11.28.2011

Frida Tacos

7217 Melrose Ave.

I remember eating at the Frida Restaurant in Beverly Hills about 8? years ago. It was actually a fine experience, but the formality of the place and the price kept me from returning.

CUT TO: 6 Years Later - and I notice the Glendale Americana has a Frida. Could it be the same? I look on Yelp and the reviews all express some degree of disappointment.

CUT TO: Yesterday - When I was driving down Melrose to take a visiting friend to the crazy Jet Rag sidewalk $1 sale - which happens every Sunday and involves hoards of people grabbing at piles of antique (and sometimes smelly and stained) used clothing, blankets, jackets etc. I heard one girl say 'I got an amazing Chanel suit here last week in perfect condition... for ONE DOLLAR'.

Well, the smells and the crowd were getting to me and I didn't want to be accidentally pepper sprayed fighting over Chanel so I wandered down Melrose. I came upon Frida Tacos and thought.... 'COULD this be the same as the other two?' I decided NO due to the hipness, inexpensiveness and ultimately the PERFECTION of the taco fillings. But guess what? They are one and the same.

I ordered double beans and no rice with my combo

Forget about the fancy restaurants, and hop on down to Melrose for one of the juiciest, thickest, most steak-like asada tacos I have ever had. I also tried the veggie taco and was delighted to find it full of chopped zucchini, asparagus and other grilled delights. Their salsa bar was clean, fresh and iced down and I fell in love with their sliced red onion/sliced habanero 'salsa'. It was hot, but totally edible and FANTASTIC on the steak.

Grilled veggie taco


I didn't eat the tortillas (post Thanksgiving diet and all) but I liked that they only gave you one. They were a bit dry and I would like to see them use a little oil on the grill to warm them up, but the flavor was good. People next to me were eating the Pastor and the Carnitas and they looked delicious as well.

They have a Taco Happy Hour where the price drops by about 25 cents. They have breakfast items, salads, burritos. The servers were very friendly and overall I would def. say I'd have to stop by anytime I'm nearby.


http://www.fridatacos.com/

They are open until 3am on Friday/Saturday

11.22.2011

Texas Tacos!

Guest blog post by Carolyn Knight

Texas Tacos: Real Deal Easy Meals (click for more info)

Ask anyone in Texas about tacos, and you’ll find you’re not talking to an amateur. From the cradle to the grave, a good taco is one of those simple, easy meals that just never gets old.

San Antonio is widely regarded as the taco capital of the state of Texas. If you’re looking for a brick and mortar spot, check out Taco Taco Cafe. This little gem was recently featured on an episode of The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The sign out front says, “Best tacos in America” and the locals agree. If you’re a fan of the mini, open-faced taco, Guajillo’s is your spot; their al pastor pork taco topped with slices of pineapple, cilantro and onion is the champion of slow-roasted delights.


Guajillo's Cochinita Pibil

Taco Deli, where you can savor every bite of the cowboy taco: cowboy-rubbed beef tenderloin with grilled corn, roasted onions and peppers or a bison meat picadillo taco. Carlos Santana’s downtown eatery, Maria Maria, boasts braised duck tacos with roasted tomato-habanero cream salsa.

Maria, Maria's Enchiladas

Surrender your inhibition and visit the taco trucks on Austin's East side of town. Don’t let the grungy parking lot hosting the Piedras Negras trailer put you off. They have some of the best al pastor and barbacoa in town.


Austin is also home to the breakfast taco, and what will begin as affection for an open-ended mini-breakfast burrito may turn into a full-time obsession. Day or night, Taco Selene, Casita Taco, and Taco-Mex all provide the perfect verde salsa to top any breakfast, lunch, or dinner combination.


Taco Selene's Pastor and Chicken tacos


Whether you need to whip up easy meals at home or find the perfect midnight snack, tacos are the best food on the planet.

