It's been a while since our friends wanted to do a Taco journey, so off we went for another adventure.
Tacos El Karnal / El Chilango
Noted in an Eater article a few months ago, we decided to start our Taco journey here. Tacos El Karnal is located near the Food 4 Less on Olympic. It should be noted that one of the friendly taqueros half-jokingly(?) interrupted the other one when we were asking if this was Tacos El Karnal ("yes," and the other said "tacos el chilango!!!" with a laugh).
Walking up, we saw them making fresh Tortillas by hand; always a good thing.
6 Tacos (from upper-left, going clockwise) - Cabeza Taco (Beef Head), Carne Asada Taco (Beef / Flank Steak), Buche Taco (Pork Stomach), Labio Taco (Beef Lips!), Lengua Taco (Beef Tongue), (in center) Chorizo Taco (Sausage):
The Carne Asada Taco was sort of dryish and chewy. Definitely skip this especially considering the great Carne Asada you can get at other places like Tire Shop and La Carreta.
Cabeza Taco (Beef Head Meat Taco) was a bit funky and fatty. More pungent than usual, but tender.
Chorizo (Pork Sausage) Taco:
This was delicious! Not too salty, lightly spicy and tender.
The Lengua Taco (Beef Tongue Taco) was very tender, but a bit underseasoned; not bad.
Their Buche Taco (Pork Stomach Taco) was a bit chewy, tender, but also a bit funky compared to other Buche we've had around the city.
Labio Taco (Beef Lip Taco):
This was the first time we've had Tacos de Labio. I've never seen these before, so we were excited to try it. Moist, tender, softer than Lengua, lightly fatty with some lean meat, they were pretty tasty!
Their Handmade Tortillas had a nice density and heft, yet still pliable. Lightly aromatic.
Tacos El Karnal had about 10 - 15 people in line throughout our time there; it's definitely popular. With their Tacos at $1.25 per Taco they are very affordable, and the standouts for us included their Chorizo and Labio Tacos.
Tacos El Karnal
(next to Food 4 Less Market)
E. Olympic Blvd. & Calada St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Tire Shop Taqueria (Revisit)
It had been a while since we last went to Tire Shop Taqueria (named because they were originally inside the parking lot of El Jarocho Tire Shop). It turns out they've moved... one driveway over. They're now on the back lot of El Jarocho Tire Shop, but still just as easy to find.
As the line moved up, we could see them making fresh Tortillas by hand:
The claim to fame for Tire Shop Taqueria is their use of Mesquite on an open grill to cook their variety of meats for the Tacos.
Carne Asada Taco:
The very first bite yields this wonderful deep smoky Mesquite flavor. The Carne Asada Steak is still tender, meaty, and the Tortillas are excellent.
I think Tire Shop Taqueria is easily our 2nd favorite Carne Asada in the city, or maybe "1A" to Tacos La Carreta's wonderful Carne Asada (also cooked over Mesquite). Either way, both places are outstanding.
Often overlooked, Tire Shop's Chorizo Tacos are lightly spicy, and just as delicious!
Tire Shop Taqueria (@ El Jarocho Tire Shop)
4069 S. Avalon Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90011
Huitlacoche Taco Truck
Our next stop was to Huitlacoche Taco Truck. We headed here since there was a recent mention of how great their Huitlacoche Tacos were from an article from Bill Esparza. But as we arrived, I remembered in the back of mind how @Bookwich had been here before and said their Huitlacoche wasn't that good.
We were already here, no biggie. Time to try some Tacos!
Huitlacoche (Mexican Corn Fungus) Quesadilla:
In ordering, we were greeted by Chef-Owner Edgar Mendez, who recommended we try their Huitlacoche in Quesadilla form, as that was how his grandparents enjoyed it in Mexico.
Taking a bite, and I'd agree with @Bookwich: The Huitlacoche flavors were hidden and overpowered by Corn. Chef Mendez confirmed that he sautes the Huitlacoche with Corn, maybe he thinks that people might be scared off by Huitlacoche's earthy flavors, but the Corn is a mistake: You get sweetness from the Corn and taste very little else.
The actual Tortillas (made fresh by hand in the truck) and gooey, melted Cheese were delicious.
