L.A. Taco's "Taco Madness 2015" took place on Sunday. Unlike the previous two years' events, which took place at Grand Park and had free admission, this year's was held at Villains Tavern in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles and you were required to buy a ticket to attend. Tickets cost $10 and included a drink at the bar, so if you factored in the value of the drink, admission itself was nominal. The benefit was that it granted attendees exclusive access to a short but well-curated list of taco trucks from which to purchase tacos, tacos, and more tacos!
The participating trucks included this year's winner of the Taco Madness 2015 bracket (and my personal favorite) Guerrilla Tacos, as well as runner-up (and former winner) Mariscos Jalisco, and semi-finalist Carnitas El Momo. Rounding out the trucks were bracket participants Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla and Tacos Cuernavaca, as well as Oaxaca on Wheels, which was not part of the Taco Madness 2015 bracket.
The event was pleasantly low key, with plenty of space, seating, and shade for the attendees, quick lines at each truck, and light crowds overall (purposefully so, as the event was sold out), an apparent contrast to last year's event, which, I heard from friends and acquaintances, was a bit of a mob scene. Some amazing street artists were doing their work, while Azul "213" Amaral hosted, and guest DJs provided some lively music, but since none of that's in my wheelhouse, I'll leave it to someone else to cover. I was just there to eat some great tacos, to paraphrase Bill Esparza, who I ran into there.
[Disclosure: Since I had recently written a primer to offal tacos for L.A. Taco (http://www.lataco.com/taco/offal-taco...), I attended Taco Madness for free as an invited guest, but I paid for the food like everyone else. I even gave away my drink ticket. Opinions, as always, are entirely mine.]
Carnitas El Momo's Taco de Lengua: This trailer, considered by many (myself included) to have the best carnitas in the city, served up pork tongue especially for Taco Madness. The texture of it is different than the more commonly found beef lengua, a little firmer and chewier, but still amazingly tender and delicious! [$3/taco]
Carnitas El Momo's APorkAlypse Taco: The surtido taco, a mix of the maciza (shoulder), buche (maw or stomach), and cuerito (skin), was rebranded “APorkAlypse” for the event. Fantastic as always, under any name! [$3/taco]
Mariscos Jalisco's Tacos de Camaron: The dish this truck is best known for, these dorados (fried) shrimp tacos are crunchy, spicy, and delicious! I need to go to the truck during regular operating hours to try the other items on the menu, as they were only serving this item today. [$2.25/taco]
Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla's Taco Arabe: This was the first time I had taco arabe, the spit-roasted and shaved meat that's a cross between Middle Eastern shawarma and Mexican al pastor. The meat did remind me of shawarma and it was very good, but my favorite part was the queso Oaxaca, the shredded string cheese that topped the meat! [$3 for the flour tortilla taco, $1 for the cheese]
Tacos Cuernavaca's Tacos de Cecina & Chorizo: Bill Esparza's been talking up this place since 2010, but it’s also gotten some recent press on Eater LA. They weren’t serving any lobster tails there (which they do at their regular location), but I really enjoyed the cecina (flat, marinated beef) and chorizo (spicy sausage). They also had some killer salt-crusted roasted whole peppers on the condiments table! [$2.50/taco, if I remember correctly.]
Guerrilla Tacos' Sweet Potato, Oxtail & Foie Gras, and Farmer's Market Tacos: I've already expounded on why I love this truck so much in the past, so I won't rehash, but I basically had to try all their tacos, and I wasn't disappointed. If you click on the link above, you'll go to my Instagram post, which lists all the ingredients in each taco. Chef Wes Avila is just so good with vegetables that the foie gras taco wasn’t even my favorite of the bunch, which ended up being the Farmer's Market Taco! [$4 for Sweet Potato, $8 for Oxtail & Foie Gras, $5 for Farmer’s Market]
Guerrilla Tacos' Albacore Tuna Poke Tostada: Poke is "having a moment" right now in L.A., with shops opening left and right, but I first tried Guerrilla Tacos' take on poke a year ago, and it was actually very similar to what they served here, with white miso rather than the more traditional soy sauce marinade. The orange stuff on top is habanero chile, and boy was it spicy, but it was so very good! [$8]
I really enjoyed my first Taco Madness! Like I said, this was a very relaxed, low-key affair. I think it could have benefited from one or two more taco trucks, and there was enough space for another hundred or so people easy, but I appreciate that the event was not overcrowded. The way the layout worked, they could have made it all-ages, since alcohol could only be consumed inside Villains Tavern or in its enclosed patio, with security checking ID at the door, while all the food was out in the parking lot. Though they would have needed to bring porta-potties, since the only bathrooms were inside the bar, so maybe not.
Thanks again to L.A. Taco for the invite, and I'll definitely check out next year's Taco Madness!
If you’re sorry you missed it, or you did attend and just couldn’t get enough tacos, check out the Bill Esparza-curated, L.A. Weekly-hosted, Tacolandia 2015, coming up at the beginning of June. It is dangerously close to being sold out, according to Bill! Check out my write-ups of the 2013 and 2014 events! I had tapped out at Taco Madness before I could try Oaxaca on Wheels–a very poor showing for me–so I need to train up to prepare to sample from ten times the number of vendors at Tacolandia!
Taco Madness 2015
1356 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Carnitas El Momo - http://carnitaselmomo.com/
Guerrilla Tacos - http://www.guerrillatacos.com/
Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla - http://twitter.com/TacosArabesLA (Twitter)
Mariscos Jalisco - http://www.facebook.com/mariscosjalisco (Facebook)
Oaxaca on Wheels - http://oaxacaonwheels.com/
Tacos Cuernavaca - http://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-cuernav... (Yelp)