Taco Madness 2012 - the Final Four

I am excited to say that I ADORE all four of these places and would be happy to eat them ANYTIME with ANYONE.

If you are a true LA taco fan and haven't tried all four, you will... by Sunday. That way you can make an educated culinary decision rather than a "fraternal" one.

On Taco Talk, we made videos of all 4 of these places. See below.

Here is my suggestion for your FINAL FOUR TACO TOUR.

Start at around 2pm at Mariscos Jalisco. They are on Olympic, just S. of Soto a few miles S. of Downtown LA. Say hi to Raul for me and get a deliciously golden-browned crispy shrimp taco with avocado and cabbage slaw. If you are really hungry, try his Agua Chile. Shake his hand, tip his daughters, thank him for his tireless taco efforts and head south.

About 15 miles from Raul on Whittier Blvd. near Atlantic, you will come to the tiny little authentic taco place with a heart, Tacos Baja Ensenada. You might have to wait in line, you might not. Grab yourself one shrimp and one fish taco. Don't eat too much because you still have 2 places left to go before your taco tour is through! Be sure to load up on the free Guero Chiles they have next to the salsa. If you must have the Manta Ray soup, get it to go and eat it the next day!

Next you will head to Guisados. The easiest way is to probably hop on the 5 and go back to Caesar Chavez near Soto. Say hi to Armando Sr. and Jr. for me. Eat the 4 Chile Taco in honor of the Final Four. Wash it down with their Horchata. Ask Armando Sr. to make you something special. Eat and get FULL. Go to the market next door and buy some fresh tortillas and other goodies to take home. Get some tamales to go too.

By now maybe it's 5 or 6 and you are full. Maybe you need a drink. Go back to Downtown LA and hit the bar of your choice. But don't have any snacks. Have one drink and get hungry again. Wait an hour and then head up Figueroa (cross Sunset) to Mexicali Taco Co. Sure, have a taco. I love their Chorizo and their smokey Carne Asada. You can even add a fried egg to it. But you MUST have a Vampiro. Tell them the Taco Maven sent you and annoy them further by asking for EXTRA garlic sauce and then tip extra.

At the end of the evening you will think to yourself... "How the heck am I supposed to choose ONE of these as the best?" You will also think... "Dang. I'd better hit the gym tomorrow first thing." But you will be happy, and you will sleep well, and you will know without a doubt what the LA Taco Scene is all about.


Mexican Ground Beef Tacos

The finished taco. Magically delicious.

My mechanic, Victor Haro, is the best. He's a local Mexican-American who is a "car whisperer." He can fix and diagnose just about anything by tilting his head, listening and checking under the hood.

He knows I am a taco supafreak. I always try to take him for tacos but he prefers "ini" foods; linguini, fettucini, spaghetini and of course pizza and lasagna!

1-2 Tbl. of raw meat per taco.

Heated, stuffed, but still raw tacos ready to fry!

"One day, I'm going to make you a real 'Mexican' crispy taco. Not that Gringo shit you like to eat."

That day finally came. That day was Tuesday. I stopped off to give him some money I owed him, just in time to watch his brother David execute the family recipe.

Sizzle. Sizzle. Golden brown.


Here are some more pix and the recipe!

Victor's brother, David

Victor's Salsa: Jitomate, Jalapeno, Lechuga


Take 1 lb. of ground beef (or ground turkey if you really want.) Dice 1/2 a white onion and 1-2 jalapenos and 1 tbl. of cilantro. Mix well throughout the raw meat using a spoon.

Grab your corn tortillas, dry heat them for about 1 min on each side. You want them to heat enough to avoid cracking when you fold them but keep the heat low and don't add any oil. You are really just softening them a bit.

Put 1 heaping tbl of RAW meat inside the tortilla and fold it over. You can add a pizca of salt here - a pinch. Do this 12x or so.

Get a good frying pan nice and hot with about 1/4-1/2 inch of vegetable oil (not olive) in there.

Place your "raw" taco in the oil and fry on both sides over medium heat for about 12-15 min. (6 min. per side)

Drain into some paper towels.

Have your shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and chopped tomato ready to go!

GENTLY GENTLY GENTLY crack open your slightly cooled fried taco just enough to stuff some greenery inside. Shove it down carefully to avoid total crackage.

Garnish with your favorite salsa and CRUNCH AWAY.

