. A fixture in the east side neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

The taco cart does not have a menu or a name. It is often an extension of the community where loyal customers know the cooks on a first name basis. You’ll find taco carts or as they are sometimes called taco tables at many parks in East LA and on the busy avenues and boulevards of the eastside.

The western most taco cart in LA that I am aware of is the taco cart at Vermont and Venice Blvd. A favorite of LA chowhounder known as Dommy, this taco cart sets up shop nightly around 8pm and burns the fire well into the night.

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I order three tacos al pastor and watch as the pork is cut from the spit and sizzles on the grill next to a mound of grilled onions and corn tortillas that soften from the pork drippings. In one motion the pork is soaked up with the soft tortillas and put on to the plate. The chef has the motions down to a science and makes it look like an artform.

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The pork is tender and juicy staining the toasted corn tortillas . The juice from the pork and the salsa combine together into a luscious gravy that soaks into the top tortilla and gives the taco great texture. The roja doesn’t make me reach for my cold beverage but it provides good balance.

The taco cart is the quintessential street taco. From the streets of Mexico City, to Tijuana to the streets of East Los Angeles there is this common attitude that derives from the street taco. The taco cart is the product of impulse. It pulls you in and seduces you.

And when you stand on the street corner with a plate of tacos with the traffic jam right in front of you but so far away you may realize that for this moment you are not in that marching order of monotony waiting for the next light to turn green. You've pulled over to the side of the road because as the fellas at TACO have so fittingly put it. You live the taco lifestyle.

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Vermont and Venice Blvd $1 tacos

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fiesta Taco

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Fiesta Taco is a taco hut on Hollywood Wy that serves up everything under the sun when it comes to mexican antojitos(cravings) . Get a plate of pozole, chile verde, chile colorado , even mariscos. The menu is massive with extra specials posted along the walls in photo and written form. I gazed around until I noticed a taco special (3 tacos and a soda for $4.50) and ordered two asada and one al pastor.

After my tacos were ready I scooped some of the salsa labeled "spicy" on to them from the salsa bar. There was also a pico de gallo, a salsa verde and another salsa with similiar color to the spicy that was labeled mild.

Outside there were tables and chairs but it was lunch time and none were empty so I kicked back on the hood of my car with my plate of tacos and coca cola.

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The al pastor won me over instantly. The marinated pork was soft and flavorfull. The spicy salsa really packed a wallop. The spice was strong but there’s also so much flavor to the salsa that it’s worth it and makes the ice cold coca cola taste all the more refreshing.

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al pastor

The asada was soft and delicious. Cuts of high quality beef were well prepared with a hint of citrus marinade and went well with the dark salsa. Again the coco cola provides the perfect balance.

The spicy salsa was impressive. The texture, the boldness, the stages of flavor- peppery sweetness followed by an intense heat.One of the finest salsas I've encountered on this taco hunt.

I may be giving out alot of 4 taco ratings lately(as some emailers have suggested) but it's summertime and it's taco season. That taco that may be a 3 during the winter or spring tastes so much better in the summer sun with a cold bottle of coke.

Fiesta Taco doesn't fall into that category though. They are 4 all year 'round.

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Fiesta Taco 1110 North Hollywood Way Burbank, 91505

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pepe's Tacos

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While many taco trucks park on the city streets wherever a space is available others find a permament home on driveways of other business’s and empty lots.

This is the case with Pepe’s tacos on West Adams. A taco wagon that sits on a lot next to an auto mechanic. Pepe’s has quite the setup with a tent that covers tables and chairs. There’s also a wooden sign set near the sidewalk and a large sign above the wagon that reads "OPEN".

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The cook (maybe Pepe?) wears a Pepe’s tacos hat, the girl behind the counter young enough to be Pepe’s daughter takes the orders.

I order asada and al pastor and a tamarindo. With the heat the tamarindo is like an oasis in the dessert, so refreshing and sublime. I drink it down fast and order another.

