Thursday, November 25, 2004

Taco Trucks of the Westside

God knows whether this blog will outlast the archives of Chowhound.com. Just in case, here is my list of taco trucks that are a short drive from work late at night. Not sure how the quality compares to East LA but at the best of these one gets a rush similar to that at El Gran Burrito, El Taurino, &c. I was pleased to get some love from the board about these recs. The proprietors of these vehicles are prone to peripatetic ways so don't get mad if they're not there - try again next time. The most reliable truck meats are usually al pastor (marinated pork) and cabeza (soft meat from the cow's head). I also like lengua = tongue, but never order pollo (chicken, boring). Tacos should be $1. See my taco truck glossary for menu help.

WEST LA
Juquila
Santa Monica Blvd @ Stoner, outside Goodwill store. Nights.
An adjunct to the worthwhile Oaxacan place of same name across the street. Good tacos with the usual meats.

El Paladar Oaxaqueno
Santa Monica Blvd @ Westgate, daily 7pm-12/1am. Sometimes parks on Barry south of Santa Monica.
Technically a taco trailer, this tremendous eatery has an unusual folded version of the hubcap-sized Oaxacan tlayuda. It’s easy to eat and delicious. Also terrific taco meats including barbacoa, and excellent tortas. 053005 note - I love to meet fellow diners with exacting standards. Last night a surprisingly natty man (suit!) and a woman who looked like his mother chatted with me in the line at El Paladar. They requested a sample of quesillo before ordering dos clayudas, and were kind enough to share a string or two. I'd had it previously but was happy to hear that they pronounced it very good.

Ricos Tacos
In parking lot of "Mi-T-Mart", Santa Monica and Westgate. A stand, not a truck or trailer. Tasty pastor with exemplary salsas and excellent suadero, the rare-on-the-Westside rib meat.

011805 update:
Cocina Azteca de Oro replaces Ricos Tacos at Santa Monica and Westgate. Pastor just OK but excellent cabeza and the piece de resistance: memela with bean paste and cheese made from corn-tasting masa on the spot (they'll wheel out the big wooden press). Some unusual items, quesadilla frita and flautas but they were out tonight... [this truck hasn't been seen for a while. 080405]

Carmen Foods
Sepulveda North of Pico 7am-9:30am
Sloppy pastor torta is tasty and heavy on the beans at this breakfast-only truck.


CULVER CITY
Taco Chato
Venice Blvd east of Sepulveda. Daily 8:30pm-12am
Don’t listen to the dude, his cemita is a very poor cousin to Tacos Junior down the street. Other tacos are excellent, however, with tasty salsas roja and verde plus immaculate radish slices on the counter.

Tacos Junior [yellow truck, has bench seating!]
Venice Blvd just east of 405 in auto-repair driveway, walled in by old refrigerators, 5pm-12am daily
The cemita poblana de milaneza con todo: Domed sesame seed roll, flat breaded steak, quesillo, chipotle, avocado and papalo (the secret weapon, pugnacious Mexican coriander. May not be available in winter months but ask!). After the wondrous Cemitas Poblanas truck at Santa Monica and Bundy vanished into the ether I feared this godly sandwich had gone from my life forever. Here it is again! Other tacos available, but order the cemita and rejoice!
Note: Tacos Junior also serves a splendid sope, thick handmade CD-sized tortilla covered with frijoles and carne gusto/meat of choice. Corn-y and filling.

Garcia's Bros (added 052405)
Venice @ La Cienega, NW corner. 7pm-12am
Spiffy clean truck for dining to the romantic glow of naked 60W lightbulbs. Large menu with memelitas, clayudas, sopes and even guaraches, a menu item not found at other Westside trucks I have visited! I really liked brick-red salty al pastor but cabeza taco was even better, both served with kickin' salsa verde. More notes on the guarache below.

Ricos Tacos (added 111305)
Venice @ Melvil, south side. 7 days. 5:30pm-1am (2am Fri-Sat).
Here it is, a truck with nothin' but tacos on the menu! Luckily they are wet and messy in a good way with spicy salsa rojo, cabeza and lengua better than pastor. Expensive at $1.15, but if you have some pennies left the champurrado is fine.

MAR VISTA
Mariscos Tatiana
Venice Blvd @ Mountain View. 7pm-1 or 2am
These guys are so slick they have a business card – with no address! Excellent tacos including camaron, plus dude with pile of recent release DVDs outside for atmosphere. Popular. Update 0105: Mariscos Tatiana also has tremendous tortas and Oaxacan clayudas with very fine non-mariscos meats.

