Driving around East LA the last couple of years I noticed that there were always two or three cemita trucks that parked on Whittier Blvd near La China Poblana, a well-known cemita landmark. I would see these trucks but never bothered to pull over because cemitas are sort of one and you're done. But when I saw a tacos arabes sign on one of them I figured it was well worth checking out.
Cemitas Tepeaca parks at 3521 Whittier Blvd in a working class part of East LA where car washes, industrial shops, and mercados line the blvd. At night you’ll find a taco table or two but during the day it’s all about the cemitas, a sandwich that when made right puts your favorite hoagie to shame.
Traditional tacos arabes have shawarma style meat wrapped in a flour tortilla. These weren’t traditional but I still enjoyed them. The pork,grilled onions, and sauce had the flavor and heat of a good stir fry. The woman taking my order warned me that the sauce was spicy but it wasn’t very spicy. I get that all the time though. He’s a white kid with blond hair they think, he can’t possibly like spicy, give the guero the mild salsa. But I smile and say that I like spicy and they say, oh the guero likes spicy, give the guero spicy.
My plate came with one taco arabe ($3.50) and an extra tortilla to make another taco. Oh yes, I thought, this is what I get for asking for spicy, an extra tortilla to temper the heat. They are worried about me, I thought. But when there was no spice I figured they were always served this way.
I easily made another taco and had some meat left over to scoop up with my fingers. Sometimes I’ll be standing at a truck eating my tacos and all that is left is the droppings of meat and onions and I think to myself if it is worth it to use my fingers. There have been plenty of times where I have concluded that it was not, and then tossed the plate into the bin. But today it was, and it wasn’t just because no one else was around. Sometimes a taco is good enough that it’s ok to violate social etiquette even if no ones watching.
3521 Whittier Blvd
East LA 90023
tacos arabes $3.50
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