TACOCITY: Los Angeles

A guide to finding, creating & eating tacos in Los Angeles by a tacophile who has eaten them all

The Taco.

The taco. We’ve all had one. It doesn’t matter where you live. Race, religion, diet – we’ve all had a taco. In the last few years, it’s become the new burger. In its simplest form in America, it’s meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes in a tortilla.

I grew up in Rosemead, a suburb of Los Angeles just outside Pasadena. My mom would make tacos about once a month. They consisted of ground beef with a packet of taco seasoning, lettuce and tomatoes mixed with dressing, and a corn tortilla lightly fried in oil just enough to hold the shape of a taco. I liked them well enough. How could I not? And for 19 years of my life, that and an occasional trip to Taco Bell, was what I knew a taco to be.

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Then, when I was 19, a friend of mine took me to a local taco joint – a taqueria – in San Gabriel, a neighboring city. We went in and I ordered a taco. I was expecting something similar to what I was used to -what I got was something else entirely. The meat was chopped up steak, called carne asada, instead of ground beef. There were diced onions, cilantro and a hot sauce that smelled like it was poured from a volcano. All of this was on two 5″ corn tortillas, heated but not fried. No lettuce, no cheese, none of mom’s dressing.

What I realized that day was that this”thing” I had put in my mouth, THIS was a taco. This was what Mexican people were making. It looks like just a tortilla and meat, but it’s more than that. It’s the love and care put into the recipe – the spices, the sauce, the ingredients, the accoutrement – that’s what makes it a taco.

What I realized that day was that this”thing” I had put in my mouth, THIS was a taco. This was what Mexican people were making. It looks like just a tortilla and meat, but it’s more than that. It’s the love and care put into the recipe – the spices, the sauce, the ingredients, the accoutrement – that’s what makes it a taco.

I spent a few years outside of California and the only tacos I ingested were of the Bell variety. When I moved back to LA, I rediscovered the taco I’d had at that taqueria – and they seemed to be everywhere. Taco trucks went from nondescript, white, oversized vans to blinged-out tour buses with lines around the block. Amongst the street style tacos were other tacos I’d never heard of – puffy versions, tacos with fried chicken and maple syrup, battered fish, parts of the cow I didn’t know were edible.

And I knew in that moment that I had to try them all.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve made it my mission in life to seek out tacos in all parts of Los Angeles. Like snowflakes, no two are the same. Every chef has a different recipe, everyone puts their own twist on it, their own flavors, their own ingredients. I’ve been to literally hundreds of taquerias, stands, restaurants – all in search of the best tacos. I’ve been on three taco crawls (think pub crawl but more delicious) – two in Los Angeles and one in Tijuana, Mexico. I often eat tacos 2-3 meals in a row. I’m obsessed.

This book is a comprehensive guide to tacos in Los Angeles – from downtown to East LA, from Hollywood to the Westside, from the South Bay to the Valley – I’ll be reviewing over 70 taco joints – all unique and all the best at what they do. Whether you live in Southern California and want to work your way through the list – and if you do, we’re automatically new best friends – or if you’re traveling here for a week and only have time for a few places, this book will give you the rundown.

I’ll highlight one taco from each place, but I’ll also let you know what else is on the menu in case you’re in the mood for a quesadilla (Guisados), a Mexican Hamburger (Tacos El Unico) or a cachetada – a type of tostada (Mexicali). Also, many of the places we’ll be visiting have vegetarian and vegan tacos, and I’ll be pointing those out as well. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a squash blossom taco…

On my taco journey, I’ve interviewed some of my favorite chefs, asking them how they started, what drives them, and I’ll even try to pry some recipes and ingredients from them.There’s also the history of the taco – how the American version differs from what Mexico first created and then brought here. I talked to people from all walks of life that make tacos – most are chefs that started with a cart on a corner in East LA and now have thriving brick and mortar businesses.

The book is available now on Amazon (paperback & Kindle), and signed copies are available through Square. Grab your copy now!