My tacos come with onions, cilantro, and a spicy salsa with an orangish tint suggesting habanero chiles in the mix. But the salsa is so complex and well prepared I can’t pin down the chile mixture. Possibly a secret recipe of Pepe’s. It’s outstanding nevertheless.
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The asada charred and packed with flavor,the warm grease from the meat soaking into the tortillas combined with the salsa roja makes for a delicious taste of chile,beef and toasted corn.
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carne asada

The al pastor has a tandoori-like flavor to it. It takes my taste buds a bite to adjust to the unexpected flavors but once I do I’m dancing. The pork is devoid of it’s porkyness and replaced by a heavy spice rub of cumin and achiote.

And that’s what made Pepe’s different. It wasn’t your standard taco wagon pumping out generic tacos. They were Pepe’s tacos.

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al pastor

I finished off my tacos and the rest of my tamarindo but the sun and the salsa and the heat started to get to me. The sweat on my brow fell into my eyes, the salsa roja filled up my cheeks like determined bees poking into a pot of honey. I reached for my cup of tamarindo but it was all but gone.

It was overwhelming for a moment, the heat from the sun and the salsa and the panic.I wanted to jump into a pool of tamarindo and do the backstroke and swim through the ice cubes. But as the seconds went on I reveled in the heat. I let it overcome me.The sweat dampened my hair, my shirt, my mind. I closed my eyes and thought of my youth running through the blistering summer sand of Santa Monica beach and jumping into the white wash of the pacific.

I gave in to another tamarindo, this time compliments of the house (or wagon)and crunching the ice and chugging down the sweet elixer I got back into my car heading west, another taco truck under my belt but so many more on the horizon.

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Pepe's Tacos 4608 W Adams. Tacos $1.25

Saturday, July 22, 2006

NY Times: Chasing the Perfect Taco

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NY Times: Chasing the Perfect Taco Up the California Coast

NY Times writer Cindy Price has written an excellent article on the taco trail from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The NY times crew hit highway 1 and sampled tacos up and down the coast. An impressive taco run and one that will go down in the annals of taco exploration.

El Parian, King Taco, El Taurino and Tacos Baja Ensenada make the cut in Los Angeles. Yours truly is mentioned and described as a taco-blogging sensation! Yes!

Fish tacos, carne asada , al pastor, lengua, even tacos de ojo! (cow eyes) are sampled. Ms Price and crew hit up 28 taquerias and 49 tacos in 5 days! Quite the taco conquistadors!

As Ali G would say, Respek

Thursday, July 20, 2006

LA City Council Raises Fines on Taco Trucks

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Councilperson Janice Hahn sought out the higher penalties for “repeat offenders”

The LA city council responded to the taco community today my friends. As CBS news has reported the city council has raised the fines for violating the catering truck ordinance. Previously fines were between $45-90 for your first three offenses. The first offense is now $90 with the third raised to $300. That’s 90 and 300 tacos if your counting. I am.

As previously covered on these pages the LA City Council passed an ordinance that forces a catering truck to move location every hour or face penalties.

So this is just a reminder to email your city council person and to contact Mayor Villaraigosa's office asking him to veto the ordinance.

Also don't forget to sign the save the taco truck petition

The ordinance goes into affect on July 23rd.

Chabelita Tacos

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Chabelita Tacos is a mexican fast food hut off the 10 freeway at Western Ave . They serve everything from tacos, burritos, tortas to cheeseburgers and hot dogs. They even have a mariscos truck by the same name that parks across the street.

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I ordered the asada and pastor. Tacos are $1.85 each and each taco comes on it’s own plate. They also have cabeza, pollo, carnitas and ground beef.

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carne asada

They are big and sloppy tacos covered in onions, cilantro, avocado sauce and a red salsa. The tacos are really heavy on the sauce. So heavy in fact my first bite into the al pastor was all salsa and onions. Once I got down to the meats they weren't bad but each bite was still dominated by onions and salsa.

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al pastor

Surprisingly the tortillas held everything together but I couldn’t help but think that all the fillings would have gone much better inside a burrito with some rice to counter the sauces.

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next time this is going inside a burrito

The taco can be complex but in it’s purest form it’s simplicity is it’s greatest strength. The tacos at Chabelita rely on a complex mix of tastes but fall short when it comes to execution.

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Tacos Chabelita
2001 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90018

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mojica Tacos

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On any given afternoon on the street corners of East Los Angeles you will find the taco wagon. Parked in front of auto repair shops or empty lots the taco wagon is an important cultural fixture on the eastside. It's where day laborers shuffle out of a work trucks, where locals socialize and fritter away the remaining sunlight , where the working man unbuttons his shirt, rolls up his sleeves and holds the taco in his palm that represents more than just the end of the work day.