11.20.2011

Tacos in Pacoima with Victoria





I have been reading about Pacoima for a while. On the Mexi Food Map it is the home of Lenchita's, a restaurant and tortillaria that nabbed the attention of Jonathan Gold. Check out his review HERE.

We decided to head out for an Adventura on a Friday night, but alas, Lenchita's closes at 8pm (we saved it for last) so we were shite outta luck. The few people I interviewed said it was OK but that the lines weren't worth it...

We had about 5 places on the list, and as ALWAYS happens, we were led off the path to something wonderful. The gal at the first place (Mexi-Tamal - cheap, fast and fun) told us there were some good tacos or was it a tortillaria... just down the street... to the right? Left? Straight? It made my friend's joke, that everything in Mexico City is 'al fondo a la derecha' go straight and to the right, all the more poignant.

We followed the directions and found a little grill full of smoke in front of the D + K Market/Gas Station Combo at the corner of Glen Oaks and Pierce. Her name was Victoria and she was a hoot. She was cooking something she called a 'quesadilla', but it looked like a folded burrito and it was covered with a foil-covered brick. Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA dubbed them 'Mexicaninis'. She also had bacon wrapped hotdogs. Yum. Drool. Plus, four kinds of tacos (pastor, asada, pollo, chorizo).

carne asada on the grill

this is the tortilla factory we were looking for

Everything is hooked up to the car battery and she already has a following (which includes her brother and his wife). She speaks perfect English and really cares about the quality and freshness of the meat. She's there every Friday and Sat from about 6-11pm She is VERY interested in doing catering and pop ups so give her a call at 818.355.2141.

pastor taco - sweet and savory w/ lots of cumin

'quesadillas' that look like flat burritos

She's pretty picky about what she recommends in the area too. The only food tip she was excited to share with us was some great tamales that two girls sell out of their car at the Superior Market on Laurel Canyon just N. of Osborne. They huddle by a minivan and they serve Mexican Hot Chocolate (a little too much sweet milky goo and not enough actual chocolate for my taste) and about 12 kinds of Tamales for $1 each. They are some of the finest I have ever had. The Rajas were particularly good as were the Chicken Mole and the Jalapeno Cheese.



These girls are an incredible find for the Xmas Season and at $1 each you cannot go wrong. They say they are out there every single evening... but only until about 9pm.

Thank you Victoria! We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Taqueria Zavala, #1

albondigas soup

13665 Garfield Ave
South Gate, CA 90280
(562) 630-7475
 
I have been going to the same chiropracter for 25 years! He's awesome; Gary Yanagihara. He has kept me going in a hard dance class over the years far longer than my body wanted. He's in South Gate off the 710. LOTS of good tacos around there.  In fact, Casita Mexicana (in Bell) is maybe 10-15 minutes away.
 
So even though I am still on a carb reduced diet, I perused local YELP recommends and chose Taqueria Zavala. I expected a stand but was surprised to find an amazing vintage diner serving up delicious home cooked Mexican food.
 

 
My waitress 'Mary' (she had a name tag AND a jaunty scarf) was an absolute doll. Very friendly and she noticed right away my obnoxious picture taking and asked if it was my first time. I gave her my card. She thought I was crazy but by the end she was excited to check out the post I promised was coming ASAP.
 
I of course sampled the tacos, 2 of them. FABULOUS: A fried potato made with hashed browns (for which there is no Spanish translation) and a stew-like Pastor taco that was more like Birria than the grilled pork I love so well.
 
Pastor Taco 'Durango' style

Hashed browns crispy potato taco
 
It was raining out, so why not try the soup? I ordered some Albondigas (meatball soup with big hunks of carrots and zucchini) and took most of it home. I am absolutely CRAZED with trying to re-create the pastor. It had soft pork, long-cooked onions, tomatoes and some kind of magical red chili. I asked but the chef wasn't there. They tried to tell me it was a California pepper and that it was green and not red (Anneheim?) so maybe the red was just from oil and tomatoes. I thought maybe I detected a little chili arbol... It had a little bit of heat and a little bit of sweet from the cooked pinapple. BEYOND the BEYOND of TASTY.
 