Nameless truck outside “El Zacatecas”
Venice Blvd @ Mountain View. Weekend nights.
Small operation with no menu, almost like a kitchen for the nightclub. Munch on some nice tacos and listen to booming ranchero coming through the door.

Cemitas Poblanas ALERT!
I haven't tried this truck, but drove past it at Venice and Centinela parked outside Mitsuwa supermarket. The time was 12:30pm Tuesday 5/05. Probably daytime only - shucks!

VENICE
La Oaxaquena
Lincoln south of Rose. 6pm-2am.
Long line outside announces the best Oaxacan truck I’ve found. Amazing tlayuda, tacos, tortas. Oaxacan baked goods. Worth a special trip, and open late. Probably #1 on the Westside.

Nameless truck(s) south of La Oaxaquena
Lincoln south of Rose
A couple of trucks park here, one is a very sorry affair that looks about to disintegrate but has passable tacos. Try them out!

La Isla Bonita
Rose at 4th, 10am-5pm, no Thu.
A great truck for a summery weekend lunch or lazy afternoon, selling mariscos in taco, tostada and coctel format. Tostada de ceviche, taco de camaron both good. Non-mariscos meats too.

PALISADES
Pinto
Sunset Blvd at Monument, 12pm-2pm Mon-Sat
A taco truck in Palisades??? Lunchtime only but good fare and a welcome stop for the disoriented visitor. There is another truck in the ‘hood that parks further west at a gas station. Keep your antenna out for trucks in otherwise expensive neighbourhoods – there is a mariscos truck I’ve yet to try that parks on Beverly Glen at Mapleton weekends.


Notes on the guarache at Garcia's Bros:
The guarache is a tostada variant built on a thick soft tortilla formed from masa dough in the shape of a rudimentary shoe (21cm = women's size 3 1/2). On top of the toasty fresh guarache were a layer of fatty, delicious pasta de frijol negro, shredded lettuce, tons of quesillo, salsas verde and roja, radish slices and to top it off a splash of crema. Quite a challenge to squeeze into one's piehole, and the plastic fork is inadequate cutlery - can you handle the jandal [brand of NZ flip-flops] as we say in the Antipodes.

Cecina and tasajo are the other guarache options, suggesting the obvious Oaxacan background of the truck - Oaxacan chorizo $5/bolsa. But I dig the quesillo, it's a little more aged and sharper-tasting than good ol' supermarket string cheese. Contrast also with the much younger and harder Armenian string cheese sold as pure white knots (sometimes with black caraway seeds).

Unfortunately, Garcia's Bros were out of tamales de frijol tonight so I tried another vegetarian option, the memelita. Thought this would be a thick hockey puck thing but it turned out to be another guarache with only frijol, salsas and some crumbles of queso blanco. Like a shell-toe to the tricked-out Air Jordan of the full guarache, it's all good.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe nobody's commented on this incredibly cool article.

Great stuff! I've been to a few of these and agree with your opinions, more or less...I'll have to check out some of the others you mention.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Cocina Azteca de Oro.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous CulverJack said...

Cemitas Poblanos Visit - 102205, Venice @ Clarington, outside Smart and Final.

Good stuff - I had 2 asada tacos con todo and was really happy. Beef chunks were a little crisp/dry outside with char which was a perfect counterpoint to salsa roja and moist, steamy tortillas.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should check out the Taco Trucks, at night, on Valley Blvd between the 605 frwy and eastward towards 7th St. Some darn good eats. Some have fish tacos and some have fresh salsas. One of my favorite ones has the best Horchata, they make it from scratch, not to sweet, or too much cinnamon.

7:12 AM  
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1:31 PM  
Anonymous Hino Trucks said...

asada tacos seem to be getting more and more popular, gotta love their taco's with hot sauce, mmmmmmmmm

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Auto1 said...

barbacoa!, now that's a tasty eat!

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Auto Professionals said...

My gastric juices are rippling with anticipation.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Ben Cousins said...

So is my ulcer.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Truck said...

I gotta agree with Ben on this one.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Nissan4x4 said...

I wish soemone had rated these trucks out of five or ten.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Mercedes-Benz said...

noone is stopping you.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Automotive Recruitment said...

Man, i would love that job, taco taster, and to be paid for it.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Hino said...

You would need to retire after the first year on health grounds.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous truck rental said...

I love tacos and adore the idea of buying tasty food of a the truck :)..but don't forget there are a lot of other trucks with a lot of other food kinds, of high quality, all over the westside..

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