Friday, November 21, 2008

La Frontera:A taco tour of South Gate,Walnut Park, and Lynwood

Tacos El Gavilan, the night life, the low life

Tacos Rosa,la fiesta del barrio

TJ style tacos de birria de res, El Paisa

Suadero at El Gordo with stewed onion

A little bit of Mexico in Walnut Park, Tacos El Gordo

Tacoing in Los Angeles is normally an uninteresting endeavour for me.There are so many reasons why you can't find many exceptional taco stands or trucks in LA, at least not on par with what you would find in Mexico, but I also don't expect to find great tacos here.Carne asada and al pastor, the two most common selections at carretas and taquerias in LA are the easiest to mess up.Most LA stands have the wrong cut for carne asada,poor quality meat,and are not specialized; at a retail price of a dollar this is hard to pull off here in the US.Pastor should have a marinade made from scratch, be roasted on a spit, and cut properly by a specialist.These things just don't happen and the taquero is often leadened with too many types of meats to be good at any one.So, I go with organ meats or other fillings which usually work out OK from a good stand or truck.The tacos of arroz con chorizo, cochinita, and guiso de chicharron by la Veracruzana on Breed St. are excellent.

While cruising through South Gate, Huntington Park, and the environs looking at different restaurants I stumbled on some recent taco finds that led me to explore the street food scene down there a bit more.This area is where the new Mexican and Central American immigrants to LA are arriving, which makes it a prime location for excellent Mexican food, El Salvadorean, and Honduran among others.The 'hood has a definite reputation for gangs, drug dealers, and danger, especially Cudahy, which makes it an intriguing place for dining on the edge.My kind of place. But, don't believe the hype, check it out for yourself, it's a bustling family oriented community, more like Mexico than even East Los.Here are a few stops from my taco trek.

The tacos:
El Paisa-Lynwood
El Paisa in Lynwood is the mothership of a small chain of Sinaloan seafood restaurants around Los Angeles.On weekends, El Paisa's small taqueria across the street from Mariscos El Paisa serves Tijuana style tacos de birria de res.The largest internal immigrant presence in TJ are Sinaloans, and the neighborhood around South Gate is full of Sinaloan restaurants, hence the connection.In TJ, Sundays mornings are for eating birria de res with friends and family, I have many favorite stands in Tijuana, and now I can count El Paisa as my go to place in LA for my fix.These of course are not as good as my favorites in TJ, but are solid, and are drenched with the traditional cumin upfront flavors and authenticity.Try 'em here and look 'em up when you cross the border.

El Gordo-Walnut Park(corner of Center/Santa Fe) daily 10AM-10PM?
This stand is a real Mexico style street stand.The dueno(owner) makes the meats at home and his taqueros work the stand.El Dueno hails from Colima and has brought his state's style of street tacos to the fine city of Walnut Park.The choices are suadero(some of the best around), asada, al pastor, buche,chorizo,and tripas.The meats are prepped and cooked at home, except the asada and al pastor, and then some are finished in a concave fryer on site with all the meat mingling together, apparently this is common in Colima.The result is dynamic flavors and melt in your mouth tenderness, the suadero is one of my favorite LA tacos right now.Salsas and condiments are fresh and delicious.There is a scene here, cars lined up, and hordes of people trickling in constantly, the requisite pirate DVD pitch man.The taqueros were friendly, but said no pictures, the boss' instructions.El gordito, the Dueno's son popped in to collect money from the taqueros at one point, with a mildly pompous demeanour,employees treading cautiously in their more sophisticated comebacks.Come to think of it, I think they called it El Gordito after the little stinker left!Haven't seen an operation like this around town.Usually there is an owner operator here in LA due to the economics of selling tacos.Business must be good!

Tacos Rosa(8451 Santa Fe at Poplar)-Walnut Park
Rosa is a sweet Salvadorean woman who has opened a taco stand on her front lawn.Ever been invited to a Latino graduation party or fiesta?Many times there is a taquero there cranking out hot and fresh tacos while "Te Quiero Wo" or "Camaron Pelao"blasts in the background.If you've never been privy to such an invitation here is your chance.Rosa worked in several Mexican restaurants, cooks like a Salvadorean mother, and with some tips from her local Mexican butcher has come up killer asada and birria de res.She asked if I wanted everything,"por supuesto", so she put a topping of frijoles bayos on top my tacos.Mmmmmmm!She's only open on weekends, maybe by 7PM.
Tacos El Gavilan-Huntington Park
I found a couple of late night taquerias in Huntington Park, the first one I stopped at had about 20 cops inside and out and 10 customers being held inside for questioning.Didn't get to try these.Then, Tacos El Gavilan is was.3 security guards(1 armed), 22 shaved head cholos, 5 Rancheros, and 30 loud-mouthed hienas.Tacos were awful, I had, well...... can't even remember .....they were that bad.Flavored wood chips on a stale tortilla.The salsas were probably canned alonside wilty, sad condiments.Never-the-less, the entertainment factor was high, a parade of cholas with coprolalia and clothes 3 sizes too small.There are no changing rooms at the Alley.Two drunk nacas even sat down at my table and then got mad at me because I told them they were welcome when one of their friends told them to move."Eh, sit here, that table is that fools" "Well, you're welcome to sit here" "sabes que %$#&$"Eh, did that fool tell you to leave" "No, I actually said she could stay" "oh" I would not have these tacos again, but the show? Maybe I'll go with a mulita, can't screw that up too much, next time just to get a glimpse of true Mexican American teenage nacodome at its finest.Que lastima!

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