We all come together knowingly or not stewing in this experience.

It’s the East LA taco cart where it’s important to act like you’ve been there before. Ordering in spanish helps, just don’t give any indications that you’re a soft westsider.

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al pastor and carne asada

My al pastor and asada tacos greeted me through a slideing glass window and I dressed the tacos with onions, cilantro, and salsa roja from the condiment table.

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carne asada

The beef just greasy enough to soften the corn tortillas and the salsa roja with a heavy chile arbol flavor had enough bite to have me scambling for my can of coca cola.

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al pastor

Thin slices of charred pork felt right with the carmalzied onions and spicy chile. The heat from the roja caught up to me and I had to sweat the last couple bites out but it was worth it.

Eating tacos from street vendors is a way of life in these parts where sitting on the hood of ones car with a plate of tacos and a cold beverage is what makes us Angelenos. We kick back. We kick back and eat tacos. Especially on the eastside.

The tacos were pleasing enough to not ruin the moment and that’s all anyone can really ask for. Sometimes it’s the experience not the tacos themselves that make it all worthwhile.

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Mojica Tacos
corner of Alhambra Ave & Hollister
El Sereno 90032

Rate Mojica Tacos

Saturday, July 15, 2006

La Golondrina

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At the border of El Sereno and Alhambra on Huntington Dr in front of a Food for less market parks one of LA’s finest taco trucks.

La Golondrina has a full menu with tacos, tortas, burritos, and enchiladas. Any taco truck that has enchiladas on the menu gets my attention. Pumping out tasty tacos is one thing but cheesy, saucy enchiladas out of a catering truck is hardcore. Lets the taco patron know there is some serious cooking going on. I didn’t order the enchiladas but I took note of it.

A sign reads "tacos de tripas $1.50", another "Horchatas $1" Another lists the meat options(asada, pastor, cabeza, lengua, chorizo) I ordered asada and al pastor and popped open a bottle of mexican coke.

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The medium sized tortillas were well oiled and pipeing hot and the asada juicy and very flavorful, the product of an excellent marinade. The salsa had some kick to it but the taco’s high points were the flavor of the beef and the juice that soaked into the toasted corn tortillas. The tortillas were sturdy enough to handle all the juice while a lesser taco may have collapsed.

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The al pastor was moist with several charred bits on top of a saucy blend of juice and carmalized onions. No vertical rotisserie in view but the texture and quality of the pork tasted as if it had been slow cooked and carefully prepared. Again the spicy tomato salsa was the perfect compliment and the soft toasted corn tortillas soaped up all the juicy goodness. These tacos are bigger than your average taco truck tacos and at $1 each are an incredible deal.

Huntingon Dr has it’s share of taco trucks. I passed by two others on my way to La Golondrina and made note of them. But this afternoon La Golondrina was the goal and having sampled their fine tacos I now have an excuse to return to Huntingon Dr again and check out the competition.

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La Golondrina
Huntington Dr
East of Eastern Ave
Front of Food For Less Market
El Sereno
Tacos $1 each

Rate La Golondrina

Friday, July 14, 2006

Save the Taco Trucks Petition

(Via TACO)

The fellas at TACO are joining the cause to save our city's taco trucks and have started a petition. Good idea guys!

Sign the petition today to help save LA's taco trucks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

update on taco truck ordinance

I recieved an email from Richard Myers of the Venice Neighborhood Council regarding the proposed catering truck ordinance. The Venice neighborhood council is going to consider a letter to Councilman Rosendahl opposing the ordinance.

Westminster Elementary School Auditorium, 1010 Abbott Kinney Blvd (around 7:30pm)
Tuesday, July 18th Agenda

The ordinance goes into effect July 23rd. It's not too late to email your city council representative.

Email,phone or fax Mayor Villaraigosa office asking him to veto this anti-taco truck ordinance and to encourage the city council to come up with a more creative solution.

as El Chavo says "when you outlaw tacos, only outlaws will have tacos"

Tacos Mexico

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Tacos Mexico is a chain taqueria that can be found throughtout Los Angeles. There’s also several locations throughout California and a location on the Las Vegas sunset strip.

