More detailed post w/ photos: http://oheithere.wordpress.com/2014/0...
During this past weekend, stravaigint came down to LA from NorCal for another weekend of gastronomic expeditions. For our Saturday lunch meetup, his one request was simple: tacos. We all know that tacos suck up north (I didn’t stutter, NorCal people – come at me bros), so this was a request that was forthcoming on one of his visits to LA. At first, I was a little perplexed – which one place should we go to in order to showcase the best of what our city has to offer, in a city full of amazing taco options. But then it hit me: we don’t have to go to just ONE place – WE CAN CONQUER THEM ALL!!!
My original itinerary began with some of my favorites, and a couple of consensus favorites I have yet to try. After some deliberation, I ended up with six taco joints fairly close in proximity to one another to hit up (in alphabetical order): Guerrilla Tacos, Guisados, Los Cinco Puntos, Mariscos Jalisco, Mexicali Taco & Co, and Ricky’s Fish Tacos. Okay, so that wasn’t going to work obviously (I just had a 14-course dinner the night before, one where I had so much food I had to run stairs between dessert courses – details to follow, and stravaigint had gone through a similar experience elsewhere), but we had such high hopes. Oh young Chris…
With my visions of grandeur all but assuredly dashed, we decided to focus on the three Boyle Heights places (Guisados, Los Cinco Puntos, Mariscos Jalisco) and Ricky’s Fish Tacos. We began the taco crawl at what has quickly become one of Boyle Heights’ institutions: Mariscos Jalisco.
While Mariscos Jalisco focuses on ceviches y cocteles from San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico, the one thing they’re known for isn’t necessarily something true of the region, but rather something that developed into the food truck’s own identity: the fried shrimp taco known as the taco dorado de camaron. Not too big in size at $1.75 per taco, we each ordered one of these – corn tortillas stuffed with a spiced shrimp filling of sorts, then the taco is folded and deep-fried whole, and topped with a slice of avocado and unique salsa roja. Just genius. There are now multiple imitators of this taco, including a competing truck parked on the very same block (and with maybe 4x the number of patrons), but nothing compares to this one. To this day, the shrimp taco is still the only thing I’ve tried at Mariscos Jalisco, and there is much to be discovered here. But we were on a mission, and the next stop awaited…
Los Cinco Puntos
The next stop might be the most surprising to the casual taco fan. It’s just a plain-old Mexican mom-and-pop deli/market of sorts, frequently by the local families of Boyle Heights. But insiders know that they have some damn good carnitas, and an impressive variety of different beef and pork offal parts. Not a word of ingles was spoken inside of the place until it was our turn at the counter. At first, the friendly tia that served us was caught off guard by the sight of an Asian guy and white guy ordering individual tacos (the vast majority of their orders are of their meats and tortilla sold in bulk), but once I busted out my ordering-level espanol (my Spanish comprehension is actually better than my Mandarin), she smiled and proceeded to stuff our tacos with carnitas, buche (pig stomach), guacamole, salsa, and their amazing nopales. We stood outside of the market, hovered over a counter barely a foot deep and a trash can underneath, and savored all the porky goodness in between the fluffy, almost pita-like tortillas hot off the press.
After feeling the local love at Cinco Puntos, we had a change of scenery at the original/flagship location of what looks like a future local mini-chain in Guisados (just opened a location in Echo Park, and opening another one in Downtown soon). Despite the expansion, the OG location still holds up very well, albeit one with more hipsters and Asians than I recall. We had been doing one taco each at the previous two stops, but that sampler – it was calling us. Seriously, what’s a better way to try the multitude of options? And you know what? They’re improved the mini-tortillas used for the sampler-sized tacos. Before, they were small, thick discs that held the meats and veggies like a sope, but they were quite difficult to eat. But now, while the amount of masa appeared to be the same, they've managed to flatten out the tortillas more, enabling a better grip and bite.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Our last stop was more out of the way, but in my opinion, Ricky’s has arguably the best taco of any variety in LA, so it behooved us to visit (luckily, we had just enough stomach room for one more stop). As more of you know, Ricky’s is back at its old spot on Virgil Ave, but now in food truck form. This was my first time trying them in their vehicular form, and I think they’re doing better than ever. Fish was as good as ever, and I think the shrimp was better than I remembered. Not sure if Ricky was inside the truck himself, but I can safely say that the operation and experience overall has also improved.
Four stops, four different varieties of tacos, four amazing experiences. Mariscos Jalisco, Guisados, and Ricky’s Fish Tacos all continued their excellences, and Los Cinco Puntos – what a pleasant surprise. I had high expectations for them, but they’ve met those expectations…and then some. Definitely have to get a taco of each variety next time – or I can just buy a pound of everything + packs of tortillas. Overall, I thought it was a very successful taco crawl (I hope stravaigint feels the same way), and I have even greater aspirations to expand and improve the crawl if another opportunity arises.