January 08, 2011

Great Taco Hunt 2k11: East LA

by k.chon

There are many reasons why the West Coast = Best Coast.  Undoubtedly, the Golden State plays a key role in all of its justified glory. CA's got mountains, valleys, forests, beaches, and deserts situated within hours from each other, loveable weather, and a variety of authentic foods that could fool even foreigners.

For us lucky Angelenos, we've got tacos, and we (I?) go loco for them! That's why I was determined to find "LA's best taco," for once and for all. Little did I know that this task is almost akin to impossible. You see, there are good tacos, mediocre tacos, and bad tacos (relatively easy assessment), but at the upper echelon, the top contenders vary slightly, making each taco delicious for different reasons. One vendor cooks its el pastor to a crisp, whereas another makes its own corn tortilla right off the truck. One vendor cooks all its meat in one huge pot almost in shabu-shabu fashion, while another vendor cooks its tortilla for a few seconds longer on the grill so they acquire more crunch and less fluff. And this is all what a few hungry and curious taco-lovers encountered on Part One of the Great Taco Hunt 2k11.

After hitting up five different trucks east of the 110 and west of the 710 (see map below), and collectively consuming 52 tacos, the "best taco" award [of the five] goes to...

Taco Table!
3458 E. Cesar Chavez Ave { yelp }
Thing to get: el pastor mulitas

Carne Asada Mulita - $2

The mulitas (basically two tacos sandwiched together with cheese) were lip-smackingly delicious, but apparently the real winner was the el pastor... just the right amount of kick and flavor. Mmm, mmm.

El Pastor Taco - $1/each

The service was not as quick as our other stops, but rest assured, the wait is worthwhile. Taco Table man cooks his meats in front of you, and works relatively quickly despite cooking solo.

by k.chon
Mad props to the cook in the yellow and red vest - you rock!

Do not be alarmed.

And the others (per my ranking order):

Tacos Puebla
E. 14th St. & Hooper | operates after 4pm
Thing to get: el pastor tacos - so crispy and flavorful!

El Pastor and Carne Asada tacos - $1/each

Workin', workin', workin' day and night... actually, just night

Remember to ask for a slice of pineapple to top the el pastor.

The habenero sauce (light orange) will make your nose run like no other - YUM.

Tacos El Korita
E. Olympic & Hubbard St. { yelp }
Thing to get: carne asada

Carne asada taco - $1.25

Homemade corn tortilla, yo.

All natural sugar. From Mehico. Legit.

Their red sauce is comparable to King Taco's.

Tacos El Pecas
999 S. Soto { yelp }
Despite its high ratings on Yelp, I left dissatisfied. Tacos were only $0.75, but they were itty bitty and drenched in sauce (not self-serve style), which overpowered the meat.

Decent salsa - just wish I could control how much to put on the taco.

Tacos Jalisco by Angel
4346 E. Cesar Chavez { yelp }
Thing not to get: el pastor - it was abnormally red, but not that spicy... in fact, it was kind of tasteless. Bizarro.


Plus, the tortilla was soaked in oil. No bueno.

Carne asada taco - $1.
Carne asada pieces were too fatty.

For our inaugural taco hunt, we were stuffed silly, spent less than $10 each (including horchata and other beverages), made new friends, and discovered a hidden gem that you are lucky to now learn of.  Pretty successful, if you ask me.

Other valuable realizations: (1) I need to significantly improve my Spanish if I want to make it far in life (on the Eastside... where the real food's at); (2) OG taco trucks trump Westside's gourmet, overpriced trucks any day ($1 tacos, whatwhat); (3) Food brings family, friends, and even strangers together - it's wonderful!; (4) Mad respect to families who diligently set up shop every evening to serve the very best of their culture's cuisine. Thank you.

by k.chon
Taco artists.

Hola, amigo!

Yes, we even had grade sheets.

And last but not least, a special shoutout to our mascot, Samson!

Until Part Two of our Taco Hunt... hasta luego!

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More taco coverage worth checking out: Great Taco HuntLA Taco