This location has been there for 25 years but now they are branching out with several other locations.
 

11.14.2011

Santa Paula, CA :: Crispy Taco Mecca



For this taco adventure, I went over the 150, away from the beach to the small town of Santa Paula. Santa Paula has several historic sites, cool murals, an old train depot and lots and lots of crispy tacos.

Truly I expected to find a myriad of authentic soft tacos, but all four places that I ate at had a crispy option (with ground beef!) I have some ongoing shame in admitting that due to nostalgic reasons, this is still my favorite KIND of taco!

Stop #1 EL PREFERIDO TACO SHOP (aka THE BEST TACOS) - 654 E. Harvard St. near Peck Blvd.

I almost drove right by it because a healthy Palm tree obscures the sign. Cute little cafe. No waiter service but lots and lots of good stuff. I absolutely loved the Chili Relleno taco and the Crispy Chicken taco. As this place was run by a Mexican family and fairly authentic, no ground beef. The owner's daughter was very friendly as well. They do have beer AND an older TV for those key sports moments. One of their specialties is a Chile Verde that isn't really 'verde' because it uses smoked Chili de Arbol instead of tomatillos. They also have a nice looking Shrimp Cocktel that another customer was enjoying.


Stop #2 CHICKYWEEDY'S - 915 E. Harvard Street (closer to the 150)

Kind of a Dine 'n Dash place. I later learned this was the prior home of Tia Babe's (Stop #3) Reminded me of an Oki Dog in LA. The guy behind the window was VERY nice. He tried to explain that 'Chickyweedy' is his Grandfather's nickname, Anglicized from Chiquiwiti which means little or skinny or a skinny guy who can pack it on or something like that. They are very comitted to what they do and have even painstakingly resurrected a local favorite salsa from a place that went out of business. It was tasty but def. the kind of food you want to be drunk or high to really enjoy! They are also famous for their 'corn burritos' which are really taquitos with a sweet red sauce and a ton of shredded cheese on top - not my fav.


Stop #3 TIA BABE'S - 125 S. 10th St.
(10th is what they call the 150 as it rolls through town on the way to/from Ojai)

The whole reason for this 'taco crawl' was Tia Babe's. Babe, whose name is Florence, is the sister of Bill Elwell (King of the simple burger at Bill & Hiroko's) He gave me her card, said she was pretty fancy and so I made a stop. Sadly, most people on Yelp complain quite a bit and I can sort of see why. Debbie (daughter of Babe) was a delight and warned me that their crispy taco was on a pre-baked shell. She recommended soft instead and I liked the way they heated the tortilla in enough oil so that I didn't feel too deprived. The taco was simple and good. The ground beef tasted a little like it might have had some flour or filler in it. Nothing to lose sleep over and I suspect many of the items might be the same: good but not great. On the plus side they are in a new building and they have a full liquor license for real margaritas and cocktails. I would go back for drinks and chips and salsa and maybe an appetizer or two.


Stop #4 LA TERRAZA - 1000 Main St. (at the corner of the 150 and Main)

This one is hard to miss. They have the best real estate for tourists passing through. They also have some of the best Yelp reviews. Mostly Mexicans dining inside, it's an order and pick-up place with a dining area and an outdoor patio. I really liked the way they did their crispy tacos - grill browned. The tortillas were very thin and this made it like a cracker taco (sort of like thin crust pizza) No ground beef but the chicken was tender and the pastor was VERY flavorful even though they don't use a Trompo. They had my favorite salsa. A simple strained affair with a few chili seeds and just the right amount of salt. I would buy it by the pint for my own tacos at home.


1st place goes to El Preferido for selection, friendliness and ambiance. A close 2nd to La Terraza for that wonderful taco and salsa combination.

11.13.2011

Beach House Tacos, Ventura CA



So in July I go to this new dentist in Ojai, I tell him I'm a taco fiend and he says... "Go to the Beach House. It's amazing."

