This is the new, nicer, more polite Eat Nopales speaking... but enough with the adulation of the Taco Bloggers. Honestly, some of these guys (or gals) really... well I won't go there... I think there a better informed, more competent CHers on these boards whose I opinion I personally value many times more than some of the Bloggers... whose main Cred is that they actually take the time to Blog in an organized manner... but when it comes down to judging a good taco and pointing the way for everyone else... I don't know.
Let's break this down... Tacos are simple food just like Sushi, Steaks & Burgers only you need to have some exposure to the best incarnations before being able to judge the rest. Its not rocket science... a good taco necesitates three good components:
> Tortilla... to even be on the judging block its got be a handmade tortilla (hell I might let a truly superior commercial tortilla like Abuelita's slide.. but just barely)... please don't nominate Tacos made with crummy packaged tortillas.
> Filling... the filling should be good enough to stand on its own, on a white plate. No mediocre blends of chopped Chuck griddled to anonymity.
A chow worthy "Carne Asada" taco in Mexico is purchased by its cut... you have Arrachera, Cabreria / Rib Eye, New York, Puntas de Filete / Filet Tips, Palomilla, Diezmillo etc.. if you have to order an anonymous "3 de Asada" instead of "1 de Arrachera, 1 de Palomilla y otro de Cabreria" its not likely to belong on our list.
Similarly a chow worthy "Carnitas" taco in Mexico is ordered along TWO dimensions.... Beast & Cut. For example, you have Carnitas de Pierna de Pavo (Duck Leg) or Carnitas de Robalo (Sea Bass filet cooked until very crispy)... of course the more ubiquitous Pork Carnitas are ordered by:
a) Cachete... Cheeks
b) Trompa... Snout
c) Chamorro... Cross Shank
b) Maciza... rump & shoulder
d) Lomo... Loin usually cooked in really big sections
And it goes on & on... we could be talking about Mushroom, Squash Blossom, Frijoles Chinitos (Whole Beans seared on a griddle), Nopales etc.,... but the filling has to be top notch in QUALITY, DISTINCTIVENESS & EXECUTION.
> Condiments... Well most Tacos in L.A. (including many raved about the Taco Bloggers) are really mediocre on the Tortilla & Filling dimensions... one thing L.A. does just as well as Mexico is the condiments. Usually there aren't significant differences between Salsas in L.A. versus Mexico. The few things is sometimes the local taqueros are forced to use slightly inferior ingredients like Tahitian Limes instead of Key Limes, and big, mature White Onions instead of the Spring White Onions common in Mexico (Cebollitas Cambray). In addition, sometimes LA Taquerias don't make the special salsas that traditional go with a type of filling. For example, Al Pastor's proper pairing is a simple, grassy Jalapeno & Olive Oil salsa... only people from around Mexico City seem to get this right. Further... the few Pork Chop tacos I've had in L.A. weren't served with the Peanut Salsa or the Salsa de Molcajete Los 3 Chiles that best go with them. So its got to be a good Salsa & Garnishes... but also important... its got to be the right pairing for the filling.
So what are the best Tacos in L.A judging by the following criteria:
Tortilla (Only Handmade Tortillas Qualify... Exceptions Might Be Made For Extenuating Circumstances) - Aroma, Texture & Flavor
Filling - Quality, Distinctiveness & Executiion
Condiments - Quality & Proper Pairing
Let the deliciousness begin.