Huitlacoche Taco (Huitlacoche, Avocado, Organic Tomato, Organic Cilantro):
One interesting note is that the majority of the veggies used in their Tacos (including their Salsas) are Organic. Chef Mendez' mother was in the truck preparing and cooking as well, and she showed us some of their Organic Vegetables proudly as she continued to prep orders.
The Huitlacoche Taco was even more diluted than the Quesadilla: Basically the sweetness of the Corn, the tart-acidity from the Organic Tomatoes overpowered any flavors of the Huitlacoche.
As a Vegan Taco, it's totally fine, but it's disappointing that the flavors of Huitlacoche didn't come through.
Braised Lamb Taco (Braised Lamb, Escabeche Onion and Organic Cilantro):
Chef Mendez mentioned that he learned this recipe for Braised Lamb (not Barbacoa) from his stint at a Russian restaurant. It's sufficiently tender, juicy, and more like a Lamb Stew in some ways. However, we felt it was a bit too tart and acidic (still savory though). It tasted fine, but having had amazing Barbacoa de Borrego Lamb Tacos at Barbacoa Estilo Guerrero and Aqui es Texcoco, this just isn't as interesting or delicious.
Mole Taco (Marinated Diced Chicken, Mole Poblano, Escabeche Onion and Sour Cream):
This was delicious! They make their Mole from scratch, based on a recipe from Chef Mendez' Grandma, and it is wonderful. It's not the commonly found Chocolate-infused version, being only gently sweet, but balanced by salt, spices, herbs, and their Roasted Peppers. It's nuanced and distinct from the Moles at the specialists like Chef Rocio Camacho.
Their Chicken is tender, meaty and tastes fresh (not an afterthought like many "Pollo Tacos" around town).
Puebla Style Chorizo Taco (Handmade Chorizo, Red Onion, Avocado & Organic Cilantro):
The Huitlacoche Truck makes their Chorizo from scratch, which is great news. Their Puebla Style Handmade Chorizo Taco is only lightly salty (good), exuding a light spiciness, and a totally different spice profile than the usual "Chorizo" offerings at many places.
This was delicious, meaty and different. We'd order this and their Mole Tacos again for sure.
Note: Check their Instagram (or Call) for the latest schedule & hours.
Thursday - Monday, 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. at
Huitlacoche Taco Truck
757 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: (323) 381-0688
Taco Maria (Revisit)
Highly acclaimed Taco Maria has received a lot of praise for its farmers market-driven Prix Fixe menus and creative dishes. Their Tacos have been hit-or-miss for us, but I wanted to try them again and see how consistent they are.
Quesadilla de Camaron (Oaxaca Cheese, Mexican White Shrimp, Squash Blossom, Salsa Cruda):
This was delicious! The Mexican White Shrimp were plump and meaty, perfectly cooked through. The flavors were bright, oceany and the Oaxacan Cheese paired well with the Shrimp and their famous Handmade, Heirloom Tortillas.
Pescado Frito Taco (Local Black Cod, Charred Scallion Aioli, Cabbage, Grapes):
Last time we were at Taco Maria, their Black Cod Taco was excellent and a standout item. Today, it was awful! The Black Cod was mushy(!), and practically disintegrated with each bite. There was so little of the Black Cod as well. Consider the astronomical price ($10 per Taco!), this was even more of a disappointment.
Mole de Pollo Taco (Jidori Chicken, Ancho-Almond Mole, Queso Fresco):
This was just overbearingly sweet. We've had many sublime Mole Sauces from specialists around L.A., but this visit's Ancho-Almond Mole was way too heavy-handed and sweet, overpowering the rest of the Taco.
In the end, I appreciate them using farmers market ingredients, chef-driven recipes, and an ever-changing menu, but their Tacos have been either disappointing or inconsistent, and at $10 per Taco, it's just not something we see ourselves ordering again.
3313 Hyland Ave., Suite C21
Costa Mesa, CA, 92626
Tel: (714) 538-8444
Guerilla Tacos (Revisit)
One of the joys of Guerilla Tacos is to see what Chef Wes Avila might be offering on an ever-changing weekly basis. New Tacos, surprise Specials (not appearing on the website) are always fun to discover and usually are interesting enough to immediately order regardless of what you were thinking of ordering earlier.