I didn't make it in July but as I am back here in November for a spot of dogsitting, off I went.

Pretty easy to find. Right on Harbor Dr. on the Pier. The pier is tiny. Nothin' but 2 restaurants (owned by the same people) one of which is the Beach House.

It's a cute shack with a sail covered patio. They have all kinds of beer and cocktails they make with various liquor substitutes. The Bloody Marys actually looked good. The place seems to be run by a couple of 'kids' in their 20's. Maybe this isn't the best idea... Most of the complaints on Yelp are about the service and the wait.

Granted, everything is fresh. Normally I will wait and wait for fresh, but there is something about the way they operate in there that seems to need improvement.


The tacos! I had a very tasty Ahi Tuna Taco. It was seared in a nicely browned flour tortilla. It had cucumbers, cabbage and some nice Asian notes with the dressing. I chose the mild salsa but I really prefer the medium one. It looks orange and is very smooth and savory with a little heat. The 'hot' salsa is the standard fare red you can get on a taco truck loaded with chili seeds. The taco was $4.25


I also felt like a salad so I got one with grilled shrimp. I think the salad came to around $9 with the shrimp added. The feta and pumpkin seeds were a nice touch. They gave me what was supposed to be a 'green' dressing but really it was just guacamole. An actual salad dressing (oil, vinegar, etc.) would have been a better call.


As I was leaving I noticed they had a crispy taco. They call in the 'Crunchy' and it's $2. I had to try one OF COURSE. It said right on the menu that it was ground beef with raisins. I guess they were going for a Cuban Picadillo feel. It was actually tasty, the shell was perfect, not too much yellow cheese and the ever present iceberg lettuce was there in abundance.

However, instead of being cut in fine shreds, this lettuce had more of a chopped feel. Shredded iceberg makes a better presentation but you have to cut it the right way.

Ultimately, I don't really want raisins in my crispy taco!


The wait! So... at around 1pm on a Sat. I was the only gal in line. I waited about 15-20 min. for my first order. An hour later, there were 12 people in line and I waited about 35 min to order and receive my lone crispy taco.

Not soooo bad. The crowd kind of ebbs and flows throughout the day, but it can jam up pretty fast. And this was all on a windy somewhat rainy afternoon. The line is probably 2x as long in the summer months.
All that being said, do I recommend it? Yeah. I do. Just be patient and definitely plan on drinking beer or one of their other drinks because that will ease the wait. They do give you your drink order right away along with your numbered food ticket.

If you order chips and salsa or chips and guac you get that right away too. They have pastor and both grilled and battered fish and shrimp tacos. People seem to love those.

I'm sure on a warm day in the Spring or Summer it's a delight, and that Ahi Taco really was pretty darn good.

Beach House Tacos on Yelp

11.09.2011

Escuela Taqueria!

'sin verguenzas' means without shame or shameless

What a great name. What a great place. What a great taco! I went for the first time on Saturday and I felt like a "Dancing with the Stars" judge waving my "10" paddle all over the place.

I also felt like maybe I was in New York or San Francisco. Uber hip with KILLER thriftshop art on the walls (I wanted to steal it all), amazing logo, friendly owner, excellent service, adorable dog waiting for his owners to eat tacos... ambience fabulous.

But what about the tacos? A 10! A 10! Seriously. Perfect modern fusion. Authentic yet innovative. This is what I am looking for in a taco, something that blows my mind and opens it up to all the taco possibilities.

comfy crispy fried beef tacos



I like how they give you your agua fresca in a carafe to be shared by the table. I like how every taco has a perfectly browned and chewy tortilla underneath. I like how they have simple fare for the kiddies.

The innovation award goes to the fish taco. On Saturday it was Branzino (a very fancy Italian Whitefish) with the skin ON. Huh? Yep. Crispy skin, flakey fish. Addictive really. (See the above video for a great shot.)

shrimp and chorizo taco

But the real 'crack' of the day was the, again, perfect, crispy taco. Shredded tender beef inside, lovely orange cheese, savory salsa, crispy shell. That's right. I totally blew my "Ease up on the fried food Biatch" diet and had 2 of them.

