Friday night is taco night in Los Angeles. Friday night is when the trompos come out. From Highland Park to Montebello to South Central the streets are alive with al pastor. The rotating spits of pork line the streets in even the grittiest parts of town and the tacos cut from them are some of the best in LA.
A few years ago it was rare to find pineapple on top of an al pastor spit in LA, but not anymore. The bulbs of onion that crowned many of LA’s al pastor spits have been replaced by the more traditional al pastor condiment. Al pastor vendors use different methods of preparation though, from the more traditional style of cutting the pork from the trompo directly on the tortilla, to the more common practice of cutting the pork from the spit on to the plancha, mixing it with grilled onions, and scooping it up with corn tortillas. The former is rare in LA, with Tacos Leo and Tacos Tamix being the only known purveyors of this method.
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They run a pretty tight operation at Tacos El Guero. One man takes the orders and handles the money, another mans the al pastor spit, while another is in charge of cooking the offals, sausage, and carne asada; all of which are cooked in a cylinder grill, except for the buche which is crisped up on a flat top grill. Inside the truck cooks prepare tortas and burritos, but the action is outside the truck; most people are here for the tacos.
On occasion the taquero cut the pork right from the spit on the tortilla but as the orders started coming at a faster rate he used the flat top next to the trompo. The pork wasn’t crisped up on the flat top. Instead, the taquero would cut a large amount of pork off the spit on to foil, then rest the foil on the flat top and make up all the tacos. This was probably not the most theatrical manner of taquero-ing, but it got the job done.
Once my tacos were ready I attempted to garnish them from the salsa tubs on the table next to the truck but I was no match for the salsa baggie lady, who for the next 10 minutes reigned over the table as if this were the Game of Salsas. Getting past her to garnish my tacos was like throwing a lamb chop past a wolf. The cups weren’t enough; she thought it necessary to ladle the salsa into the plastic bags that are meant for condiments like onions, cilantro, and radishes.
There was no pineapple on my al pastor, a fact I didn’t realize until I started eating my tacos. I may have been distracted by the fact I was in South Central (Yeah, they changed the name to South LA a few years back but it’s still South Central). Nevertheless, the al pastor was excellent .The seasoning had a little spice to it and the meat had the right balance of tender and charred bits. With so much flavor only a little dab of salsa was needed.
The carne asada was just okay. I always order at least one asada taco when I’m taco- trucking, but this time I should have gone with buche, which was being cooked up just the way I like it – dorado style. But missing out on the buche gives me another excuse to head back to the corner of Vernon and McKinley in South Central. Also, next time I won’t forget to ask for piña.
Para Tacos El Guero
Vernon and McKinnley
Los Angeles, 90011
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