It wasn’t so long ago that tacos were .60 cents at many Tacos Mexico . Now you’re more likely to find .95 cent tacos at most locations unless it’s tuesday. Tuesday is .45 cent taco day. Hell yes.

With that in mind I made my way to the Tacos Mexico at the corner of Alvarado and Glendale blvd in the Echo Park area. I was expecting a crowd of cheapskate taco patrons but to my surprise the place was nearly empty. I may have just missed the taco crowd or maybe the tacos truly taste like .45c.

The decor is flashy with red and white tiles and red and green fluorescent fixtures. There’s a salsa bar but I passed on it after noticing a dead fly in the roja and another fly swarming around. Hoping my tacos would come with enough salsa already on them I sat back and popped open the bottle of coke.

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The salted carne asada and soft al pastor went well with the dark salsa roja and the cabeza taco was suprisingly tasty with a mild salsa verde. All three tacos were far too oily however . The oil didn’t appear to come from the meats and looked to be from poor tortilla preparation. Well oiled corn tortillas are essential to a good taco but it was obvious the taco chef went overboard with the oil here. The excess grease even broke through the paper plate my tacos came on. The asada was quite good though with lots of flavor and no fatty bits.

Points taken off for the oil bath and the flies in the salsa bar but other than that these tacos had something going for them. If it’s tuesday you may still find me at a tacos mexico near you chowing down on some asada tacos.

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Tacos Mexico at Glendale and Alvarado, Echo Park. Open 24hrs

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

La Taquiza

The sign says tacos, burritos y mulitas but the menu at this popular downtown LA taqueria doesn’t stop there. The combination plates are piled high with your favorite traditional mexican cravings,the seafood platters are delicious and the horchatas are some of the best in the city.

The al pastor is roasted on a vertical spit, the asada char-grilled and the corn tortillas fresh and homemade on the spot. They also have a condiment bar with marinated onions and carrots as well as several salsa rojas and verdes. La Taquiza is everything you’d want a taqueria to be.

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I’ve been a fan of La Taquiza for awhile now but all this time I have never tried the mulitas. This is a taco hunt but the mulita is from the same family as the taco.It’s somewhat of a quesadilla/taco hybrid. They grill two fresh corn tortillas and melt cheese on each of them, take some meat and spread some guacamole and some salsa roja and then press the two sides together like a sandwhich. Delicioso! The saltyness of the pork entwined with gooey cheese, the creamy avocado and toasted fresh corn were amazing. Oh my.

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al pastor mulita and carne asada taco

It was hard to top the mulita but the carne asada was equally as pleasing. The tender juicy beef was charred in the right spots and the salsa roja provided a little kick. The soft toasted fresh corn soaked up the excess juices from the beef and salsa and I washed it all down with an ice cold rice horchata.

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carne asada

Excellent taco and the mulita was delicious. I'll be ordering mulitas more often when I see them on a menu to compare them to LA Taquiza.

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LA Taquiza
3026 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Tacos $1.45
Mulita $2.70

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tacos La Flama

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Tacos La Flama has been on the scene for a few years now having replaced a Campos Famous Burritos. Parking at this mini mall can be hard to come by and luck would have it some jack ass took up two spots with his Range Rover and I was forced to park half way down the block.

Serenity now, serenity now.

I'm quickly becoming a fan of this place though. They even have a butcher at the rear of the restaurant that sells carnes de cesina y chorizo. Cesina is aged beef that tastes similiar to carne asada the major difference being that cesina is much leaner. I bought some cesina a few weeks back and grilled it up and it was excellent.

If tacos aren't your game (then again why would you be reading a taco blog?)try the chicken burrito mojado. It's a shredded chicken burrito topped with enchilada sauce and melted cheese.

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As far as the tacos the asada was disapointing. The beef had a lemon flavor that was so overwhelming I could barely get through the first taco.

The carnitas was a little dry but nothing an extra cup of salsa roja couldn't remedy. But the al pastor was the real show stealer. The pork had a candy like glaze to it with the perfect balance of tenderness and crunch.
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Try the al pastor and cesina but don't be a jack ass and take up two parking spots.

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2404 S Barrington Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone (310) 966-9027
$1.25 tacos
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