I also loved the shrimp taco with crispy shards of chorizo and giant butterflied shrimp. YUM.

Of course I couldn't try everything but that's just an excuse to go back. AGAIN AND AGAIN.

The genius behind it all is Steve Arroyo. He has given us a "river" (true to his last name) of restaurants starting with the original Malo (when it was smaller and less malo) and onto Cobras & Matadors and a cool sandwich place around the corner called "Potato Chip." I wanted to steal that sign too but it's too big! He's also a part owner in Umami burger (where a Cobras & Matadors used to be on Hollywood Blvd.) and he started Church & State. Dios Mio!!!!!


Thank you Steve. You obviously understand food and how to make a taco fiending customer very very happy.

Escuela Taqueria
CASH ONLY
308 N. Stanley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(just off Beverly Blvd. near CBS and Erewhon)

11.05.2011

Taco Roundup


Facebook is bad for my Blog. VERY bad. Why? Because instead of making nice blog posts I do Facebook blurbs and lose track of all the tacos I have been eating.

Currently I am a Taco Video-Blogger. I manage a blog (this one), a Facebook page, a Twitter account and I edit weekly videos. I'm also helping my friend document his Burger Quest on video. Check out his stuff on youtube :: iBurger and Hamburger Honcho

In the last month or so, here are the tacos I have eaten that were NOT mentioned on the blog but were blurbed on Facebook :: Taco Maven's Facebook Photos

I also post photos on Taco Talk's Facebook page :: Taco Talk's Facebook Photos

I have to really really really LOVE a place to give it a fancy post (like Plancha. I luff them). Otherwise, I'm not as inpsired, so maybe this roundup is the way to go.... Just to keep track... Of all the tacos and Mexican food I've been eatin'

PICO PICA RICO
They are in Sherman Oaks. Cute cozy spot. Lots of treats. I had a few tacos and they were good but not that exciting. When it gets crowded, service is pretty slow.


Also in Sherman Oaks. Last time I went there was about 15 years ago. I was craving a good crispy taco but it was a Sat. night and I just couldn't brave the crowds in Hollywood. I am now living closer to Studio City/Sherman Oaks area (temporarily I hope!) so this was the closest crispy. It was really good. I got it to go as the place was CRAWLING with families and kids. Super noisy too. They don't use lard and they are very efficient and affordable. Glad they are still in business.


MIS TACOS
Funky little truck that parks at Venice and Sepulveda sometimes and then maybe moves to Venice and Overland. I thought their whole pinto beans and their veggie Torta were particularly good. Tacos were decent but a little plain.


AMIGOS
The chef at Hot's Kitchen told me their breakfast burrito was the bomb and man was he right. It's crazy... eggs, sausage, hash browns, ham, bacon and cheese! I think you can get chorizo instead if you want. It's so fresh, their salsas are rad AND they have a pastor trompo later in the day. I like the Manhatten Beach location on Aviation.


Near LAX on Aviation, this place is actually worthy of a movie and a blog post. GREAT veggie selection, breakfast, crispy tacos, fish tacos, the whole 9 yards, all served in a cute little cafe with a patio. Oh and they have beer too!

Mexican scramble breakfast

RAMBO'S
Mostly (or always) parked on Eagle Rock Blvd near the Fresh and Easy. The best thing about this truck is the amazing art. Tacos are fresh, small, good tortillas, spicy salsa. It's a strong 'like' but not a 'love'. Still, if you find yourself in that hood, they are consistently reliable for a tasty taco snack.


SHARKEY'S
Used to go to the one on Burbank everday when I was teaching at a school nearby. They were good then and they are even better now. Totally out of control with organic, sustainable, healthy, lard free options. The one in Beverly Hills is muy fancy. They did some lettuce shrimp tacos for me but you can also get grilled fish plates and many other fun items.


