A Mini “Taco Tour” in Downtown Los Angeles

El Taurino's Truck in their Parking Lot

This week I spent time in my hometown Los Angeles.  I was there to attend and speak at Blog World Expo and while I was looking forward to seeing some good friends, listen to some great talks, and learn what others are doing in blogging I was more excited about a “taco tour” I planned with a couple friends – Brandie and Kelly – who were adventurous enough to join me on a few taco stops I planned to make in Downtown LA.

I follow several taco blogs, but one stands out among the rest of us: The “Great Taco Hunt” blog (http://www.greattacohunt.com) covering the taco truck scene in southern California.  Considering my love of ‘street tacos’ grew out of my times spending practically every Friday and Saturday night in the late 1980s eating out of a yellow taco truck off Fair Oaks Boulevard in Pasadena, California I could’ve only dreamed about having the depth of information about the LA taco scene the Great Taco Hunt blog provides.

The self-proclaimed “taco tour” would take us to four places; though, one ended up not being there so we made three stops: La Taquiza, King Taco and El Taurino (Mexicali Taco being the 4th that wasn’t around the Thursday night we tried stopping by around 9:30pm.)

King Taco's original restaurant location

King Taco

Our first stop ended up being everyone’s favorite which  unfortunately put the future stops at a disadvantage.  I ordered the carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas all on corn tortillas with cilantro and diced onions and of course King Taco’s famous salsa roja.

Complete with logo napkin and famous salsa roja

Lightly dribbling the richly colored salsa on the carne asada I took one bite and it bit me back.  Wow! The salsa roja is like no other. Its rich, creamy texture is amazing, especially when you get just the right amount – not too little and especially not too much.  I’m sure I’ve had nothing close to its perfection. The spices are intense and are sure to clear any congestion the LA freeway or hindering LA smog has entered your system.  This will clear everything right up and is certainly a cure to any late night drinking too.

The grilled beef is nicely done with some charring and well spiced for those who opt out of the salsa roja.  The al pastor taco was good, but I’ve had better.  The color is rich from the vertical spit it roasts on. There was almost no fat on the meats and while the carnitas was a bit dry (isn’t it always) the tacos were a great start to our “tour.”

La Taquiza proving a strip mall can be cool

La Taquiza

Up next was La Taquiza, a taqueria squeezed into the crease of a small strip mall that seemed to be ignored by most of the strip mall patrons who were busy buying beer, cigarettes and lotto tickets next door.

La Taquiza had a deep menu promoting mostly its fish taco offerings and unfortunately I couldn’t recall what the Great Taco Hunt wrote about this place.  The blog reviewed a type of cousin to the taco known as mulitas, a kind of “quesadilla/taco hybrid.” I went with my normal order of beef and pastor tacos and tried a chicken taco too.

Just like Sizzler...

They have a condiment bar area where you add your own cilantro and onions. You can also choose from four different types of salsa. I went with a creamy light green salsa and their hot sauce – neither competed well after having King Taco’s salsa roja, but the green salsa was a welcome choice with the chicken taco.

I really liked the carne asada taco here and it ended up being my personal favorite out of the three stops.  It had the right charred crunchiness to it without being dry and the spices went well with their more tame hot sauce.

Carne asada, al pastor, and a chicken taco.

Kelly ordered some fresh house-made tortilla chips. They were a great ending to this round of tacos.  We ended Thursday night here and would make it to El Taurino the next night, since we wanted to catch some of the events and free drinks at BlogWorld.

 

Inside El Taurino's bull fighting shrine

El Taurino

It has been probably 20 years since I had been on the famous Alvarado Street. It’s where the nation’s first El Pollo Loco fast food chicken restaurant began, but is also unfortunately well known for its gang wars in the 1980s where drug dealing was rampant in MacArthur Park.

Pulling into El Taurino we were greeted by parking lot security guards which were becoming a typical addition, since King Taco also had a security guard the night before. We weren’t sure if this was for customer safety or people using the parking lot who shouldn’t be. Whatever the situation, security here was very friendly and thanked us for coming after we finished our meal inside. I’m guessing we looked a bit out of place.

A perfect trio: 2 carne asada and a suadero

El Taurino is adorned inside with wall paintings, posters, and artwork celebrating the art of bull fighting. The tables feel like they’ve been lifted from a McDonald’s back when I was 9 years old (please don’t try to figure out what year that was or I’ll feel really old.)

It’s also worth noting that El Taurino is part of the King Taco family as they both share the salsa roja, but the food here is different.

The order window was full of energy as the kitchen to the right was busy with middle-aged women cooking some of the best Mexican food in LA.  The burritos are very popular as are the tortas, but I was here for tacos. I ordered 6: 2 carne asada, 2 al pastor, 1 barbacoa, and 1 suadero (beef brisket from the breast of the cow.)

The carne asada looked as if it was a steamed beef with a helping of diced onions on top. Of course the salsa roja went well with this option, but the virtually forgotten salsa verde was excellent too, though better on the barbacoa.

A pair of al pastor tacos

The al pastor had a few pieces of fat I discarded and came with some grilled onions mixed in. It was the best of the al pastor tacos I had on this short tour.  Next up the barbacoa proved to be a solid choice. It didn’t suffer too much from the slimy consistency found at most places.  At El Taurino it was slightly wet and the salsa verde added just the right extra boost.

What really impressed though was the suadero with the salsa roja. The two combined worked together since the suadero had just the right texture and flavor that added to the roja’s kick.

El Taurino was packed, both inside and the taco truck outside.  It’s obviously a neighborhood favorite and it was easy to understand why.

 

Taco Tour Wrap Up

Best taco of the three:  the carne asada at La Taquiza.

Best salsa: King Taco’s salsa roja.

Best atmosphere: El Taurino’s shrine to bull fighting.

 

Locations:

King Taco. 1118 Cypress Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90065

La Taquiza. 3026 S Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90007

El Taurino. 1104 South Hoover St.  Los Angeles, CA 90006

 

Special Thanks to The Great Taco Hunt blog for having such an easy layout and an excellent taco palate.  If you love tacos, you will the blog and if you ever get to Los Angeles be sure to take your own ‘taco tour.’

 

 

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Categories: Reviews

Author:Chris Baccus

Just your average guy looking for the perfect street taco in a gas station now that food trucks now have twitter accounts, facebook pages, and $5,000 worth of vehicle marketing wrap.

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You can also connect via email: gasstationtacos@gmail.com

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