Victor made his own salsa that was 3 large Roma Tomatoes, 3 weak Jalapenos and a big chunk of iceberg lettuce (for body) into the blender. Add salt and 2 Tbl. of chili powder.



Taco Roundup #3

Cool Pony Lights at The Hangman (see separate post)

These are all the "Runner Ups" who didn't get their own blogposts over the last month or so. Throw them into the corral together. Yee-haw.

Margaret's Cocina 446 W Ventura St., Fillmore, CA - This place had promise. GREAT looking vintage buidling, crispy tacos and NO salsa bar to speak of. The people were nice but the chow just wasn't up to snuff. Edible yes. Memorable? No. Fillmore is filled with authentic looking places. I got suckered into this one by the sign and all the colors.

Margaret Cocina's Crispy Chicken Tacos

Nopalito 306 Broderick St., San Francisco CA - I wanted to LOVE this place. It was fun, modern, clever, organic, tasty BUT.... that weird "Is this healthfood?" feeling. I'm pretty sure I left feeling hungry though the food WAS tasty. I believe the taco tortilla was MUSHY. They have a mixologist on hand and lots of fresh juices. It actually feels more like LA than SF. Lots of young, skinny, pretty people eating pretty, healthy food. My friend absolutely loves it, but I can't see myself rushing back there on subsequent visits.

Swordfish Taco at Nopolito

Las Gardenas - Fabled fish taco place in Cabo San Lucas. It was off my radar. Pleasant, a bit touristy, good but not the greatest. Although where in Cabo is exactly better I couldn't say. San Jose has Rosey's and informal stands. The MECCA is out in the country in Todos Santos and Pescadero.

Las Gardenas Fish Taco

JB Burgers - 627 South Myrtle Ave., Monrovia CA. Quick and casual burger joint. I drove by it 20 before I realized I might find an old school crispy beef taco there. And I did. And it was good. Their breakfasts look particularly tasty and CHEAP.

JB Burger's Crispy Beef Taco

El Indio - 2523 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach CA. A local Institution. Cheap, quick, and easy. The girls are so nice. I LOVE their greasy THICK chips and crispy tacos. My friend enjoyed his massive burrito. Eat in or take it to go. Buy some chips!

Side of Rice and Beans at El Indio


Papito, San Francisco

Took me a year to get here, but I'm glad I finally did.

Really fun good tacos and as an added bonus, Pozole and Weekend Brunch.

Even though there is only 1 taco place in Paris, I guess the French aesthetic can inform the taco quite well in such fun items as Duck Confit Carnitas.

Here is what YELP has to say.


La Taqueria, San Francisco

It's been over a year since I had the chance to visit San Francisco. My dear friends live there but they are always coming to LA before I get a chance to go up there.

In a recent Sunset Magazine? showdown, LA beat SF for Best Food City by 3 votes. There really is nothing like it for highest concentration of great food in a small space. This city loves food in a way that is more authentic and respectful than LA's glitzy restaurant scene.

I of course had tacos on the brain and restricted myself from visiting old favorites like Tacolicious in favor of trying something new. When I asked about good tacos in the area, I got the same answer every time; La Taqueria. But people up here are funny. As a general rule they prefer burritos to tacos. I have no idea why, but someone should study that and get me a good answer.

The tacos were great AND they have crispy tacos which makes me love them even more. In 2013 it will be 40 years since they opened. The owner was such a charmer and I STILL don't know his name because other than Yelp, they don't seem to believe in Social Media (no web, facebook, twitter, etc.) which kind of makes me love them EVEN MORE!

Bean and Cheese Crispy Taco at La Taqueria

Everything there is highly customizable. You pay a base price and then you pay for add-ons or you can always get one 'con todo' with everything on it for a set price as well. The crispy tacos come with a dry soft tortilla wrapped around them. This confused all of us at first but I later realized it was probably being used a blotter for the oil and to cool it down a bit. I had yet to see that in my taco travels.

OH! They also have the BEST AGUA FRESCA EVER! HELLO???? Yeah. Ground up strawberries for the Fresa and that day he had a Tangerine one as well and a Pineapple. All of them magically fresh with just the right amount of sugar. We took some home and made mixology cocktails with them.

Check out our video above with fabulous guest taco taster Zoe Sokatch who is only 7 but knows a good taco when she eats one.

Below video talks about La Cumbre's burritos, but it has a cool 'history of the Mission' section.