CORKBAR
Hotspot Winebar in downtown LA. Beautiful decor, and a great Happy Hour. They have carnitas at their happy hour and fried fish tacos at lunch. The fish is fancy and flakey and the batter is nice but on the day we went we were not loving the tartar style sauce that drenched the cabbage. Worth checking out the Happy Hour for sure.



MARISCOS MONI
Pretty much across the street from the smaller Mariscos Chente. I really liked this place. Love the spicey rubbed grilled shrimp (Sandeados) and the house salsa. The tacos are a little weird. Different regional style that features frozed mixed veggies and lots of chopped up shrimp and fish. Didn't try any of the meat tacos but still think this is a fun Inglewood family spot.




TRES HERMANAS
On my way to a Kabob place, I just had to stop for a taco. This place is in Burbank near the Americana. People were very very nice. Food was good. I only tried one thing... Carnitas maybe? Pre-baked shell crispy. Not usually my fav. But it was good enough to go back.


JOSE O'MALLEY'S
I was so intrigued by the name and some of the reviews that I went to a food truck event in the boondocks of N. Hollywood to seek them out. Their logo IS awesome. VERY nice people. The meats inside the taco were very flavorful AND juicy. I was hoping with the name they would have an old school ground beef taco but alas, they didn't. Selection was pretty simple as well. I really liked the salsa.

More Taco Memories


When I was a kid, I rode horses almost every day. I actually took a bus from the Westside (Brentwood area) all the way to friggin' Northridge! I'm guessing it was about 40 miles. It took over an hour but I was able to do some of my homework on the ride.

My mom worked for Paramount Studios at the time, for an up-and coming whippersnapper of an executive (Jeffrey Katzenberg). She worked from 8am to 8pm everyday and would come from Hollywood to pick me up in Northridge so I wouldn't have to take the bus both ways. We were both very dedicated to our passions.

This happened about 2x per week and dinner was the same everytime... Jack in the Box. Way back when they had something called the "Super Taco." Not the 'Monster' taco, but the SUPER taco. It was a few inches bigger than the Monster and had this pretty amazing salsa that was chunky and kind of like Ortega bottled salsa or Herdez Salsa Casera.

Man I LOVED those tacos. I remember one occassion where I ordered and ate five of them. The oily crunchy shell, the mystery filling, the melted rubbery "American" cheese and that salsa. I always asked for extra salsa and they were always piping hot.

This was in the 80's. I guess at some point in the 90's, the Super Taco morphed into something else. That fancy salsa was probably too expensive.

How I miss that taco and of course that time in my life when I was much younger, thinner, and weekly horseback riding was part of my life!

Riding in Baja, 2009

11.02.2011

Sangria!



What better drink for a taco party than Sangria. Especially if it's on a weeknight and your friends aren't tequila hounds or beer buds.

Here is a decent recipe from HOW TO. A little sweet for my taste.

Here also is a link to one that I made. Triple Sec is CRAP. Use Grand Marinier or Cointreau. Trust the French on this one even though it's a Spanish drink you are making!

http://gimmeabiscuit.blogspot.com/2011/10/sangria.html

Elements Kitchen, Pasadena

Adventures in Tacoland - Episode 2!



Seriously LOVE this place and have for a while... but mostly for their radical breakfast/brunch. They had a cute little cafe on Fair Oaks but now they have consolidated to their beautiful spot right next to the Pasadena Playhouse.

They have a cozy bar/lounge, a beautiful patio, a fancy dining room, mixology cocktails and yes, TACOS!!!!! I have never seen Side of Rice fall so in love with a shrimp taco. But he did, and maybe in this video you can see why.

The beef tacos definitely are in the same family with the Kogi Taco (sweet sauce, kimchi etc.) just a wee bit fancier and the meat was incredibly tender. We both loved the black sesame seeds in the corn tortillas!

Thanks Onil!
www.elements.com

VERY sad to say that they have closed at of 2/1/12. Hopefully Onil will start another venture because he is an amazing cook.