Mushroom Quesadilla (Chile Morita, Oaxacan Cheese, Market Greens, Charred Serrano Chile):
Absolutely delicious! The Mushrooms are so full of flavor, meaty, tender, and having that inherent crave-worthy earthiness. The melting Oaxacan Cheese is wonderful, but beware of his Charred Serrano Chile and Chile Morita Salsa: It is hot! This was easily like Level 4 "Hot!" at Howlin' Ray's in some ways. Our mouths were burning for a good 15 minutes after eating.
Red Snapper Tostada (Raw Red Snapper, Tomatillo, Furikake, Cashews, Chile de Valle):
Chef Avila continues to impress. We've had many variations of his Tostada over the years, but this Red Snapper Tostada was even better: Clean, high-quality Red Snapper (meaty, bright), with an interesting blend of Chile de Valle (just a subtle touch), along with the popular and tasty Japanese seasoning blend of Furikake. It's at once crunchy, tender, nutty and just delicious.
Cauliflower Taco (Dates, Pistachios, Olives, Parsley, Arbol Chiles, Gooseberries):
This is a perfect example of what makes Chef Avila and Guerilla Tacos so interesting: His ability to elevate Vegetables into offerings that rival Meat Tacos: His Cauliflower Taco is outstanding: The blend of well-seasoned Cauliflower, Dates, Pistachios and Olives, gives this a bit of sweetness (but it never overpowers), some wonderful nuttiness, a little brininess from the Olives, and the Chile de Arbol Salsa just binds it all together.
Octopus Chorizo Taco (Macadamia Nuts, Burnt Tomatoes, Chives):
Perfectly cooked Octopus, tender (not rubbery), a bit of smoky-saltiness from the Chorizo and Burnt Tomatoes, and a bit of nutty crunch from the Macadamia Nuts. Excellent.
Note: Guerilla Tacos has finally upgraded their Tortillas! They are now using a Non-GMO, Heirloom, Freshly-Made Tortillas, which really improves the overall taste. (Note, he's not making them in the truck, but it's made locally fresh).
Cod Milt Tacos (Shirako Poached in Dashi, Okinawa Sweet Potatoes, Chile Morita, Scallions):
And then you get Specials (not listed on the website) like this: Fresh Shirako (Cod Milt) which Chef Avila poaches in a Homemade Dashi blend, and he puts this in a Taco(!). Really?
Taking a bite: It is tender, creamy, luscious. Outstanding!
The Okinawa Sweet Potatoes, Scallions and judicious use of his Homemade Chile Morita Salsa perfectly supports the Cod Milt. Wow. Paging @bulavinaka @PorkyBelly @MaladyNelson and anyone else interested: Hopefully he still has it tomorrow, or if you ever see it on the menu, don't miss out!
(Check their Website for Updated Location and Times)
Villa Moreliana (Revisit)
It had been too long. Time for some amazing Carnitas.
Note: Villa Moreliana's Tacos are so big, that they're usually nice enough to let you choose 2 different types of Carnitas (they offer 10(!) different types of Carnitas) to put in both "halves" of the Taco.
Espaldilla Carnitas (Stewed Pork Roast) + Costilla Carnitas (Stewed Pork Ribs) Taco:
Wow. Tender, just the right amount of salt, the Espaldilla Pork Roast was meaty and leaner than the Costilla, but still so good.
Orejas Carnitas (Stewed Pork Ear) + Costilla Carnitas (Stewed Pork Ribs) Taco:
Yes! This is the magic combination: Their Orejas Carnitas are stunningly luscious, with a subtle crunch from the cartilage, and there's an almost creamy quality.
Then their Costilla Carnitas (Stewed Pork Ribs) with the Cartilage stewed down to a tender, slight crunch consistency is amazing! It is just SO GOOD!
At $2.50 for a huge Taco (easily 3 - 4 times the size of most Taco Truck Tacos), it is a bargain and they continue to make our favorite Carnitas in L.A.
(Inside Grand Central Market, Downtown L.A.)
317 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (213) 624-2378